You’re a Detroit Lions fan. You can’t help it. I know. It’s just a thing, like being lactose intolerant or one of those people who get way too excited about seasonal craft beers. You can’t change who you are.
As a Lions fan, you probably went to bed angry Sunday night after their come-from-way-ahead 27-23 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Then you probably woke up angry Monday morning.
Now you’re probably despondent and those closest to you are concerned. You’re spouse, your kids, even your electroshock therapist. They’re a little worried.
I’m here to help. I’m here to tell you it’s going to be OK. And I won’t even ask you to take out the trash, give me my allowance or ask for a copay.
Because more than anything, we have to remember something about Sunday’s game: It was the very first time we got to see these players and coaches perform because no one had the benefit of a preseason.
Everyone had their own expectations, but no one really had a clear idea of what would happen. It was the first NFL game for rookie running back D’Andre Swift. It was Matthew Stafford’s first game in 10 months. It was the first game for Cory Undlin and Brayden Coombs as coordinators.
This game answered a lot of questions. Most of the answers were good, or at least promising. Some answers weren’t so good. And some questions remain.
Let’s start with Stafford. How would he look at age 32 after missing half of last season with broken bones in his back? Sure, he looked fine wearing a red no-contact jersey in training camp. But facing Khalil Mack and the Bears is another thing. Well, Stafford looked great. He moved well and he threw well. He played a near-flawless game with only two minor mistakes: an unlucky interception off a tipped ball and taking a late sack on second down.
How about Adrian Peterson and a run game that was held together with duct tape last year? Was there a reason Washington cut Peterson? Did he have anything left at 35? His first carry of the game answered a lot. It went for 19 yards and he ran hard all game, finishing with 93 yards on 14 carries. Kerryon Johnson started but wasn’t effective, with just 14 yards on seven carries. Swift had the huge drop, but otherwise showed promise in a third-down role.
[ What Detroit Lions told D’Andre Swift after he dropped winning TD ]
Who didn’t have questions about tight end T.J. Hockenson? He hadn’t played a game since an ankle injury ended his rookie season on Thanksgiving. Two of his catches were among the Lions’ 10 longest plays and his 56 yards receiving matched his second most last year. The eighth overall pick from 2019 got off to a good start.
Then there’s the offensive line. Other than Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow, how much confidence did you have in the unit? Not only did the Lions start rookie Jonah Jackson at right guard and right tackle, but new starting right tackle Halapoulivaati Vatai missed the game with a foot injury. The result was good. The O-line opened holes for Peterson and allowed just one sack and five hits on Stafford.
What about the offense overall? Darrell Bevell’s crew is being counted on to play as well as it did last year. So far, so good. The Lions rolled up 426 yards on the Bears, who ranked eighth in the NFL last year with 324.1 yards allowed per game.
How about new punter Jack Fox? He had a good day. He had a net average of 49.3 yards and dropped two of his five punts inside the 20-yard line: at the 11 and the 12. He only had one bad punt, which went 35 yards.
Now, for the biggest question mark of them all. The defense. Yep, there’s a lot of work to be done here, especially against the run. Defensive tackles Nick Williams and Danny Shelton didn’t prove to be much of an upgrade over Damon Harrison and A’Shawn Robinson and the linebackers also struggled to stop the Bears’ run game, which finished with 149 yards.
The defensive line didn’t get consistent pressure on Mitchell Trubisky, managing just one sack and four hits. But until the fourth quarter, they also didn’t let Trubisky break free. Through three quarters, he had just two carries for 6 yards.
How would the secondary look without Darius Slay? Not bad … until injuries piled up and the Lions lost their top two cornerbacks — Justin Coleman in the second quarter and Desmond Trufant in the third — to injuries in the second half. Through three quarters, Trubisky had completed just 46% of his passes for 153 yards and the Bears hadn’t reached the end zone.
How mentally tough is this team? The Lions blew another fourth-quarter lead even after all the offseason emphasis and talk of “dagger time.” Jamie Collins’ perplexing judgment error led to his ejection. So far, they don’t seem to have acquired that mental toughness — even if the difference came down to a rookie dropping a perfect pass.
It’s easy to feel discouraged about the Lions’ prospects after a gut-wrenching loss. It’s easy to start thinking the season is lost, especially with some tough road games coming up. And I’m not saying they’re going to go 15-1, or even make the playoffs.
But I am saying there were a lot of questions — mostly because of new players and coaches — about this team in all three phases. And I came away from the first game feeling less concerned about many of those questions.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Lions content.