Free Press sports writer Carlos Monarrez answers three questions about the Detroit Lions’ 26-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Saturday’s NFL preseason game.
How bad did the Lions look in their loss?
You know what? I’m going to let coach Dan Campbell take this first question, based on what he told Fox 2 right before the third quarter, when they trailed, 20-0. (Take it away coach, and keep it clean.)
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“I just think the biggest thing for us is we’ve been uncompetitive,” Campbell said. “We got too many penalties, we’re getting no pressure on the quarterback, we’re not catching balls, we’re not making plays in the secondary. And so across the board we’ve just got to be better.”
Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln? Campbell has become a master of not sugarcoating the truth, so he deserves credit for telling some hard truths. The Lions sat several key starters and the Steelers kept several key players on the field for the whole first half, but there were just too many simple, fundamental mistakes like poor tackling and dumb penalties by the Lions that were inexcusable regardless of talent discrepancies.
Anyone look especially bad?
I’d like to give this horrific honorific to linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who was beaten by tight end Pat Freiermuth on the Steelers’ first touchdown, was burned by (trigger warning, Lions fans) tight end Eric Ebron and got greedy when he tried for a strip sack and got neither. But the player who frightened me was Tim Boyle, who started and played into the third quarter. He didn’t look good last week, when he almost threw two interceptions, and he almost threw two more picks — on the first series to Joe Haden and in the third quarter when he threw too late to Geronimo Allison and into double coverage. Boyle had a third-down pass batted down at the line of scrimmage and threw behind Amon-Ra St. Brown on another third down that should have been a fairly easy completion. He was also called for intentional grounding. Boyle was 7 of 15 for 44 yards, 2.9 yards per attempt and a 53.5 passer rating. I expected a lot more out of Aaron Rodgers’ former backup who looked good in training camp.
All right, but did anyone look good?
I won’t bother mentioning Pro Bowl punter Jack Fox, since he’s always good and boomed a 70-yard punt to the Steelers’ 3-yard line. I don’t like to read a ton into the late portions of preseason games, when coaches put in a lot of players who are on the edges of the roster bubble. But David Blough did a great job leading the offense after he came in midway through the third quarter and led the Lions to three scoring drives as they mounted a comeback. Blough completed 70.6% of passes and threw for 143 yards and a touchdown, plus showed great scrambling ability. He should be in the lead for the backup spot. I hope he gets the start next week to see how he fares against better players. Two defensive players I keep noticing are tackle Kevin Strong and nickel cornerback A.J. Parker. Strong is always active and effective. He pushed offensive lineman Dan Moore Jr. back so far that running back Anthony McFarland Jr. almost didn’t get out of his own end zone. Parker, an undrafted rookie from Kanas State, made a couple of nice plays on Najee Harris in the first half, including a big hit to break up a pass and a tackle for a 3-yard loss.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.