A long season gets even longer. With the Jacksonville Jaguars winning in London, the Detroit Lions are the lone winless team. A 0-6 record is very telling for how dysfunctional this team has been. The Lions never threatened the Cincinnati Bengals as the offense took a nosedive, leaving the defense out to dry.
What takeaways can be gleaned from yet another disappointing showing?
The offense isn’t giving the defense a chance
I think I’m suffering from déjà vu. Today’s loss to the Bengals felt very similar to their losses to the Ravens, Bears, and Vikings.
The defense is actually playing well despite the myriad of injuries. However, the offense is stuck in quicksand—that might be an insult to people stuck in quicksand—and it is causing the defense to get gassed. The defense is playing its butt off, but when the offense can only stay on the field for a dice roll’s worth of plays, fatigue will creep up. The offense is consistently playing catch up, and a big play or two from the defense can result in an insurmountable deficit. I almost want to ignore everything from the fourth quarter because the game was so far out of reach.
Lions are waging a war of attrition against themselves. The offense needs to play perfect football to string together a scoring drive. The defense needs to play perfect football to keep the game within reach. If one aspect of this team falters, everything falls apart.
The rookies on defense are stepping up
The lone positive from this game was the defense, even if they couldn’t hold on. In particular, the rookies are stepping up when few others are. Undrafted rookie Jerry Jacobs drew an incredibly tough matchup against Ja’Marr Chase but held his own for most of the game. He’ll probably get credited with allowing a 53-yarder late in the game, but it seems like he expected safety help over the top. For someone that was Jeff Okudah’s understudy, he passed his first test.
The rookies on the defensive line are really shining, showing that the Lions made some good Day 2 draft picks. Alim McNeill continues to be a nuisance for opposing offenses. A healthy Levi Onwuzurike has shown some great pass rushing moves. As for the remaining rookies, Derrick Barnes is a breath of fresh air in coverage, including a breakup against tight end Drew Sample to save a touchdown. His pursuit ability is unmatched on this defense. AJ Parker has cooled off after his hot start, but he is still playing admirably well in the slot.
It’s unfortunate that all of this success is being wasted by an offense that can’t stay on the field, but in a season where wins and losses don’t matter outside of draft position, seeing some positives from the youngsters is good.
It might be time to bench Goff
If one thing has been prevalent with this coaching staff, it’s that you need to earn your snaps. Breshad Perriman did not make the roster after struggling in the preseason. Jamie Collins was released despite being a starter. Trinity Benson got benched despite a receiver group facing injuries. Derrick Barnes is playing well and playing more. The Lions need to come to the conclusion that Jared Goff is not doing enough to earn the starting spot.
David Blough is not a better quarterback than Goff. He does not magically make the Lions a playoff team. What benching Goff does is send a message that nothing will be given to you. Maybe this will light a fire for this offense. It would seem hypocritical to emphasize the importance of competitiveness within the team without applying that same logic to the quarterback position.
Has Blough done enough to earn a starting spot? It is hard to say—reports out of practice are quiet, if we get any at all. However, Goff has done nothing but lose the confidence of everyone in Detroit, except perhaps those in Allen Park. At some point, he has to show that he has earned the role. His Pro Bowls and Super Bowl appearance with Los Angeles are not enough to cement him as the starting quarterback.