Tim Boyle’s first start nixes any worries of QB controversy for Detroit Lions

Detroit Free Press

Free Press sports writer Carlos Monarrez answers three questions from FirstEnergy Stadium about the Detroit Lions’ 13-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

What did you think of Tim Boyle?

Um … let me put it this way. The Lions don’t have to worry about a quarterback controversy. Fans have been clamoring for the Lions to replace Jared Goff for weeks. They got what they wanted Sunday when an oblique muscle strain sidelined Goff and paved the way for Boyle’s first NFL start. The Boyle era began with a with a completion on the Lions’ first play on offense. It was downhill from there. It was a tough assignment for Boyle: In the rain, on the road, after missing the first nine games with a broken thumb on his throwing hand. The Lions had full confidence in Boyle’s ability to lead the offense and use the entire playbook. But his passes weren’t accurate, he rarely used his big arm to throw downfield and seemed to be out of sync with his receivers. Through three quarters, he was 10-for-18 for 48 yards with two interceptions and a 21.3 passer rating. He then went 5-for-5 in the fourth, but for only 29 yards. Boyle wasn’t as awful as his stats suggest, but he clearly didn’t look like the answer to the Lions’ quarterback struggles.

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How good was the Lions’ defense?

The defense deserves a lot of credit in keeping a sloppy game close. Yes, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield was banged up. But Cleveland entered the game with the NFL’s No. 2 run offense behind Nick Chubb. The Lions did a good job playing with discipline, limiting top receiver Jarvis Landry and tight end David Njoku. Chubb got a ton of work and 130 yards, but he never broke a huge run. The defense also came up big toward the end of the game when Alex Anzalone tipped Mayfield’s pass that A.J. Parker intercepted at the Browns’ 34. The Lions converted a field goal to cut their deficit to 13-10. On the Browns’ next series, Tracy Walker made two big plays in a row, tackling Njoku for a 1-yard loss on a pass, then blitzing to rush Mayfield’s throw for an incompletion on third down. Say what you want about this team, but you can’t question its effort.

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D’Andre Swift is the Lions’ only hope

With their offensive options dwindling because of injuries and a sheer lack of talent — please draft some receivers next year, Brad Holmes — it’s clear the only reliable weapon the Lions have on offense is D’Andre Swift. Tight end T.J. Hockenson gets too much attention from the defense to shake loose with any consistency. So it’s left to the Lions’ second-year running back to make things happen, which he did against the Browns. The most spectacular play came on a 57-yard touchdown with a third-and-8 draw. Swift ran off right tackle and sliced through the Browns’ defense with ease, making a beautiful cut on safety Grant Delpit to open the field and dash into the end zone. Swift finished with 14 carries for 136 yards and it’s obvious: He’s the one reliable spark the offense can count on.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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