Lions’ first-half observations: Hot start, but it doesn’t last vs. Bears

Detroit News

Detroit News contributor Nolan Bianchi offers his observations after the first half of the Lions game against the Bears.

Hot start

The Lions on Thursday did something that they’ve only done once so far this season: Start with the momentum.

Will Harris and Alex Anzalone came up with a couple of crucial pass breakups to get the defense off the field early. Kalif Raymond put together a 9-yard return that gave Detroit the ball at its 31. Chicago took the game’s first penalty.

And then, against all odds, Jared Goff marched the Lions down the field and hit two passes of over 10 yards to Josh Reynolds the second of which went for a 39-yard touchdown on third-and-long.

Of course, Detroit’s biggest problem this season has been playing a 60-minute game, but more often than not, that predicament has come in the form of a slow start and mad dash to try and catch up. Not this week.

Live updates: Lions vs. Bears

Goff’s back and … better than ever?

As the whole world sat down for the first Thanksgiving Day game on the slate, many were under the impression that they getting ready for a showdown between Tim Boyle and Andy Dalton.

Not quite.

Goff made his return, and it’s clear after two quarters that he should probably be taking offense to fans who swear up and down that he isn’t the team’s best quarterback.

Goff opened the game 12-for-12 for 97 yards and a touchdown before chucking a ball into no-man’s land on third-and-long on his last pass of the half. He’s doing a good job of going through his progressions and hitting the open man, regardless of where they are on the field.

Ninety-seven yards at the half isn’t setting the world on fire by any means, but when you consider Goff’s opportunities so far this game — and his recent stat lines — he’s played a very solid half of football.

After marching Detroit down the field on its opening drive, the Lions were pinned inside their own 2 and ran it three times. On the next possession, Goff got the Lions into Bears territory with a couple of nice throws before a false start, a holding penalty, and another false start basically took the ball out of his hands.

So while the results haven’t fully been there so far, Lions fans should be confident in Goff quarterbacking this team in the second half.

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Defense producing mixed results

The Lions’ defense hasn’t always been a great starter, but for much of the season, the unit has found its way into a rhythm as each game goes on, compiling a pretty respectable effort by game’s end.

But after Detroit rejected Chicago on its opening drive, Dalton and Co. had some answers. Dalton is 16-for-26 passing with 218 yards, a touchdown and an interception, as the Lions have struggled to keep Darnell Mooney and Jimmy Graham contained downfield.

Dalton threw an interception toward the end of the first half, and could have easily thrown two others that were ultimately dropped by a Detroit defensive back. They’ll need to improve coverage as the game goes on, because the Lions haven’t been able to get any sort of pressure to this point and Dalton can be forced into mistakes.

Don’t play yourself

If you watched the Lions’ game at Cleveland last week on television, there’s a good chance that you heard LaVar Arrington reference “self-inflicted wounds” more times than you might care to in your lifetime.

But the point was true in Week 1, it was true against Cleveland, and it’s just as true today: The Lions are not talented enough to beat teams while also playing a sloppy game. They let the Bears pick up the baton early on, but then started to follow suit as first-and-10 in Chicago territory during the second quarter was turned to first-and-30 after three consecutive penalties.

Then, with a chance to regain the lead before half, Goff was strip-sacked by Robert Quinn with 2:23 left in the second quarter. The record shows that Detroit has only taken five penalties for 32 yards, but that doesn’t include the myriad penalties that were declined because the Lions didn’t gain any yardage.

If the Lions want to win this game, they cannot out-stupid the Bears in the second half.

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.

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