What did you think of Tim Boyle?
Let’s start with the positives. The Lions backup quarterback, who started because Jared Goff was on the reserve/COVID list, looked much better in his second NFL start and his first since he started in a late November loss at Cleveland, where he threw for 77 yards with two interceptions. Boyle was more decisive against the Falcons, with deeper and crisper throws. He clearly has good arm talent that he needs to pair with experience, which is tough for a backup to get. That being said, Boyle was late on some decisions and throws and while his cadence was effective against the Falcons, it also seemed to fake out his own offensive line. He also made a terrible play by somehow taking a false start while backing up without the ball while under center. He threw a bad interception into triple coverage on the final drive, but that throw was a tall order with the Lions forced to throw into the end zone in the final seconds.
How did the Lions nearly pull this off?
Once again, we have to give Dan Campbell and his fighting, biting fellow kneecappers full credit for the grit they continue to show, putting in a spirited performance on the road against a team fighting to keep its playoff hopes alive. But more than any other facet of the game, the Lions’ rushing attack made the biggest difference as it continued to battle without D’Andre Swift. Jamaal Williams led the way with 19 carries for 77 yards and a 4.1-yard average. Craig Reynolds was impressive again with his hard-running style and had 29 yards on 11 carries. Overall, the Lions rushed for 130 yards through some hard-nosed, ground-and-pound tactics, combined with some clever calls, like an inside draw to Amon-Ra St. Brown for a first down. With a relatively inexperienced quarterback, the Lions called on their run game to steady the ship and keep the chains moving, which they did while handily winning time of possession, 38:05 to 21:55.
What about the Lions’ defensive effort?
Be thankful that Aaron Glenn is the Lions’ defensive coordinator, because there’s going to come a time in the near future when he’s hired away to be another team’s head coach. I don’t know if Glenn is using dark-arts sorcery or has made some kind of Faustian deal, but he has managed to pull off consistently impressive performances like this one so late in the season with so many of his best players unavailable. Yes, the Lions had trouble covering the Falcons’ tight ends, especially Kyle Pitts. Who hasn’t this season? But without their top two cornerbacks, the Lions still held Matt Ryan to 215 yards with one touchdown, sacked him three times and held the Falcons to 47 rushing yards. On top of that, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin came up with the huge forced fumble that Dean Marlowe recovered at Atlanta’s 37-yard line that gave the Lions a chance to win the game in the final minutes.
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