Lions first-half observations: Offense, defense hanging in there with Bills

Detroit News

Detroit — Nolan Bianchi of The Detroit News offers his observations after the first half of the Lions game against the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field in Detroit.

Sufficient stopgaps

The Lions had a tall order ahead of them, entering this game without starting left guard Jonah Jackson (concussion protocol) and right guard Evan Brown (ankle).

After the Lions’ first series, it looked like the offensive line might be in for a long day. D’Andre Swift was pushed out of bounds at the line of scrimmage and Von Miller beat Brock Wright with ease on the second play to force a bad throw and eventual three-and-out.

Left guard Kayode Awosika, filling in for Jackson, and tight end Brock Wright have each allowed one sack.

Detroit got back to its ground game a drive later, though, and the trenches responded, leading to Jamaal Williams’ 13th touchdown of the season.

They’ve gotten help elsewhere, notably from running back Justin Jackson, who picked up blitzing Buffalo linebacker A.J. Klein on a third-down completion to Amon-Ra St. Brown near the end of the first quarter. Miller went down with an apparent lower-body injury late in the half and is out for the rest of the game, which should take a massive load off the Lions’ line.

The Lions’ run efficiency has been awful (2.25 yards per carry), but they’re getting the runs they need at the right time and have provided good reason to make you believe they’ll stay in this game throughout the second half.

Defense holding on

All things considered, the Lions’ defense fared reasonably well against Buffalo in the first half. The usual things are hurting them — quarterback runs, throws over the top inside the 30-yard-line — but they’re at least making Buffalo earn its offensive keep. The Bills ran a combined 20 plays on two scoring drives to start the game and Josh Allen had just 114 yards passing while going 10-for-18

Buffalo’s run game has also been effective against the Lions: Josh Allen has 41 yards on five attempts and Devin Singletary 29 yards on six. The best play of the half for Detroit’s defense came from rookie James Houston, who sacked Allen on third-and-long to force the Bills to kick a field goal before half.

While the Bills offense has gotten the best of this matchup so far, they’re one mistake away from putting Detroit back in the driver’s seat.

Clean it up

With the talent of Buffalo so overwhelming, the Lions were always going to have to play near-perfect to get a win. They’ve played well, but certainly not perfect — especially as it pertains to ball security. Kalif Raymond fumbled a punt that was recovered by Detroit and Jamaal Williams lost just the second fumble of his career in the second quarter.

After Williams’ fumble at midfield, the Bills marched 58 yards down the field to take their first lead of the game. There’s plenty of time to make up for it, but giving the Bills more chances than they deserve is a recipe for disaster.

Twitter: @nolanbianchi

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