The Detroit Lions wrapped up a disappointing start to the year with a 20-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, finishing the first quarter of the 2012 season with a 1-3 record.
Let’s take a look at the good, bad and ugly from the loss.
The Good – The Defense
If there was one area the Lions can be somewhat satisfied with after the loss, it’s the defensive side of the ball.
The Lions defenders held the Vikings to 227 yards, 15 first downs and six points. They generally got off the field on third down, allowing the Vikings to convert on only 22 percent of their opportunities.
It seemed as if the Lions figured out the Vikings offense, which focuses on short, quick passes and running the football.
When a defense can keep a team out of the end zone and force six punts on nine drives, you’d expect that team to come away victorious.
The Bad – The Special Teams
Sure, there were some missed tackles on defense and undoubtedly the Lions offense left some plays on the field but if the special teams unit can perform the simple task of keeping the opposing unit out of the end zone, this game may have a different outcome.
Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin took the game’s opening kick five yards deep from the end zone and returned it 105 yards for a score. The Lions insist the ball placement on the kick was good and essentially placed the onus on the players that failed to make a play.
In the third quarter, Vikings cornerback Marcus Sherels caught a punt, broke a tackle and took the ball 77-yards to pay dirt. Again, the root cause of the coverage defect was placed on players not making plays.
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz insisted that special teams coordinator Danny Crossman’s job was not in jeopardy as he indicated that the game plan and schemes were not at fault.
The Lions need to take a hard look at the roster and determine if the mistakes – since they are player based – are correctable. If they are, the adjustments need to be made and demonstrated once the Lions return from the bye week. If they are not, the Lions may need to make some tough decisions on some players occupying a spot on the 53-man roster.
The Ugly – Bill Bentley’s Island
Lions cornerback Bill Bentley made some decent plays against the Vikings. He finished with five tackles and demonstrated poise and patience when faced with wide receiver Jerome Simpson in open space on a crucial third-down scenario with less than two-minutes left in the fourth quarter.
On that play, Bentley drove Simpson inside, getting a piece of the receiver, allowing safety Ricardo Silva to clean up the play shy of the first-down marker.
Unfortunately for Bentley, Simpson was getting the best of him for much of the game prior to that moment.
The Lions don’t blitz often, so Bentley isn’t usually matched up with a receiver alone in man coverage. Against the Vikings, this was true but there were a few exceptions.
The Lions were caught blitzing three times where their efforts became thwarted by Vikings’ pass blockers. On those plays, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder instantly looked to Bentley – who was covering Simpson on each play – and sent the ball his way.
On the first two plays, Bentley was flagged for pass interference and the ball was moved to the spot of the foul. On the third play, Bentley was beat for a crucial first down on a 27-yard gain.
The good news was that Bentley didn’t get burned down the field and stayed with his man but in all three situations, he failed to turn his head and locate the ball. This is something that figures to improve in time and shouldn’t be too surprising from a rookie third-round pick out of a small school.
Bentley’s future in the league and on the team shouldn’t be diminished by this performance but, in the vacuum of this game, it did look ugly.