By Michael Ferro
Detroit headed to New York having won their five previous games, but their uneasy victory last week against last-place Chicago had fans worried about their high-caliber match-up this week with the Giants. It turns out that those concerns were not unfounded, as the Lions fell at the hands of Giants' quarterback Eli Manning and the stifling New York secondary by a score of 17-6.
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford struggled throughout the game and could not find much momentum with his offense—and when he did, the Lions managed to bumble the opportunities.
Part of the problem for Detroit certainly came at the hands of the New York defense; the Giants were all over Stafford and even he couldn't pull out some of his storybook magic to overcome the smothering secondary. In the end, the Lions failed to find the end zone (or, rather, failed to hold onto the ball in the end zone).
When Matthew Stafford can't make plays or find opportunities, Detroit's offense will struggle mightily—it's as simple as that. In facing the Giants, who had just shut down the league-best Cowboys offense the week before, the Lions had a tougher test than they were ready to face. One highlight was Stafford's incredible 67-yard pass to Golden Tate that resulted in setting up a botched touchdown run.
Stafford told reporters after the game that the Giants' secondary was the best they'd faced all season. While this was undoubtedly true, it also raised concerns for those hoping to see playoffs success for the Lions this year. If Detroit hopes to make it to the NFC Championship, they'll need to be able to play ball against teams of the Giants caliber. Having the top team in the NFL in Dallas coming up next for a Monday night game does not bode well for the Lions either.
While Detroit's defense didn't do enough to help create opportunities for the offense, or stop the Giants at key moments during the game, they did manage to sack New York quarterback Eli Manning twice and added four tackles for loss in the effort.
The "catch" call made by the officials claiming that Odell Beckham Jr. had caught the ball should easily go down as the worst call of the NFL season thus far. The 4-yard catch clearly bounced off Beckham's hand and touched the ground (and had time to roll around upon said ground) before the receiver secured it, yet the officials ruled it a catch, despite a clear view of the play by the back judge. Still, despite this, Detroit's defense didn't have much going for it during the loss.
Special Teams: B+
Kicker Matt Prater has been nothing short of spectacular throughout this entire season. The ace nailed field goals from 48 and 33 yards (Prater is now 28 for 31 in the 2016 season). Even in the Lions' losses, Prater always stands out as a bright spot and can definitely be counted on to do his job exceptionally.
Unfortunately, Andre Roberts fumbled a kick return to hand the ball back to the Giants at a key point in the game, blotching an otherwise impressive game for the Lions' special teams.
Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell made an error in not throwing the challenge flag for the aforementioned "catch" made by Odell Beckham Jr. that was indeed not a catch. Then again, at the time there appeared to be little to gain for Caldwell. Little did he know that the momentum on New York's end would lead to a touchdown later in the series.
Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter struggled again to get his team's once-dominant offense rolling against the Giants. While the New York defense was certainly one of the best that Detroit has played this season, if the Lions truly hope to find some real success in the playoffs (should they make it that far...), they need to be able to handle nasty secondaries.
Up Next: Detroit heads down to Dallas to play the Cowboys in a big Monday Night Football match-up on Dec. 26 at 8:30 p.m. EST.
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