DETROIT – The Detroit Lions are a bad football team.
Bob Quinn built a weak roster and Matt Patricia was a poor coach. None of that was going to change overnight when Darrell Bevell took over as interim head coach. But somehow, even though the Lions still aren’t a good team, they’re a bit less... insufferable since dumping Quinn and Patricia.
Bevell’s first game against the Chicago Bears went exactly as planned: Get down by 10 points, throw an interception midway through the fourth quarter and then hit the comeback button. Two touchdowns and a strip sack later, the Lions were 1-0 under their new head coach.
But even more telling than the actual win was the style of play. The Lions (gasp!) rushed the passer a little bit and even picked up two sacks. Matthew Stafford was allowed to throw the ball downfield because, well, he’s the team’s best player. What a novel concept!
The result was more than 400 passing yards, 34 points and a road victory against a division rival fighting for a playoff spot.
Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers didn’t end quite as well, but Bevell, unlike other recent Lions coaches, actually managed the game in a way that gave his team the best chance to win.
Detroit’s defense is one of the worst in the NFL, and the Packers -- with Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, Davonte Adams and a slew of other weapons -- easily could have run away with the game, as they did during the first matchup in September.
But Bevell did things like manage the first-half two-minute drill to perfection. Stafford led the Lions on a game-tying touchdown drive and left Rodgers with as little time as possible to respond.
When the Lions got the ball back on their own 14-yard line with 35 seconds until halftime -- a situation where Patricia surely would have just run out the clock -- Bevell let Stafford take a crack at getting into field goal range.
The Lions got into Green Bay territory before an untimely sack, but the point is, they were one completion away from Matt Prater giving them the lead at the break. Bevell played to win the game, instead of playing not to lose. That was refreshing.
In the end, the Lions were hurt by a penalty that negated a touchdown, a Marvin Jones catch called incomplete at the 1-yard line and a fourth-down defensive holding call that turned a Packers punt into an eventual touchdown.
Even with 1:40 left in the game, the Lions had a chance to stop the Packers on third down and five to get the ball back down one score. Considering the massive talent gap between the two rosters, it was a mildly impressive effort, especially compared to:
- Losing to the Christian McCaffrey-less, XFL-quarterback-led Carolina Panthers 20-0.
- Blowing a 17-point fourth quarter lead against the Bears.
- Allowing *five straight* touchdown drives against the New Orleans Saints.
- Need I go on?
Detroit will not be in the playoffs this year. A last place finish in the NFC North Division is very likely, as is another top 10 draft pick.
Bevell probably isn’t the best choice to be the next permanent head coach, no matter what happens these next three weeks. But the coaching has been more competent these last two weeks that it was all season, and that further confirms Patricia was not the right guy for the job.