What is holding the Detroit Lions from getting to the next level?



It is time for the Detroit Lions to finally make that move forward. Arming themselves with a new play-toy for Matthew Stafford, and possibly a missing puzzle piece at WR with former Seahawk WR Golden Tate, who has shown all year, he has the ability to make big plays. And then picking up a very talented TE in the 1st rd with Eric Ebron, out of North Carolina. I feel that Matthew Stafford can eventually make Eric Ebron a star.
As long as he continues to find ways to successfully get the ball to sticky hands Golden Tate, taking some heat off of Calvin Johnson, they just keep adding the pieces around him. Now mind you, many had questioned the grab of Ebron, which threw a curve-ball to many fans early this year in the draft. In a draft full of great potential defensive talent, the Lions stayed true to who they are, a scoring machine, and picked him up 10th overall. I cannot help but feel some teams may look back in awe, asking how some of the guys fell so low. And the Lions, a team that was, at that time, in dire defensive need, especially in the secondary, went with Ebron. And thus far, he has been nothing better than acceptable ( 16 catches and 1 TD), he’s not a top 5 target guy on the team, but the team is stacked with talent offensively, so he needs some time to find his spot.

Although adding Ebron and the “mega-presence” of Megatron, signing of Golden Tate and the strong and possibly overlooked RB combo for the Lions, with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, The Lions seriously have as much talent at the skill positions as anyone of the top teams. At this point they have to be able to get to the next level.

They showed they could bounce back, and did just that in 2011 when they won 10 games and came in 2nd to the 15 win Packers in the NFC North. But they have struggled with playing up to how most expect them to play at. During a season, when they could have closed the door and won 11 games, they instead, folded like a lawn chair. After last season, when they had everything laid out before them, as they should have had a NFC North locked up with all of its divisional problems, they blew it, finishing at a lousy 7-9. Failing, with other divisional North teams, the Packers and Bears losing their starting QBs for a total of 12 games between them. This year things are looking better.

One problem has been Matthew Stafford and his confidence seemingly in anyone not named Calvin Johnson. Stafford needs to keep believing in the rest of his receiving corps. Stafford threw 19 INTs in 2013, which landed him 5th most in the league. His 29 TD passes were great, and his 291 YPG avg. But his forcing balls when he doesn’t need to, has to get under control. Something he seems to have had this year, finally.

Last year Calvin has had games where as the WR1 he was targeted 5-6 times more than the WR2, Kris Durham. I understand, that with Calvin as your WR1, you’re going to get him looks, but there is no reason to forget about other guys, keep the defense honest. Including once 83 ball catcher, TE Brandon Pettigrew, who was considered to be a potential next decent TE in the league, only averaged 3 targets a game in 2013, and finished with just 2 TDs. And less then 450 YDs receiving.

After 5 years, it’s now time for Matthew Stafford to bring it to the next level. Stop throwing the late game costly picks, stop forcing the ball when it doesn’t need to be forced into the tight triple coverages. Find the check down, use your whole team, there is a ton of talent on paper there, find out what they can do.

Predictable play calling was a crutch that the Lions had, seemingly, when all else failed, throw the ball to Calvin. Obviously Johnson did everything he could, because as their best weapon, he could get constant separation. Scoring was never a problem for Detroit, dropping 25 a game last year, and only 2 times scoring less than 16. Stopping the other team from scoring was, all year long. Now this year, offensively they are scoring just 18 /game but only giving up 17.

As well as the fact that the Lions were unable to ever get a strong consistent ground attack, only running the ball for 1792 YDs last year, and just 5 games with 120 or more on the ground. As bad as the defense as well, gets a rap on, during the last 7 games in 2013, the Lions only gave up 17 ppg, taking away pick 6’s and fumble returns for TDs, the on-field defense wasn’t terrible. They ended 1-6, during that stretch, where Stafford also was inconsistent during that time as well. They oddly enough stumbled down the home stretch in 2013 because of their offense. In the Lions’ last 3 losses the on-field defense allowed only 2 TDs.

Bottom line is, Stafford and his turnovers, 15 so far, this season. Once he gets that fixed, and the young defense continues to make improvements, they can win 10 games and make some possible noise in the playoffs. But if Stafford goes back to throwing bad picks and fumbling the ball, that’s not going to happen. Matthew Stafford has always had a straight forward plan of attack, his pass selection has gotten him in trouble his whole career, as it has this year as well. He can’t be costing them opportunities anymore to win games.

They have what it takes to make a run at the playoffs, without question. They are armed with unquestionably, when healthy, the best WR in the NFL, and an upgraded young defense that has played much better this year, by far, than their play in 2013. The defense seems to have learned how to control themselves, hopefully for Lions fans, Kris Kocurek, the defensive line coach, can keep the feisty group of Lions to stop with hot head, dumb penalties, and play football the right way.

The Lions had seemingly found ways to lose when the chips were down before. Matthew Stafford would throw 3 interceptions one game, Calvin Johnson would suddenly drop passes, and fumbles would be picked up and returned for a TD. Everyone’s always known how to beat the Lions, you score more points than they can.

This year they have been making that a bit more difficult, stuffing the run well, and even with their pass coverage. This could be a very nasty team for the rest of the year. The NFC North got a whole lot more interesting.

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