Free Head Exam: Detroit Lions

After the Detroit Lions' 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. I loved everything about the Lions' game-winning drive. They were appropriately aggressive but never risked running out of time for a tying field goal. Quarterback Matthew Stafford targeted five different receivers over the 16 plays. But what was most impressive was how methodically they used almost all of the five minutes, 27 seconds on the clock when they took possession at the Seahawks' 20-yard line. Stafford didn't throw a single sideline route on the drive and the clock ran down quickly. Most notably, eight consecutive completions pushed the game clock from 4:41 to 51 seconds with only the two-minute warning in between. That took incredible patience and experience from Stafford, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and coach Jim Schwartz -- especially once the Lions got into comfortable field goal range.

  2. Tailback Mikel Leshoure's final carry came with six minutes, seven seconds remaining in the third quarter. At that point, he had totaled 46 yards on 10 carries. Backup Joique Bell took it the rest of the way, and coach Jim Schwartz said that no injury was involved. Instead, it was a conscious decision to use Bell as a "closer." Bell isn't necessarily bigger than Leshoure but he is a powerful runner that presumably can capitalize on a worn-down defense. After Leshoure's final play, Bell carried four times for 16 yards and caught four passes for 33 yards. He converted three first downs, including an 11-yard catch on third-and-10 from the Seahawks' 12 that set up the Lions with first-and-goal on their final drive. "He's strong," Schwartz said. "One thing with Joique is very rarely does the first guy get him down. He's got good balance. Very strong. Gives us a little different dimension. All those guys are a little bit different style."

  3. This would require a study beyond my novice capabilities, but I have to imagine that receiver Titus Young's 46-yard touchdown reception midway through the second quarter had a substantial impact on the Lions' success for the rest of the game. Young slipped behind Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and beat safety Kam Chancellor to the back of the end zone for the score. Did that play open up the intermediate routes for the Lions? Here's what I do know: Stafford completed 30 of 39 passes that traveled 10 yards or less past the line of scrimmage in this game. Did the Seahawks fortify their deep coverage after Young's score? It wouldn't have been the worst idea in the world if they did. One note on Young's performance: He caught all nine of the passes Stafford threw his way, becoming the second NFL player this season to catch 100 percent of his targeted passes with a minimum of eight. The other? The Green Bay Packers' Randall Cobb, who has done it twice. Young and Cobb were both selected in the second round of the 2011 draft. Maybe it's time to take another look at what will be a career-long comparison.

And here is one issue I still don't get:

Is there anything to worry about with receiver Calvin Johnson? He has a total of six catches for 80 yards over the Lions' past two games, and in each week he's had a high-profile drop. A tough grader would give him three drops Sunday, and the worst was a pass that clanged of his hands in the corner of the end zone with 42 seconds remaining. The play would have drawn more attention had the Lions lost, of course. Johnson has been on the injury report with a knee recently, something that could be impacting his production but presumably not his concentration. On one hand, we've come to hold Johnson to a high standard. As Schwartz said, "I think we've been a little spoiled to call that a drop." On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with expecting a great players to make tough(er) catches routinely.