The NFL preseason, to a large degree, mostly revolves around finding health and momentum. Considering what's transpired around football this summer, the Detroit Lions have managed to find both impressively, as it's almost time to get "Back to Football" that counts.
Thursday night, the Lions continued their momentum from the week before thrashing the Buffalo Bills 35-13 behind yet another compete effort in all three phases of the game. The defense created chances, the offense confidently cashed those chances in and the special teams held the Bills at bay in the meantime, helping close out the preseason on a high note. The Hunt Report looks at what went right and wrong in Orchard Park.
Matthew Stafford Still Needs To Improve His Accuracy. The Lions put Stafford in to start the game looking to shake off rust and it was a rough performance. There were two deep bombs to Patrick Edwards missed, a ball thrown a bit too hot for Nate Burleson intercepted and an overall awkward feel to the entire performance. Considering it's a preseason finale, there's no reason to be overly concerned, but Stafford needs to get more locked in by the regular season.
Dropped Passes Killed, But Good Catches Saved. Early in the game, Detroit's wide outs looked as if they couldn't do anything right. Patrick Edwards let an easy catch go through his hands, while Michael Spurlock also muffed a catch. Then, all of a sudden, everyone turned it on. Kris Durham hauled in a nice touchdown, while Joseph Fauria added a tough catch to his impressive preseason highlight reel. Then, Matt Willis made a fantastic catch down the sidelines which nearly resulted in a touchdown. Amongst this, Theo Riddick was viable in the passing game. This week, the Lions managed to shake off the rough start and improve as the game progressed.
Special Teams Looks Like A Different Group. It was an impressive preseason finale for Detroit. Even without Sam Martin kicking off, there were lots of touchbacks, a punt downed inside the five and good coverage. Michael Spurlock was good down field and made a nice recovery of a fumble. Overall, the group has looked more aggressive during the preseason, which is a welcome sign considering all the missteps last fall. John Bonamego, thus far, earns high grades for initiating a noticeable culture change where it was needed most.
Takeaways, And The Offensive Response, Remain Good News. Tonight, the takeaway train continued for Detroit, as the Lions took the ball away from the Bills two times. Off those turnovers, the team scored 14 points, which was a major improvement over all the field goals from last week. Still, the Lions continue to take the ball away and capitalize on other team's mistakes. That's big news, considering Detroit's rough season last year on both accounts.
It's Time To Debate Mikel Leshoure's Place On The Roster. Theo Riddick looked like a threat in the passing and running game again, catching two touchdowns while adding a beautiful spin move to his highlight reel. Early, Joique Bell continued to impress with a long touchdown of his own. Leshoure, meanwhile, only contributed a fumble sandwiched around a few runs. Leshoure will probably remain on the roster, but should he? For the last few months, he's been outplayed by a rookie and an undrafted free agent, and given Bell's size, the need for Leshoure might be minimal. Perhaps the Lions should dangle their now expendable looking runner for some wide receiver help, if possible.
Lions? Willie Young responded from his benching with two excellent sacks and plenty of pressure. Bill Bentley had a nice game, collecting an interception with a pass defended. Theo Riddick collected two touchdowns, while Matt Willis continued with the impressive catches.
What About The Five Things? Entering the final preseason game of 2013, we outlined wide receiver as a position to watch, Matt Willis and Patrick Edwards each played well, perhaps adding the final bit of clarity to that roster battle. Ziggy Ansah didn't play or travel to the game, personal foul penalties weren't a major problem as they were last week, David Akers kicked well and the Detroit Lions look to have some solid young depth on the team, given rookies like Larry Warford excelled late in the game.
Stalking The Next Prey: The Lions open their regular season slate next Sunday, September 8 at home against the Minnesota Vikings. The game kicks off at 1 p.m. and will be broadcast on FOX.
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