Detroit Lions: No-name defense does it again

The Detroit Lions won on the road, outdoors, on Monday Night Football against the New York Giants, a team many experts predicted would win the NFC East.

Las Vegas lost money on the Lions for the second week in a row. Many NFL expert predictions came up short as the Detroit Lions won on the road on Monday Night Football. The NFL awarded Detroit a number of nationally televised games this year and Stafford and co. did not disappoint. The NFL’s highest-paid player left the New York Giants fans understanding why. Stafford didn’t dominate through the air. He did run efficiently when he had too. In the end, having all ten fingers really made a difference, unlike last December’s loss at MetLife Stadium.

Teryl Austin has done it again

The Detroit Lions’ defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin, has now held nearly 70 percent of their last 26 opponents to 20 points or less. That dates back to when Martha Firestone Ford fired everybody. The Giants became Austin’s 18th victim out of 26 regular season opponents logging a whopping 69.1 percent who failed to score 21 points or more. Overall the Lions record during those 26 games is 17-9. Forget all those stats between the 20s and focus on the scoreboard because last year’s playoff teams won 85 percent of the time they held teams to 20 or less.

Leading into this season, the Lions’ defense was suspect. Detroit only recorded 26 sacks last year thus ranking 30th in the NFL and bringing skepticism. In the Lions first two games this year Austin’s no-name defense has eight sacks. And it isn’t just the sacks, the pressure being put on both Carson Palmer and Eli Manning was consistently daunting. That pressure has already led to four interceptions, one being a pick six. The reason all this is so intriguing is many experts didn’t see the Lions surviving the first half of the season. They may not yet, but this is the most difficult part of their schedule and they’re already 2-0. They still have the Falcons, Steelers, and Packers before the first half of the season ends. After that, things get easier, meaning this defense that Austin has created could be really special come late December.

The 20-point rule

I did some homework and I call this The 20-point rule. The Lions defense in 2016 held 10 of 16 teams to 20 or less but the offense only won 60 percent of those games NOT the 85 percent won by the other playoff teams. This year, Austin’s defense is two-for-two in holding teams to 20 or less. The Cardinals scored 23 but Stafford’s pick-six doesn’t count against Austin’s defense. Let’s see how many teams can score 21 or more against Detroit this year.

My guess is Atlanta won’t have any problem putting up three touchdowns or more but because Detroit is at home, I’m not counting Stafford out of this game. In both games this season, Stafford has logged a 71 percent completion percentage. That’s not the average of his first two games, he did it in both games. This one could be a shootout because six of the eight road games the Falcons had last year their defense failed to hold the other team to less than 24 points. At home, the Lions have a chance.

Matt Prater

Detroit’s placekicker, Matt Prater, has now made 12 straight field goals from 50 yards or more. None were more theatrical than the one he made against the New York Giants on Monday night. At the end of the first half, Prater tried a 56-yard field goal and it hit the crossbar. The ball caromed into the air and everyone held their breath as it darted to the left and barely, just barely, slid behind the left upright… good!

Lions running game goes over 100 yards

It was a combined effort, but Detroit had 138 yards rushing against the Giants Monday night. Granted 23 of those came from Matthew Stafford but the Lions’ QB has been savvier at choosing when to run the ball. 

The Lions’ number one running back, Ameer Abdullah, had 86 yards on just 17 carries for an average of five yards per carry, which is misleading because he had two runs that totaled 59 yards. Still, it’s one of the few times this century the Detroit Lions have posted over 100 yards rushing in a game.

Short week

The Atlanta Falcons come to Detroit next Sunday. The last time Detroit and Atlanta faced each other was in 2014 at Wembley Stadium in London. Detroit won in dramatic fashion, coming from 21 points down, which has become Matthew Stafford’s trademark. 

This week, the defending NFC champion brings an awesome balanced attack to Ford Field. Teryl Austin’s defense will be severely challenged by one of the more prolific offenses in the NFL. However, on the road last year, Atlanta’s defense let six of their eight opponents score 24 or more points. 

This one could be a shootout. If it is, don’t count Matthew Stafford out, especially in the last two minutes. I’m not picking the Lions to win, but I would love to be wrong.

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Chris Decker