ReFo: Lions @ Jaguars, Week 9
After a disappointing start to the season saw them lose three of their opening four games, the Lions’ 31-14 victory over the Jaguars lifed their record to 4-4, putting them in the hunt for a playoff berth.
The Jaguars’ loss was typical of how their 1-7 season has gone: Mistakes on both sides of the ball and an offense that just isn’t functioning as a unit. Even a perfect run would be unlikely to send them to the postseason, so they head into the final eight games trying to see just what they have on their roster.
Not surprisingly, the Jaguars didn’t have many performances to get excited about and plenty that raise further concern, but did the Lions dominate as much as the score indicates? Let’s take a look at the key performances from Sunday’s game.
Detroit – Three Performances of Note
Six catches for 80 yards with no touchdowns and four dropped passes in the previous two games had many questioning if Calvin Johnson was just another victim of the “Madden Curse.” On Sunday, he showed that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Limited to just 32 routes run on the day, he averaged a staggering 4.03 Yards Per Route Run with seven receptions for 129 yards from the eight times he was targeted by Matthew Stafford. He made life miserable for Jaguars cornerback Derek Cox all day, including on his longest reception (38 yards) since Week 1. On third-and-8 with 8:36 left in the second quarter, he beat Cox on a go route before pulling away from an attempted tackle, eventually going down at the 1-yard line.
Much has been made of the Lions missing Jahvid Best this year, but if they can get more performances from the running backs on the roster like this game, they won’t miss him much at all. Though he forced just one missed tackle on the day, Mikel Leshoure’s average of 3.06 yards after contact per carry gave him an Elusive Rating of 19.1. While he didn’t run in three scores like his teammate, Joique Bell outperformed Leshoure on a play-by-play basis. With two missed tackles as a runner and another two as a receiver, Bell had an Elusive Rating of 63.5. He was particularly effective on first-and-10 with 4:15 left in the game as the Lions drove for the final touchdown. A nice burst at the line of scrimmage saw him gain 5 yards with ease before he left safety Dawan Landry with a quick cut that lead to another Lions first down.
After his two best games of the season in the past two weeks, Ndamukong Suh slumped to his most disappointing performance of the season. Netting nothing as a pass rusher despite going after the quarterback on 28 occasions, he was almost as invisible in the running game. Making just two tackles, neither of which resulted in a defensive stop, he finished the game with a Run Stop Percentage that matched his Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of 0.0. Not the sort of performance the Lions need from the former No. 2 overall draft pick.
Jacksonville – Three Performances of Note
Last season, Paul Posluszny looked like one of the better free agent acquisitions in the league. This season his performances have been very up and down, with more downs than ups. This was another ‘down’ occasion that saw him struggle in the running game and in coverage. With seven tackles, four of which resulted in defensive stops, from 34 plays against the run he finished the game with a Run Stop Percentage of 11.8 percent. That doesn’t tell the full story, however, because far too often he was handled by Lions guards Stephen Peterman and Rob Sims.
In coverage Posluszny allowed just one reception but was fortunate the other three throws into his coverage resulted in an overthrow, and underthrow, and a dropped pass, because he was beaten on all three occasions. Topping it all off, he was also guilty of committing two penalties. A day he will want to forget in a hurry.
(Not So) Magic Mike
While the rest of the Jaguars offensive line did a relatively good job of holding their own in pass protection, it was Mike Brewster who really let them down. Beaten routinely by Sammie Lee Hill and Corey Williams, he finished the game having allowed two hits and four hurries from 42 snaps in pass protection, giving him a Pass Blocking Efficiency Rating of 89.3. This was highlighted on first-and-10 with 2:11 left in the third quarter. Beaten inside by Williams right from the snap, he allowed the hit on the quarterback, forcing an incompletion. If the Jaguars are to give Blaine Gabbert the opportunity to prove he can be their quarterback of the future, they need to give him better protection.
Is Gabbert the Answer?
While he wasn’t given much help as a pass blocker from Brewster, Gabbert once again made the types of throws that make you doubt he can be a long-term starting quarterback in the league. Guilty of overthrows throughout the game, it’s his decision-making that continues to baffle as you watch him play. Even when the Jaguars looked like things were starting to go their way, Gabbert found a way to get the ball back in the hands of the Detroit offense.
Trailing 21-0 on second-and-10 with 12:00 left in the third quarter, he lofted the ball downfield over rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon and into the arms of a leaping Erik Coleman. It’s a throw that, even down by three touchdowns, he simply didn’t need to make. With the Jaguars looking likely to be selecting early in April’s NFL Draft, Gabbert has just eight games to show they don’t need to use that first pick on a quarterback.
– Lions rookie offensive lineman Riley Reiff saw the most snaps of his career, being used as a blocking tight end.
– Left tackle Jeff Backus accounted for five of the eight total pressures allowed by the Lions.
– All seven of the Jaguars’ missed tackles came from their starting defensive backs.
While the running game was successful, and finished off four scoring drives, it was the big game by Calvin Johnson that led the way as the Lions put themselves in position to make a postseason run.
Follow Gordon on Twitter: @PFF_Gordon