Lions-Falcons postgame thoughts
Wow. That was ugly, and I sure didn't see that coming. The Lions showed some deficiencies stopping the run in the preseason, but nothing like the tackling problems they had in Sunday's season-opening 34-21 loss to Atlanta. Michael Turner ran 22 times for 220 yards the second highest total by a Lions opponent ever (O.J. Simpson is No. 1) and the Falcons set a franchise record with 318 yards rushing.
No one was immune from the defensive problems. Gerald Alexander had issues with poor angling (including on the third play of the game, a 62-yard Matt Ryan touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins). Paris Lenon and Alex Lewis blew their share of tackles. Even Ernie Sims and Dwight Smith whiffed noticeably on would-be stops.
"It was us, man," defensive tackle Cory Redding said when asked if the Falcons were that good or if the Lions were the root of their own problems. "You saw the missed tackles. It wasn't them, it was us. We just missed tackles and we weren't where we were supposed to be. When guys' numbers were called to make plays, we didn't make them."
Redding is half right. Turner is a bullish, physical runner, the likes of which the Lions weren't completely ready for. They added to their own misfortune, obviously, but Turner deserves credit for his role in the destruction, too.
If you're looking for positive signs, there weren't many. Calvin Johnson (seven catches, 107 yards) showed why everyone is ga-ga over his talents. Kevin Smith ran hard and blocked well in his NFL debut, though he didn't put up great numbers (16 carries, 48 yards). Nick Harris was locked in punting. And Rudi Johnson played sparingly but came away healthy after a hamstring injury cost him the entire preseason and much of last year.
"It felt great so that's a big lift off my shoulders," said Johnson, signed last week after being released by the Bengals.
As for the negatives (non-tackling division), there appeared to be communication problems on both offense and defense. The Lions ran one play with 10 defenders on the field and burned a timeout late in the second half over substitution confusion. I didn't think Jon Kitna played great. Roy Williams took the blame for Kitna's lone interception, but the Lions quarterback missed a handful of other throws and made two bad decisions out of the pocket (once he rifled a would-be touchdown pass high to tight end Michael Gaines when he could have ran for a score, and another time he took off running but slid just short of a first down). Lastly, the offensive line had a few issues with penalties (Stephen Peterman, Dominic Raiola) and missed assignments (Jeff Backus, George Foster).
I haven't had the benefit of watching the TV replay yet and won't until tomorrow, but I'll be interested to hear what Lions coach Rod Marinelli has to say at his Monday press conference about the play of Foster and rookie linebacker Jordon Dizon. Foster got beat for at least one sack, but the Lions never felt the need to play rookie Gosder Cherilus at right tackle. Dizon played a decent amount at middle linebacker after Paris Lenon left twice with injuries. Lenon said he'll be good to go next week against Green Bay. If not, Dizon's the man.
I'll leave you with a telling quote from Kitna that both puts the loss in perspective and sums up the urgency of Week 2.
"You cannot allow yourself to get into the mindset of 'it's the same old thing,'" Kitna said. "That cannot happen. It's one of 16 (games). Would you feel any better if we lost 10-7? You still lost the game. We have to bounce back and here's the adversity. This gives us a good opportunity early on in our season to see if we are a different team. That will be the mark of whether we are different is how we handle this adversity."