DETROIT — In one of the strangest seasons in NFL history thanks in part to the COVID pandemic, it’s finally over for the Detroit Lions.
They put an exclamation mark on a frustrating season with a 37-35 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Ford Field. The Lions finished 5-11 with just one home win.
The defense, which has struggled all season, set franchise records for the most points and yards given up in a season. They were worse than the winless 2008 team. Think about it.
Interim coach Darrell Bevell took over for the final five games (one he spent at home due to COVID protocol) and while the team seemed more energized the wins did not come.
“I’ve told these guys how much I love this game, how much I respect it. I think it says a lot in situations you guys might say is meaningless but there’s a lot of history in this game, there’s a lot of people who have been on the field before us,’’ Bevell said. “To go out and to play continually for one another as hard as they did the whole game long I think it speaks a lot for these guys.’’
Five of the keys in the game.
1. Quarterback Kirk Cousins played like Aaron Rodgers thanks to the Detroit defense. He threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns. And the Vikings were missing running back Dalvin Cook.Still they were able to run up the yards against Detroit’s porous defense.
2. The loss was by two points so every play mattered. Early in the fourth on fourth-and-goal on Detroit’s 1-yard-line, Tracy Walker broke through and sacked Cousins. Well, that’s what it looked like. However referee Adrian Hill blew the whistle and called it roughing the passer. That gave the Vikings a new set of downs and they scored on a Cousins keeper two plays later. After the game, Hill told the pool reporter (which is me): “By rule, one of the categories for roughing the passer is full body weight, where the tackler lands with his full body weight on the quarterback. That’s the category this play fell into. The momentum doesn’t play a role and the rolling off afterwards does not play a role. It’s that initial contact to the ground. If you roll off afterwards, that doesn’t eliminate the foul.” … Bevell said he was told on the sidelines that it was because of body weight, but the coach said he’d like to get another look at the replay.
3. Matthew Stafford had a solid game but his one interception was costly. He finished 20 of 31 for 293 yards and three touchdowns. He was playing with a bad pack, ribs and injured thumb. Yet, he was out there and there wasn’t really much doubt that he’d be on the field despite limited practices. “It’s a cool relationship to have with the quarterback,’’ Bevell said. “I really appreciate what he did. The guy’s out there, not 100 percent, he’s fighting for his teammates. He talked to the team last night about respect for the game, the history, the guys who came before us. The guy is laying everything on the line in a game that he doesn’t need to. I think that says a lot about him as a person, as a quarterback, what he means to the team.’’
4. With two touchdown catches Marvin Jones Jr., became the third leading wide receiver in all of franchise history. He finished with 36 touchdowns in Detroit (he has 50 overall in the NFL) which places him behind Calvin Johhson (83) and Herman Moore (62). He had eight catches for 180 yards and another touchdown that was reversed on a challenge. “Marv was hot early and I was going to keep feeding him. Obviously I wish that third touchdown I thought it was a great catch, i’m not sure it hit the ground,’’ Stafford said. “Maybe there’s a better view. We didn’t have a good one in the stadium. I’m really happy for him. He’s been a really good player for us for 5 years and I’ve enjoyed playing with him. The guy’s an incredible talent obviously, a great, great friend of mine and a great teammate. I’m just happy he had a big day.’’ Jones will be a free agent heading into next season so it’s unclear if he will return.
5. Bevell was handed a tough task after Patricia was fired. He handled it with grace and passion. His love for the game is obvious. “I was extremely proud of the way he stepped into that situation, it’s a tough one. It’s a tough year to be a coach in the NFL with all the extra COVID stuff going on, all the regulations, I thought he did an outstanding job. He’s a hack of a person and everybody got to realize that,’’ Stafford said. … “He’s a great person, a great coach, I was just really happy he got the opportunity and I think everybody in our locker room really rallied around him which was awesome. I want to win more football games than we did but I thought he stepped in and did a great job.’’
(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)