Lions quick reads: Conservative calls handcuff Stafford
Nolan Bianchi of The Detroit News offers quick observations from the Lions' 14-13 loss to the Bills on Sunday.
No faith in Stafford
Lions' offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter's play-calling has been under a microscope for some time now, but in Sunday's loss to Buffalo, it seemed downright counterproductive — especially in the fourth quarter.
After Buffalo took a 14-13 lead with 10:26 remaining, the Lions ran 10 plays: five were passes thrown for five yards or less, four were run plays, and the other was a 20-yard completion to Kenny Golladay. And the last play Detroit ran before Buffalo took over for good and ran out the clock? A 2-yard completion in the flat to tight end Levine Toilolo on third-and-nine. The most questionable move of all, perhaps, is that this conservative attack came just two quarters after Golladay set a new personal best for single-game receiving yards in just two quarters — but we'll get to that a bit later.
Don't blame the 'D'
Yes, the Lions were just beat by a rookie quarterback for the second time this season. Yes, Buffalo's fourth-string running back iced the game for the Bills in his NFL debut. And yes, rookie wide receiver Robert Foster had a career-high 108 receiving yards and the winning touchdown.
But Josh Allen still just completed 50 percent of his passes for 204 yards and one touchdown, Buffalo averaged just 3.2 yards per carry, and the Bills' offense put up only 14 points; not exactly burning down the house.
The linebacking corps stepped up in the absence of injured linemen Da'Shawn Hand (knee) and Ziggy Ansah (shoulder), who was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week. Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones made nine tackles each. Devon Kennard sacked Allen — his seventh of the year — on third down on Buffalo's opening drive, which forced the Bills out of field-goal range and kept the game scoreless. Kennard's pass rushing also forced Allen to sail the ball out-of-bounds on three occasions to avoid a sack.
One shining star
Onto some good news for the Lions' offense: Golladay is still Detroit's deep threat of the future. He disappeared from the stat sheet last week in a win over the Arizona Cardinals, pulling in just two passes for 5 yards. On Sunday, Golladay flashed shades of Calvin Johnson: When Matthew Stafford threw up a prayer, he answered it.
The second-year receiver out of Northern Illinois finished with seven receptions for 146 yards. The biggest difference between Golladay and the man known as "Megatron?" Johnson was fed the ball when it mattered. After a monster first half, Golladay was targeted just three times and one of the league's best emerging deep threats averaged just 10.3 yards per reception.
Golladay shined brightest with two huge third-down catches on the Lions' second scoring drive; he ripped the ball away from Buffalo defender Levi Wallace for a 24-yard completion, and three plays later, came down with a 40-yard pass that gave him a career-high 115 receiving yards in the game and put the Lions at Buffalo's 10-yard-line.
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.