Lions' first-half observations: Detroit's offense struggles to find end zone

Nolan Bianchi
The Detroit News

Detroit News contributor Nolan Bianchi offers his first-half observations as the Lions take on the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Offense continues to struggle

After losing two fumbles to the Chicago Bears a week ago, it's fair to say that Jared Goff needs to do a better job of securing the football. He's now lost four fumbles on the season, which has to be disappointing, because moving the ball hasn't really been an issue; securing it until points are on the board has.

Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) fumbles the ball as he is hit by Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter (99) and defensive end Everson Griffen (97) during the first half Sunday.

The Lions' offensive line — which is missing Frank Ragnow — hasn't been much help today, though, as Penei Sewell continued to flash some growing pains early on. The rookie tackle was beat badly by Everson Griffen on the Lions opening drive for a sack, then again on the next play as the Vikings strip-sacked Goff to force a turnover that'd give Minnesota its first lead.

Additional tight ends have been placed on Sewell's side to help him out as the half rolled on, and that'll likely be a theme that keeps up in the second half.

But regardless, the Lions need to find a bread and butter. T.J. Hockenson has been relatively non-existent in the passing game — one catch, 8 yards — and Quintez Cephus, who came up with the Lions' two biggest receptions of the half despite going up against former All-Pro Patrick Peterson, was carted to the locker room just before halftime. Rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown was seen heading to the locker room early as well.

As options continue to dwindle, Detroit will need to get creative if it's going to get its offense going.

Third and Jefferson

The Lions' defense entered Sunday's game with the league's second-best third-down efficiency, giving up just 27.8% of its chances. The problem for this defense has largely been stopping teams on first and second down — but not this Sunday.

Minnesota is 3-for-5 on third down at the half, and Justin Jefferson is to thank for that. He's got three catches for 68 yards on third down and five receptions for 104 yards on the half. A pair of third-down stops are the reason that the Vikings only had six points after its first two offensive series, but the fact remains that the Vikings have acutely aware of how to beat the Lions when they need to: Get the ball to Jefferson.

Need a swing

All things considered, the Lions are fortunate to only be down 7 at the half.

The battered defense has struggled to get pressure on Kirk Cousins — zero quarterback hurries so far — and despite a few miscues on third down in Lions territory, he's had all the time in the world to manage this game to perfection. The Vikings will get the ball to open the second half, and allowing a quick score would be backbreaking for a team whose offense has continued to shoot itself in the foot at nearly every opportunity over the last few weeks.

Be it an interception or early stop, Detroit must to do something to get Cousins out of his element if they want to turn the tide.

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.