By Michal Downes
Wow. Not to take anything away from the Detroit Lions’ performance, but the New York Giants are awful and it showed on Monday night. The Lions were in control the whole game and walked out of the Meadowlands with a 24-10 victory.
The Lions defense decimated the highly touted Giants offense. Eli Manning, yardage wise, did well, with 239 yards, but majority of those yards came against soft coverage late in the game. The Giants offensive line was dominated and Manning was sacked five times. Rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis was able to tally his first career sack. Veteran defensive lineman Haloti Ngata’s sack was a sack-fumble that was scooped up by Darius Slay in the endzone, but after a quick review Manning was ruled down. Ezekiel Ansah, who appears to be returning to 2015 form, got to Manning three times. Many of those sacks should be credited to the Lions secondary because Manning had nowhere to throw most of the night.
The Giants elite receivers were no-shows. Brandon Marshall and Odell Beckham Jr. were each targeted five times, Marshall had one catch for 17 yards and Beckham Jr. had 36 yards on four catches. The Giants did distribute the ball well; 10 different receivers had catches. The secondary was bailed out a few times. Marshall had a crucial drop down the sideline in the fourth quarter along with rookie tight end Evan Engram missing a couple of balls he should have had. Overall it was a great night for the Lions secondary, a game that will boost their confidence.
The Lions run defense was absolutely outstanding holding the GIants to 62 rushing yards on 18 carries. The lack of success combined with the Giants trailing a majority of the night forced the team to abandon the run very early on. Carries were sparse for the Giants backs. Paul Perkins led the team with seven carries with a lowly average of 1.4 yards. Shane Vereen was the Giants “best” back, gaining 28 yards on his six rushes.
The Lions linebackers were outstanding, making it impossible for the Giants to establish any kind of run game. Tahir Whitehead played out of his mind with eight total tackles and an interception. Davis had another excellent outing racking up six tackles and a sack. He was unable to finish the game after suffering a head injury on a block from behind by Beckham Jr. in the fourth quarter.
Stafford lit it up in the first half through the air, but only had four passes in the second half, finishing with 122 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite targets throughout the game were tight end Eric Ebron and wide out Marvin Jones Jr, who both had five targets. Ebron hauled in all of his targets for 42 yards and a touchdown. Jones Jr. was only able to bring in one of those passes which was a 27-yard touchdown. Receiver Golden Tate and running back Theo Riddick combined for seven receptions and 42 yards.
Looking at the stats will show you that the Lions were able to establish a run game, but the numbers don’t tell the story. Ameer Abdullah did eclipse 80 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry, but take away his 34-yard run and those numbers deflate. Abdullah jumps down to 3.25 yards per rush and ends the day with 52 yards. Riddick failed to make the most of his limited carries, gaining 20 yards on nine carries bringing his average to 2.2. This is going to be a problem all season for the Lions, but the good news for the franchise and its fans is that the run game is improving.
While the offense and the defense did well, the special teams were on fire. Jeff Locke did a great job handling the punting duties, punting five times and having three of them drop inside the 20. Prater, in the most Prater fashion, clunked a 56-yard field goal off the upright, then the crossbar, but still managed to make it. He also went 3-for-3 on extra points.
The true special teams star was rookie Jamal Agnew, who returned a punt 88 yards at the start of the fourth quarter. Agnew back pedaled his way to the 12-yard line and caught Brad Wing’s punt at his ankles. A quick move inside, Agnew started accelerating down the sideline before spinning his way out of a tackle leaving him 1-on-1 with Wing, who was embarrassed. Agnew didn’t even put a fancy move on him, just a quick head fake inside before bouncing it outside where he was in the clear. It was easily the most exciting play of the game and the Lions have found themselves with a potential return star.
After a shoddy start against the Cardinals, the Lions were able to play a full, four quarter game and dominated it in all phases. The Giants may have been overhyped going into the season so don’t get too excited about this team just yet. Week 3 is going to be tough for the Lions who are hosting the 2-0 Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.