Hot begin, but it doesn’t last

Detroit News agent Nolan Bianchi offers his observations after the first half of the Lions game against the Bears.

Hot start

The Lions achieved something on Thursday that they have only done once this season: start with drive.

Will Harris and Alex Anzalone came up with a couple of crucial pass breakups to get the defense off the field early. Caliph Raymond posted a 9 yard return that gave Detroit the ball in its 31st place. Chicago scored the first penalty of the game.

Lions wide receiver Caliph Raymond (11) is chased by Bears defensive back Xavier Crawford (21) in the first half on Sunday in Detroit.

And then, against all odds, Jared Goff marched the Lions across the field and hit two passes from over 10 yards at Josh Reynolds, the second of which made a 39-yard touchdown in third and long place.

Of course, Detroit’s biggest problem this season was a 60-minute game, but most of the time that dilemma came in the form of a slow start and a crazy lane to catch up. Not this week.

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Goff is back and … better than ever?

When the whole world sat down on the chalkboard for the first Thanksgiving Day game, it felt like they were preparing for a showdown between Tim Boyle and Andy Dalton.

Not quite.

Goff made his return, and after two quarters it’s clear he should probably offend fans who swear he’s not the team’s best quarterback.

Goff opened the game 12-for-12 for 97 yards and a touchdown before tossing a ball into no man’s land on his final pass at half time. He does a good job of progressing and meeting the open man no matter where you are in the field.

Ninety-seven yards in half is by no means setting the world on fire, but considering Goff’s chances so far in this game – and his recent stats – he’s played a very solid half of football.

After the Detroit Lions marched across the field on its inaugural voyage, they were pinned into their own 2 and performed three times. The next time he had possession, Goff took the Lions into bear territory with a couple of nice throws before a false start, a hold penalty, and another false start basically took the ball out of his hands.

While the results are not yet complete, Lions fans should be confident that Goff will quarterback this team in the second half.

Defense with mixed results

The Lions defense hasn’t always been a great starter, but for much of the season the unit has found its way into a rhythm with each game and performed quite well by the end of the game.

But after Detroit declined Chicago on its inaugural drive, Dalton and Co. had some answers. Dalton passes 16-for-26 with 218 yards, a touchdown and an interception as the Lions struggle to keep Darnell Mooney and Jimmy Graham in the field.

Dalton threw an interception towards the end of the first half and could easily have thrown two others that were eventually dropped by a Detroit defensive back. You will need to improve coverage as the game progresses as the Lions have been unable to exert pressure and Dalton can be forced to make mistakes.

Don’t play by yourself

If you saw the Cleveland Lions game on television last week, chances are you’ll hear LaVar Arrington speak of “self-inflicted wounds” more often than you in your life.

But the point was in Week 1, against Cleveland, and it’s the same today: The Lions aren’t talented enough to beat teams and play a sloppy game at the same time. They let the Bears take over the baton early on, but then began to catch up, finishing first and tenth in Chicago in the second quarter after three consecutive penalties for first and 30th.

Then, with a chance to regain the lead before half-time, Goff was knocked out in the second quarter by Robert Quinn with 2:23 remaining. The record shows that Detroit took just five penalties for 32 yards, but that doesn’t include the myriad of penalties declined for not winning yards by the Lions.

If the Lions want to win this game, they can’t outdo the Bears in the second half.

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.

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