This was one of those games where you knew it was over for the Lions from their first three plays. It was that clear just how much better the Falcons were in all facets of the game: offense, defense, special teams, and coaching. The Lions showed some life in the second half to keep it interesting, but other than one short period the game was never really in doubt. The Falcons won 31-18, sending the Lions to their 7th loss in a row.
–Calvin Johnson blowing away the single-season receiving yardage record. Megatron did so with a bullet with a name on it, breaking Jerry Rice’s record on his 10th catch of the night. That put him at 204 yards for the game when he only needed 182. He finished the night with 1892 receiving yards for the season, 225 on the night. There just aren’t enough superlatives to laud upon Calvin Johnson, both on the night and the season.
–Johnson also set records for the most consecutive 100 yards games (8) and for the most 100-yard receiving efforts in a season (11). Consider that for the last two weeks the other wideouts on the team were Kris Durham and Mike Thomas. Amazing.
–The first defensive drive of the second half. Atlanta had a chance to ice the game quickly, but Ndamukong Suh made a great stuff on Michael Turner for a 5-yard loss on 2nd & 6. He blew past the woefully overmatched Peter Konz before the rookie was out of his stance and smashed Turner at the very second he got the ball. On 3rd down, the Lions dialed up a rare overload blitz that forced a clearly surprised Matt Ryan to throw the ball away and force a punt.
–Suh had another very strong game. In addition to the aforementioned play, he contributed to a Lawrence Jackson sack in the first half. He drilled Ryan on another incompletion, then forced a punt with a pressure on the same series. The Falcons started helping on him and Suh still hurried some throws. He kept fighting and was a big part of the forced safety at the end of the game.
–The first drive of the second half. Mikel Leshoure ran the ball a lot, and Stafford came out throwing strikes. Calvin Johnson, Will Heller, Leshoure, and even Stefan Logan made chain-moving receptions. Leshoure capped it off with his specialty, a one-yard plunge where there was no doubt from the second he got the handoff that he was going to score. Leshoure is not a great back but he is excellent inside the five yard line. It was his 9th touchdown on the season.
–Stafford had a hot hand. At one point in the second half he completed 13 in a row and he threw the ball with confidence, authority, and vision on just about every throw. Unfortunately he cooled off considerably in the fourth quarter.
–The running game had some nice plays, and almost all of them came from strong work by the offensive line. Stephen Peterman had a couple of nice seal blocks on 1st half runs, notably on a Joique Bell 7-yard scamper. Shaun Chiapas threw an excellent edge block on a productive Mike Thomas end around. When the line was asked to fire away instead of move and then attack they looked pretty solid.
–Joique Bell continues to show he is a versatile weapon. He didn’t get much of an opportunity to run (just four carries, 10 yards), but Stafford threw his way 12 times and Bell caught nine of them for 73 yards. Eight of those catches produced 1st downs.
–Once again the linebackers played very well against the run, as did Louis Delmas. Stephen Tulloch in particular was outstanding at keying on the hole and attacking it under control. Justin Durant did a good job in not overpursuing the ball and forcing the runner back to his help. It’s an underrated attribute for NFL linebackers and Durant did it well for the second week in a row.
–The first offensive drive. Personnel confusion after starting the game with 6 OL forced the Lions to call a time out before the second play of the game. There were issues again on 3rd down, as Stafford had to rush the snap to beat the play clock. Three and out to start the game for the second week in a row.
–Two first half fumbles led to 14 Atlanta points. Leshoure fumbled on the second drive just after a big play to Johnson. Megatron then fumbled three drives later as he fought for extra yardage. Both fumbles came on the Atlanta half of the field.
–Stefan Logan’s career as a return man has to be over. On a free kick following the late safety and with no defender within 15 yards, Logan fielded the ball and took a knee at his own four. Earlier in the game he inadvertently signaled for a fair catch when trying to wave off teammates, all of whom had their backs to him. It’s not like he’s had enough good moments to tolerate this level of ineptitude.
–I loathe the QB draw call on 3rd & goal from the four as the Lions had all the momentum to start the fourth quarter. Matt Stafford is not RG3. He’s not even Matt Ryan in terms of mobility. That play had a very low chance of success and settling for the field goal fundamentally altered the game. Kicking the field goal on 4th & goal from the 2 was the correct call, however.
–On 3rd and 1 from the Lions 22 with just under nine minutes left, the Falcons isolated Tony Gonzalez on Justin Durant on a simple out pattern. A stop would have forced a field goal and kept it a one-score game. Gonzalez brushed Durant aside as if he wasn’t even there and easily converted to keep the drive alive. Two plays later Matt Ryan found Michael Palmer on a backside slip route for the game-sealing touchdown. The play was there to be made, but the Lions just couldn’t make it.
–Stephen Peterman really struggled as the game progressed. He was slow to get in front on a trap play that resulted in Leshoure getting pummeled in the backfield, and earned a personal foul penalty after a late 1st down that had the Lions set up in the red zone. Peterman’s assignment (Corey Peters) was also the man who made the tackle on the ill-fated Stafford QB draw.
–Roddy White torching Chris Houston in man coverage for the first Falcons TD. Houston knew he had no help over the top on 3rd and short, but he gambled with trying to press the much bigger White. It failed miserably and was an easy touchdown for the early ATL lead.
–On Roddy White’s second touchdown, the Lions secondary was at its worst. A pedestrian play action fake that the RB didn’t even try to sell still sucked up both Don Carey and Louis Delmas. White caught the ball about 4 yards down the field and was already well behind both safeties. It was but the latest example of inexcusable lack of discipline by players who fail to understand the meaning of their position.
–Hard to fault Stafford for looking his way, but the INT was a bad force to Johnson into cloud zone with three Falcons in the general vicinity.
–Drayton Florence and open field tackling. He gets the Manolete award, except that he didn’t get close enough to get fatally gored in the groin.