Injuries Not an Excuse for Poor Gameplan

Read more on why the Detroit Lions' gameplan was subpar against the Carolina Panthers
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Ugly. Embarrassing. Despicable. 

Just three of the many adjectives that can be used to describe the Lions' 20-0 loss at the hands of the Carolina Panthers in Week 11.

Detroit was without three of its key offensive weapons for the game in wide receivers Danny Amendola and Kenny Golladay and running back D'Andre Swift. 

But, it's still no excuse for what transpired on Sunday. 

Getting shut out against a team that came into the week allowing 27.2 points per game -- the 21st-most per game in the NFL -- is completely inexcusable. 

There's no way that Detroit is 20 points worse talent-wise than the Panthers, a team that had just three wins entering the contest and was without its starting passer in Teddy Bridgewater.

The only area in which the Lions might be that much worse off is in the coaching department -- a common theme of the last three years under Matt Patricia and seemingly against anyone Detroit has faced.

It's been the case even when there's been a notable disparity in the number of years Patricia and the opponent's coach have served as NFL head men, such as with Patricia and the Panthers' Matt Rhule. 

Rhule is in the middle of his first season as an NFL head coach, and he clearly outcoached and had a better gameplan than Patricia on Sunday.

Obviously, that's a major problem the organization has on its hands.

For a clear-cut example of Patricia and his coaching staff being outcoached by Rhule and his assistants, all you have to do is look at the game's box score. 

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The Panthers outgained the Lions not only on the ground today, but also through the air. And they did so with a backup quarterback in P.J. Walker, who was making his first career NFL start. 

Sure, Matthew Stafford was playing with a torn ligament in the thumb on his throwing hand, which he clearly was affected by throughout the entirety of the game. 

However, he's still a 12th-year passer, and he shouldn't be getting anywhere close to outplayed by an individual that made a name for himself in the XFL. 

No offense to any XFL fans out there.

Stafford amassed just 178 yards through the air, while Walker threw for 258 yards, to go along with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Now, I know there are supporters of the franchise out there that will say Stafford's lackluster performance was a result of his injury and poor protection from the offensive line, which permitted five sacks on the afternoon.

However, I believe it's a deeper-rooted issue than either of those two reasons. 

I place the majority of the blame on offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and his lack of creativity with the play-calling. 

For one, the steady decline in the amount of deep looks the team has taken through the air from last year to this year has been maddening. 

Stafford was dynamite a season ago when airing it out down the field. Yet, so far in 2020, he hasn't been afforded the opportunity to do so nearly as often. 

And sure, you can bring up the significant amount of time Golladay has missed this season as being a factor in Bevell's decision not to deploy the deep ball as much. 

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But, it's not a good enough excuse to me. 

The reason why: He has a more-than-capable deep threat in Marvin Hall at his disposal, as well. 

And what did Bevell do with him today? Simply, not enough. 

Hall was the beneficiary of three Stafford passes, but the longest reception he had was for just six yards. 

Bevell needs to find a way to get him more involved on Thanksgiving against the Houston Texans, especially if Golladay is forced to sit out again.

Then, there's the running game, which started to click the past few weeks because of the emergence of Swift.

But, without him on Sunday, it seemed lost. 

Veterans Kerryon Johnson and Adrian Peterson only managed to muster up 35 rushing yards between the two of them, on 13 combined carries. 

Bevell's insistence on establishing the run in the first half failed to work out.

It was perhaps no more obvious than on a call he made on a third-and-2 play, right before the two-minute warning of the first half.

He dialed up a play which had Stafford toss the ball to Johnson, as Johnson was running to the right of the line of scrimmage.

The third-year back went nowhere, resulting in a negative yardage play and Jack Fox punting with two minutes to play in the half.

Yes, it's true that Johnson missed a solid opportunity to cut it back to the inside on the run. Yet, Bevell should also have a better understanding of his personnel by now and understand that Johnson isn't the back to run that play with.

Then, on the other side of the ball, rookie defensive back Jeff Okudah continues to struggle in coverage -- and not just because of him not being ready for the "bright lights" yet. 

On a day like Sunday, it was also because he was constantly put in a position to fail by Patricia and his defensive coaching staff, specifically defensive coordinator Cory Undlin.

Okudah was easily beat by DJ Moore on a deep route down the sideline in the first half, and continued to get burnt by the speedster as the game progressed, including on slant routes. 

It was a poor performance by the first-year pro, and he's going to have to learn sooner than later how to effectively cover the top receivers of Lions opponents.

However, he shouldn't have been in some of those situations Sunday afternoon, either. 

Undlin should've done the rookie a solid and eased his workload as the game developed and he continued to get tormented by Moore. 

It was an adjustment that should've been made. Yet, Undlin failed to make it, and the Lions were worse off because of it.

Throughout the 2020 campaign, Patricia & Co. have time and time again been outcoached by the opposition.

Detroit's Week 11 loss to Rhule and Carolina was merely the latest example of it.

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