Ah, Thanksgiving. A time for food, family and — if you’re a Detroit Lions fan — bad football.
The Lions haven’t won on Thanksgiving since 2016 and are 4-10 on the holiday since 2006. Ask any Lions fan, and they can easily name their most devastating Thanksgiving heartbreak.
Seriously. If they’re over 50, they’ll likely mention the 1980 game, where the Lions blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead to the Chicago Bears and eventually lost on Dave Williams’ gut-wrenching overtime kick return for a touchdown. If they’re under 50, they’ll either mention draft bust Joey Harrington’s triumphant return to Detroit in 2006 or the embarrassing 47-10 loss to Tennessee two years later.
As a Detroit native, I lean toward the latter. The Titans rushed for approximately 800 yards in that game, which officially let every Lions fan know their favorite team would not, in fact, be winning a game in 2008 (and they didn’t!).
And while I don’t see a repeat of that specific loss happening this Thursday, when the 4-6 Lions face the 3-7 Texans, I do think the game is worrisome for an increasingly desperate Lions team (and their hot seat-bound coach, Matt Patricia) from several perspectives.
For one, the Lions are coming off an embarrassing shutout road loss to a Carolina team that is well-coached by Matt Rhule but, um, shouldn’t be shutting out Matt Patricia’s team in year three of his unnecessary “rebuild” following the firing of Jim Caldwell.
Secondly, the Texans are now on a bit of a roll, having won two of their last three games, including an impressive 27-20 win over New England on Sunday.
And that’s what I’m here to talk about in this week’s edition of the original Yahoo Sports web series “Check the Tape.” Because, in the video above, expertly stitched together by Ron Schiltz and the Yahoo Sports video team, I broke down what went well for Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson against the Patriots, and why it could easily pose problems for Detroit.
Please watch the video, but the thrust of it was based on the success Watson — who completed 28 of 37 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns — had against the Patriots’ defense, which routinely rushed only three defenders and played coverage behind them.
Lots of the NFL’s most dynamic quarterbacks are seeing this type of defense, which allows defenses to flood the passing lanes and limit big plays. The trade-off is, however, that with such a weak rush, you are susceptible to scrambles. That’s why you saw Watson do it Sunday, when he rushed six times for 36 yards and a touchdown, which Watson broke down in the video.
Like Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Patricia — a Belichick disciple — believes in playing lots of man coverage. He’s also shown a willingness to rush only three defenders on occasion, so this could be another game where Watson has to create with his feet.
Now, one good thing the Lions have going for them is that Watson struggled some this year under pressure. So it will be interesting to see whether the Lions’ average pass rush will find a way to get home and rattle Watson.
If they don’t, I suspect it’s going to be another long Thanksgiving for the Lions.
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