Football is a quirky sport to cover. There’s only one game a week, which leaves only so many storylines for the beat writers and bloggers and columnists to talk about over the six days in-between games.
This week everybody discovered the offensive line.
To an extent, they deserved it.
The line opened up holes for Reggie Bush that led to 37-, 17-, 16-, 15-, 12-, and 11-yard gains against the Bears. It has allowed just three sacks this season, lowest in the NFL, has committed just two penalties — both false starts — and is tied for ninth in allowing the fewest hits on the quarterback with 17.
Right guard Larry Warford continues to be the best pick the Lions made this year. He made one small mistake on 3rd-and-5 passing play, but more than made up for it with a number of smart plays, including a backside seal on Bush’s 37-yard touchdown run. Pro Football Focus has him ranked as the 12th-best guard in the NFL.
Corey Hilliard, the man to Warford’s right, was a little more inconsistent, but ended up nearly as good due to some truly devastating blocks that opened up some holes. On Bush’s second-longest run of the day, a 17 yarder early in the first quarter, Hilliard’s manhandling of the defensive end left a hole so big the blitzing free safety couldn’t fill it all, and Bush just ran right by him.
As we make our way down the line, though, things taper slightly.
Center Dominic Raiola was stout, especially when you add in that he adjusted the blocking call before the snap on Bush’s long TD run, but it wasn’t any better than his solid performance against Arizona. Raiola has a number of murdered Bears linebackers on his hands, but he also gave up some inside pressure.
Left guard Rob Sims had a similar night as Raiola: good, but not some sort of revolutionary performance that’s make you question your place in the universe. Matt Stafford bailed him out on back-to-back plays with quick throws at one point.
Then there’s left tackle Riley Reiff. He nearly shutout Julius Peppers in the first half. The defensive end’s only impact play came on the first snap when he stopped Bush for no gain. During the second half, though, Peppers got on the board. Then he ran up the score. There was the sack and strip, of course, and the pushing of Reiff into Stafford and the hitting of the QB himself and the two runs he single-handedly stopped, one in the backfield and one after just two yards.
Pro Football Focus gave Peppers a +5.6 rating, with a sack, two QB hits, a hurry and run stop percentage of 21.4, his highest of the season so far.
Nobody was wrong in praising the offensive line. They were excellent on Sunday and they’ve been good all season. But an A+? Let’s take a deep breath.
Run game breakdown
The Lions had 30 rushing attempts against the Bears, but one of those was a Matt Stafford scramble, and three were kneel downs, leaving us with 26 ‘true’ rushes for 155 yards.
It’s pretty obvious which side had the better game, especially when you consider that most of those runs up the middle came to Warford’s side. The 8.4 and 7.9 YPC rank No. 1 and No. 2, respectively this season.
Rodney Austin’s chances of making the lineup: None. None whatsoever.
Week 4 offensive lineman power rankings:
1. Larry Warford
2. Corey Hilliard
3. Dominic Raiola
4. Rob Sims
5. Riley Reiff
MORE FROM THE HUSTLE
Looking at the Detroit Lions line: Week 3, where things start to fall apart