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After Further Review: More than meets the stat sheet

The numbers stain the box score for a defense that prides itself on, among other things, stopping the run.

The Lions ran it 39 times at wet and miserable Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon.

They gained 229 yards on the ground.

They ran it into the end zone from distance twice.

And they averaged 5.9 yards per carry.

If there's a snapshot that sums up what played out and how, it would be rookie seventh-round pick Jermar Jefferson blasting it in from 28 yards away in the second quarter.

Or Godwin Igwebuike ripping it to the house from 42 yards out in the third quarter (it was his second carry of the game and fifth in an NFL career that commenced in 2018 and resumed this season).


But the thing about snapshots is they're not always representative of the big picture.

And the big picture from a hard-to-swallow, 16-16 tie against a winless team was the Lions' offense wound up performing as advertised.

Yes, Mike Tomlin wasn't happy with the tackling.

And yes, schematics were a factor (the use of extra offensive linemen and shifting took some getting used to according to Joe Schobert and Cam Heyward).

But a funny thing happened after Igwebuike's unforeseen TD.

The Lions accomplished very little on offense.

Igwebuike scored for a 16-10 Lions' lead with 12:09 left in the third quarter.

The Lions managed four first downs over the final 27:09 of regulation, and one of those was a fourth-and-inches conversion that followed a running-into-the-kicker penalty against safety Miles Killebrew on a Lions' punt.

The defense forced a punt from the Lions' 13-yard line early in the fourth quarter after a three-play series that lost 5 yards. The Steelers took possession at the 50.

And the defense forced a punt late in the fourth quarter from the Lions' 2 after a three-play series that lost 10 yards. The Steelers took possession at the Lions' 48.

"We were able to settle it down," Tomlin said of his defense, "but the damage was the damage."

That it was.

But should that have been enough to deny the Steelers a victory over a winless team?

The Lions came in averaging 321.1 yards per game and gained 306.

They came in averaging 16.8 points per game and scored 16.

For the eighth consecutive time since a season-opening 41-33 loss to the 49ers, the Lions couldn't make it to 20 points.

Other than basically rushing for what they normally throw for (228 yards per game), and throwing for 77, which is almost what they usually run for (93.1), the Lions were who we thought they were.

The Steelers, conversely, were less than they perceive themselves to be on offense, even with Mason Rudolph replacing Ben Roethlisberger.

They might have been just good enough to win, anyway, had they not fumbled twice after catching passes in overtime.

But they did, and thus they weren't.

"We didn't tackle well enough throughout the game defensively, and then in the most critical moments, we didn't maintain possession of the ball on offense," Tomlin assessed. "Those are two of the things that highlighted it just from a knee-jerk response."

Although neither is acceptable, the latter ended up being more impactful.

The urgency should be to fix that first.

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