FIRST DOWN: STAFFORD SHOWS TOUGHNESS
Quarterback Matthew Stafford didn’t want to talk after the game about how much pain he played through Sunday dealing with a hip injury. Stafford suffered the injury Friday and was questionable to play. He even altered his pre-game routine, not throwing with receivers before the game like he usually does.
“One of the toughest guys we got,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said of Stafford. “There’s no if, ands or buts about it.”
No play showed more about Stafford’s toughness than his 7-yard scramble late in the fourth quarter breaking two tackles before being thrown down by linebacker Anthony Hitchens.
“Every yard counts out there,” Stafford said. “I’m not going to do that every time. Broke the one tackle, broke the second one and was feeling like a football player. Decided to try and go for three. Didn’t work. But I just want those guys on the sideline and guys in the huddle to know what I’m willing to do to try and help us win a game. I think they know that and I think it sparked us a little bit.”
The drive would result in a touchdown that gave the Lions a 30-27 lead with just over two minutes remaining in an eventual 34-30 loss.
Stafford threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 18 yards despite the injury that looked to be bothering him at points throughout the contest.
It was the 132nd straight start for Stafford dating back to 2011.
SECOND DOWN: R-E-S-P-E-C-T
The Chiefs left Ford Field still undefeated at 4-0, but it wasn’t easy. They had to fight, claw and come from behind in the end to snatch a victory from the Lions.
Detroit played Kansas City right to the end, and earned some respect from the Chiefs along the way.
“My hat goes off to Matt Patricia for the job that he has done,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. “We saw this on tape, so this wasn’t something we came here not knowing. He has done a phenomenal job with this football team.
“The personnel guys have brought some good players to go with that. This is a well-coached football team right here. Again, my hat goes off to them for the job he has done. The Lions are in a good place with him at the helm there.”
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes also complimented Detroit in his post-game press conference, and All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce had a lot of respect for Detroit’s defensive effort after the game.
“That’s a talented football team right there,” Kelce said. “They’re very well-coached. They came out and played us tough. They have a very good defense, a very good front.”
View photos from the Detroit Lions vs. Kansas City Chiefs Week 4 game at Ford Field on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019 in Detroit.
THIRD DOWN: RED ZONE WOES
Detroit was 50 percent (3 for 6) in the red zone Sunday, and they’ll probably lament the three missed opportunities down there during their bye week.
Detroit’s first drive of the game stalled at the Chiefs' 7-yard line. Detroit had to settle for a Matt Prater field goal.
In the third quarter, Stafford fumbled away the football at the Kansas City 5-yard line. On the very next possession, running back Kerryon Johnson fumbled at the Chiefs' 1-yard line, and it was picked up by cornerback Bashaud Breeland and returned 99 yards for a Chiefs touchdown.
That’s three possessions inside the Chiefs' 10-yard line that resulted in three points. In a 34-30 final, those were three big possessions for Detroit.
“When you’re playing great teams, we need to capitalize on the points opportunity,” Patricia said. “We have to do that. We have to make sure we get something when we’re down in there.”
FOURTH DOWN: STEPPING UP
Already down their top cornerback in Darius Slay who was inactive with a hamstring injury, the Lions then lost safety Quandre Diggs in the first half to a hamstring injury. That’s two veteran leaders out in Detroit’s secondary against one of the league's best quarterbacks and passing offenses.
Not an ideal situation for Patricia and Co.
Credit cornerbacks Justin Coleman, Rashaan Melvin and Mike Ford, along with safeties Tracy Walker, Tavon Wilson and Will Harris for stepping up and playing pretty well Sunday.
“We had a lot of guys step up,” Walker said. “Like you said, including injuries – Will Harris, Mike Ford, those guys stepped up and made a few plays. We got a great team. We definitely went out there and we fought to the teeth. We gave our all out and we just came up short.”
Sure, Mahomes ended up throwing for 315 yards in the game, but he failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time since Week 5 last year vs. Jacksonville. His 81.0 passer rating is the third worst of his career.
“I’m proud of the way these guys fight, especially those guys in the backend,” Patricia said. “No one blinks. No one misses a beat. Everyone goes in and next man up. That’s really critically important for us as we push through the season. There’s always going to be situation where guys can’t play ... whoever is next has to go in, they have to prepare be ready to go and they have to step in and perform at a high level.”