ORCHARD PARK, New York – Burning Questions: The Detroit Lions coming up short – on the scoreboard and with their offense – strategy and rookie quarterback Josh Allen leading his team with his arm and legs to take advantage in big situations in the Buffalo Bills' 14-13 victory Sunday.
Question: What cost the Lions the game?
Answer: The little things. It wasn't one play they made or one play the Bills made. It was the little things – too many little plays on offense that added up to nothing, and little things that are done routinely that the Lions failed to execute.
There were too many to list them all, but among them:
A bad snap on a kick for the extra point after the Lions' first touchdown cost them a valuable point that wound up being the difference in the game.
A missed 48-yard field-goal attempt by Matt Prater – who's been deadly from longer range – kept the Lions from taking the lead late in the fourth quarter.
Three strange play calls on the next offensive possession – a short pass for three yards, a run for minus two and another short pass for two – ON THIRD AND NINE!!! – creating a three and out and forcing a punt.
The Lions never got the ball back, with the help of an offside on third down that ultimately let the Bills run out the clock.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions Week 15 game against the Buffalo BIlls.
Q. Playoff chance: Does it matter that the Lions had a mathematical chance to make the playoffs going into the game and failed to take advantage, regardless of what happened in other games?
A. It only matters in terms of the math. What really matters is that the Lions laid an egg against a team that was battered by injuries on offense and still found a way to beat them by a point.
Q. Lions' lead: What was unexpected on the Lions' second-quarter drive to a touchdown for a 6-0 lead?
A. There was a big play on the second play, which wasn't really a surprise because it was by Kenny Golladay. He's made a lot of big plays, just not many lately. He had a 33-yard catch that got the possession going.
Andy Jones finished it off with a four-yard catch in the end zone on a pass from Matthew Stafford. That was unexpected. It was his first catch of the day, the third of his career and his first touchdown.
The extra point failed because of a bad snap from center.
Q. Allen TD, arm and legs: The Bills came back after the Lions' TD to take a 7-6 lead on Josh Allen's three-yard scramble that finished off a long drive. What was the biggest surprise of the drive?
A. It wasn't the TD run. It was Allen's sixth TD of the season. It's what he did with his arm. He connected with Robert Foster on a 28-yard pass, then came back and went deep to Foster on the next play. Rookie Mike Ford, who was beaten on the catch, was flagged for interference on the next play.
That gave the Bills 43 yards to the Lions' four. It was a rough two plays for Ford. The catch and penalty gave the Bills 71 yards.
Q. Allen TD, arm: What did Allen do to give the Bills a 14-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter?
A. He used his arm – and maybe his memory. He hit Foster on a 42-yard pass play, and he beat Ford again – the same player he'd beaten earlier for a long catch and an even longer gain on pass interference.
Foster was wide open running through the middle of the field from his left to right to get inside the pylon before Ford could try to knock him out of bounds.
Q. Third and draw: Right call by the Lions on a draw play to Theo Riddick on the Lions' last possession of the first half? They'd taken a 13-7 lead on Zach Zenner's touchdown and had third and two with a little more than a minute left in the half.
A. Not what I would have done. Stafford had just completed two short passes to tight end Levine Toilolo. I would have tried something in the passing game. However, Riddick had run for 11 yards on the first play of the possession. It wasn't out of the question that he'd get the first down.
Q. Third and throw: The Lions threw the ball – incomplete – on third and inches at their own 19 on the second possession of the second half. Right play to call?
A. The play blew up from the beginning and resulted in an incomplete pass on a weak, hesitant throw by Stafford with nobody open. It was so poorly executed that it was impossible to tell if it was the right call or not.
It wasn't any more debatable than a screen pass that went for a five-yard loss on third and four at the 50 early in the fourth quarter. Those were two plays with results for the blooper reel.
Q. Challenge, Lions: Head coach Matt Patricia threw the challenge flag when officials ruled that Bills receiver Robert Foster was in bounds on a sideline catch late in the third quarter? Right decision to throw the flag?
A. No problem with the challenge. It was close enough to take a chance. After replay reviews, officials ruled a legal catch and a 31-yard gain to the Lions' 21.
Q. Bills – fourth and go: Right call to go for it instead of kick a field goal on fourth and two at the Lions' 13?
A. Not what I would have done. It was late in the third quarter, with the Lions holding a 13-7 lead. A field goal would have cut it to 13-10 – within range of a tying field goal. The play failed when Allen was hit by A'Shawn Robinson and fumbled.
The Bills fell on the ball, but short of the yardage needed for a first down.
As it turned out, they did enough later – while the Lions weren't doing much at all – to win by a point.