O’HARA’S BURNING QUESTIONS: What did Lions show in tough loss to Chiefs?

Burning Questions: The Detroit Lions’ offense rallies back, the defense digs in – until the end – and big plays and misplays by both teams in the Kansas City Chiefs’ 34-30 win at Ford Field Sunday.

Question: What did the Lions prove – if anything – in the loss, and was there such thing as a moral victory for the way they battled the Chiefs to the end?

Answer: No moral victories. This is pro sports, and teams play to win – with a lot at stake.

If the Lions proved anything, it’s that they can play with good teams – and the Chiefs are one of the NFL’s best – and they have no shortage of grit and determination. They demonstrated that again Sunday, as they did in the first three games.

But they also proved that they can’t give the ball away like they did twice in the third quarter. They lost one fumble with the ball at the Chiefs’ five-yard line, and another with the ball at their one.

Those are game-killers, and the Lions shot down their chances with those two giant giveaways. It was a valiant effort by the Lions, but they couldn’t finish off the Chiefs, who ended a 79-yard drive with the winning TD with 20 seconds left.

View photos from the Detroit Lions vs. Kansas City Chiefs Week 4 game at Ford Field on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019 in Detroit.

Q. Matthew Stafford vs. Patrick Mahomes: Who won the quarterback battle?

A. Stafford was a warrior as he played with a hip injury that surfaced late in the week. He threw three TD passes, including the go-ahead score to Kenny Golladay with 2:26 left. Mahomes did not have a great game, but he went home the winner.

His run for a first down on a fourth and eight kept the winning drive alive.

The quarterback duel was a sidelight to what proved to be an entertaining game, with a sad ending for the Lions.

Q. Early challenge, Lions: Head coach Matt Patricia threw the challenge flag after the Lions’ fourth offensive play. Why so soon? Right move by the head coach?

A. Patricia and his staff thought running back Kerryon Johnson had gotten enough yardage to get the first down. No problem with Patricia throwing the flag. It was an aggressive play, and he wanted every yard he thought the offense had gained. The call on the field stood, and it was third and one at KC’s 28.

Johnson got the first down on the next play, and the possession ended in a field goal for a 3-0 lead.

Q. Lions’ D, early stand: What did it mean for the defense to hold and force a field-goal attempt on KC’s possession after the field goal?

A. It showed that the defense would bend but not break completely. Mahomes drove the Chiefs to the Lions’ 18 with a first down, but the drive stalled there with three straight incomplete passes.

Q. Missed field goal: Any significance that Harrison Butker missed the field goal?

A. Yes. Mahomes’ arm is more accurate than the Chiefs’ kicker’s leg.

Q. Untimed down: Linebacker Jarrad Davis got a penalty for illegal contact on what would have been the last play of the first quarter, but the Chiefs exercised their option to extend the quarter with an untimed down. Why not just move on to the second quarter?

A. It was a minor point, but the advantage for the Chiefs was to keep the Lions’ defense on the field, and not give it the two-minute rest between quarters. The move did not help the Chiefs. Tight end Travis Kelce was tackled for a three-yard loss, making it first and goal at the seven on the first play of the second quarter.

Q. 10-10 Tension: It was a new game when Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy scored on a one-yard blast with a little more than four minutes left in the half, and the Ford Field crowd understandably became more subdued. It was still a tie score, so why the angst?

A. The Chiefs had been hitting plays and not finishing off possessions with touchdowns. This possession was different. It started with McCoy’s 39-yard run, and he finished it off with three straight carries from first and goal at the two.

Q. 13-13 deadlock: An exchange of field goals near the end of the half left the score tied going into the second. What were the keys for the Lions in the second half?

A. Finish drives with touchdowns and not settle for field goals, get a turnover and capitalize. That would be a good start to pulling off an upset.

Q. Tie unlocked: How would you describe the back-and-forth at the start of the second half that resulted in the Chiefs taking a 20-13 lead?

A. Indescribable, for starters.

First was a fumble recovery by the Lions on the second-half kickoff. It set up a pass to Golladay in the end zone that was ruled a TD catch on the field, but it was overturned on replay and ruled incomplete. The Lions got nothing out of the possession when Stafford fumbled and the Chiefs recovered.

Next was another fumble recovery by the Lions on the Chiefs’ ensuing possession, and they were in position to score with first and goal at the one. But Johnson fumbled at the one. Chiefs cornerback Bashaud Breeland recovered and ran it back 100 yards for a TD and a 20-13 lead.

There was more to come from both teams, but the Chiefs did just enough more to win.

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