O’HARA’S BURNING QUESTIONS: What does it mean that Lions held on to win?

PHILADELPHIA -- Burning Questions: A quick start by the Detroit Lions, an early sag, key plays and possessions that resulted in a 27-24 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in a game of ups and downs for both teams:

Question: What does it mean that the Lions held on – barely – to win and stay undefeated at 2-0-1 after three games?

Answer: It means just that – the Detroit Lions are still undefeated, no matter how they did it. For two straight weeks they’ve been pushed to the limit – last week by the Chargers, on Sunday against the Eagles – and didn’t fold.

They made it hard on themselves at times, and they still have some areas of their game that need improvement – the run game on offense, pass rush on defense and eliminating big breakdowns on special teams – but it’s far better to correct those problems after a win than a loss.

Q. Eagles’ injuries: They played without some key players. Does that detract from the Lions’ win?

A. You play when you play with who you have at the time. That’s football. The Eagles aren’t asking for bonus points for playing without some starters.

The Lions got a big play early to take the lead, and their defense made a big stand late to protect that lead. That’s what counts.

Q. Agnew’s TD return: What kind of lift did Jamal Agnew give the Lions with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter?

A. None that had any noticeable staying power. It gave the Lions seven points, but after giving up a field goal to the Eagles on the first possession of the game, the defense gave up a 75-yard TD drive on the possession after Agnew’s kickoff return.

That gave the Eagles a 10-7 lead before the Lions’ offense got on the field for the first time. Any chance for early momentum disappeared – poof!!!

Q. Key possession: If the momentum was lost by the Eagles’ TD drive, how important was it for the Lions to answer back with a touchdown on their first possession? Kerryon Johnson’s leap over the middle on third and about nine inches gave the Lions a 14-10 lead.

A. For that point in the game – early in the first quarter, and the Eagles’ offense playing like it could take command early – it was important for the offense to step up and show that it could pick up the defense until it sorted out how it was going to defend the Eagles’ offense.

It was a good, strong possession for the Lions – 75 yards on 13 plays. It was still early – the first minute of the second quarter when Johnson scored his TD – but the Lions had the lead.

Q. Agnew’s status: How important was it for him to make a big play?

A. Agnew needed to do something, that’s for sure. He hadn’t done much on returns in the first two games, and he was taken off the punt return last week after a fumble that the Lions recovered. Danny Amendola replaced him early in the game on punt returns Sunday.

Agnew returned to that role and had a key 24-yard punt return in the fourth quarter.

Q. Fourth and kick: Head coach Matt Patricia went for the field goal on fourth and three at the Eagles’ 15 with a little more than a minute left in the first half. Right call to kick?

A. It’s what I would have done. Fourth and one or less, go for it – maybe. But fourth and three, and almost certain that Prater will make the field goal for a 10-point lead, kicking was the right play.

Q. Play selection: Back it up. Darius Slay’s long return of a fumble recovery gave the Lions first down at the Eagles’ 22. Did you like the play selection?

A. Yes and no. No problem with running Johnson on first down for three yards, but the screen pass to Amendola that lost two yards on second down is not what I’d have done. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was connecting with wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. for good gains on medium routes.

Granted, it’s a different place in the field, but go with what was working.

Q. Interference challenge: Patricia threw the challenge flag on an incomplete pass on the Lions’ first possession of the second half, claiming there was interference on Amendola on a second-down pass. Right move to challenge?

A. It was an aggressive call, and the call on the field of an incomplete pass stood after a replay review. The Lions still had a chance to get the first down on third but failed on a deep pass that was incomplete. It cost the Lions a time out, but with a 20-10 lead, it was worth throwing the red flag.

Q. Eagles rally: What stood out when the Eagles cut the Lions’ lead to 20-17 on a six-play, 47-yard drive that ended on a 29-yard TD catch by wide receiver Nelson Agholor with 4:15 left in the third quarter?

A. The Lions’ absence of any real pressure on Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was shockingly apparent. He kept the possession going with a completion to wide receiver Mack Hollins on third and eight, and the TD pass to Agholor was on third and four.

The Lions did not bring an extra pass rusher on each of those third-down completions. That’s questionable strategy, at least, with how ineffective their pass rush has been the last two games.

Q. Lions rally: Did it look like they had the game wrapped up when Stafford hit Jones with a TD pass on the first play of the fourth quarter to get the lead back to 10 points, 27-17?

A. They were in a good spot – just like in the opening game against the Cardinals when they had a 24-6 lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter. They came unraveled then and settled for a lousy overtime tie.

There were a few loose threads, and some plays both teams would like to have back, but it was a different result because the Lions are a different – and better – team than the one that couldn’t hold the lead in the opener.

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