Burning questions:How and why the game ended the way it did with a 30-26 victory for the Atlanta Falcons over the Detroit Lions; Atlanta burning the Lions' defense; the Lions coming back the way they usually do; big plays keeping it close for the Lions and a players protest with an owner's presence at Ford Field on Sunday:
Question: One minute the Lions were celebrating a victory on a catch by Golden Tate, and the next they trudged off the field with a loss. What happened, and how tough was that to swallow?
Answer: It was brutal from the Lions standpoint. They were about to head into the locker room with a victory in an early-season showdown game that made them 3-0, and without running another play they were losers.
It was one of the strangest endings ever.
Golden Tate had ended the Lions' comeback possession with what at first was a one-yard catch. That was a 32-30 lead with the extra point kick upcoming. However, all scoring plays are reviewed, and on the replay it was ruled that Tate had been touched by a Falcons defender before he reached the end zone.
That made it no touchdown, with the ball inside the one-yard line.
Q. But it was still fourth down. Why not another play for the Lions?
A. As referee Walt Coleman explained, the Lions had no timeouts left, so the clock would have been running. By rule, there was a 10-second runoff, and there was less than 10 seconds left on the clock. That means the Lions did not get to run another play.
*Q. Bottom line: On the field, what was the difference, and what did both teams prove? *
A. The Falcons' speed on offense made the difference. The Lions needed big plays on defense – three interceptions the most important – to keep the game close and be in position to rally at the end. In a matchup of teams with 2-0 records going into the game, Atlanta was slightly the better team – for one day.
The Lions really had no answer for their running game, which produced 151 yards.
Q. Helping hands: The offensive stats were pretty much one-sided in Atlanta's favor. What kept the Lions in contention?
A. The defense.
Q. Wait a minute. How could the defense keep the Lions in the game when the Falcons were gaining yards and scoring points?
A. Good point. Defensive plays, if not the entire unit, was what kept the Lions in contention. Plus Matt Prater's leg.
**Q. Pick a pair: How big were the interceptions by Glover Quin and Darius Slay, and how did they get them?
A. They were byproducts of two things Quin has said often that the Lions stressed in the offseason. One was to do your job on defense, and turnovers will come to you. And the other was to get hands on more balls – either clean interceptions or catching tipped balls.
On Quin's pick, the Lions were badly in need of a spark, and he provided it. He cut in front of Matt Ryan's intended receiver to intercept the pass and return it 37 yards for a touchdown and cut Atlanta's lead to 17-13 in the last two minutes of the first half.
Slay's two interceptions were both on deflections. The first one in the third quarter set up a field goal. The second one stopped a drive by the Falcons that could have just about clinched the game. It didn't lead to points, but it gave the Lions some breathing room.
Q. Protest: Owner Martha Firestone Ford and her three daughters stood with the Lions players and staff as a sign of protest as the National Anthem was played. That was common around the NFL. A small group of Lions players kneeled at the right end of the line.
What did you make of it?
A. I'm with all of them. They made their point as a group – the ones who stood, the ones who kneeled, and an owner and her family who showed in public that they stand with the right of their players to protest and take a stand.
In my mind, winners off the field – all of them.