O’HARA’S BURNING QUESTIONS: What made the difference in loss to Cowboys?

Lions-Cowboys Burning Questions: Too much Dak Prescott, too much Cowboys’ offense, too many defensive breakdowns by the Detroit Lions, not enough sustained offense under backup quarterback Jeff Driskel and an unusual decision on a two-point conversion by head coach Matt Patricia in the Lions’ 35-27 loss to the Cowboys at Ford Field.

Question: What was the difference in the game?

Answer: The Cowboys were the better team going in, and they did what they had to do – turn their offense loose and outscore the Lions. And the Lions tried to do what they had to do – get an early turnover and make some big plays.

Bottom line: The Cowboys were the better team, and they played a better game.

Q. Driskel: Rate the performance of the backup quarterback in his second start.

A. He didn’t cost the Lions the game, but they obviously missed Matthew Stafford, just like they missed Stafford in last week’s loss at Chicago.

The Lions’ defense gave up 509 yards, and Prescott passed for 444 yards. He had an answer for everything the Lions’ defense tried – including a pass to a wide open tight end to clinch the game in the last two minutes.

Q. Go for two: Patricia elected to go for a two-point conversion after Driskel’s second touchdown pass of the game to wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. with 5:49 left in the game cut the Cowboys’ lead to 35-27. The pass for two points failed.

Right call, to go for two?

A. Not what I would have done. It didn’t make a difference in the final score, or the end-game strategy, because the Lions didn’t score again. But it was an unusual call because it would have forced the Lions to go for two again to tie the score if they’d scored another touchdown.

Q. Lions goals: What do they play for now, in terms of goals, with a 3-6-1 record with six games left?

A. Win as many games as they can, just for the sake of competing. It’s not where they wanted to be, but it’s exactly where they are. It’s the cost of losing six of the last seven games after their 2-0-1 start.

Q. Early fumble, Cowboys: How important was it that Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott fumbled on the second play of the game, and the Lions recovered at the Cowboys’ 28.

A. As an underdog, it was important for the Lions to get turnovers – something they haven’t gotten many of lately. Linebacker Jarrad Davis forced the fumble and recovered it. That was the first half of the equation for the Lions to get an early advantage.

Q. Early rumble: The Lions cashed in on the turnover with running back Bo Scarbrough’s five-yard TD run for a 7-0 lead. How important was it to get an early score?

A. It was the second half of the equation – convert the turnover into points. The Lions had a short field – only 28 yards – with the fumble recovery, and they cashed in.

Q. Why Scarbrough? He was signed to the practice squad on Nov. 6, and he was active for the first time as a Lion. So why Scarbrough?

A. Honestly, who else? The Lions had scored only two rushing TDs in the first nine games, and both were scored by Kerryon Johnson, and he’s on injured reserve. Why not the newcomer? Scarbrough isn’t a speedster, but he ran with power and scored.

Q. Drive time, Cowboys: How did the momentum shift to them after the Lions got that 7-0 lead?

A. A combination of things. The Lions’ offense went three and out on two straight possessions, and the Cowboys put together long drives of 74 and 70 yards to score a field goal and a touchdown. That gave them a 10-7 lead in the first minute of the second quarter.

Q. Danger zone: The Cowboys were close to blowing the game open. How important was it for the Lions to answer back with a touchdown to take a 14-10 lead?

A. In a word: Vital. And give them credit for using whatever they had at their disposal to do it.

Jamal Agnew’s 32-yard punt return to the Cowboys’ 45 gave the offense a good starting point. Running back J.D. McKissic got a first down on a third and five on pure individual effort. Scarbrough broke a 23-yard run to the two.

Driskel got the TD on a run through left guard that fooled the Cowboys for a 14-10 Lions lead.

The Lions were back in the game, but they’d soon have more work to do.

Q. Cowboys’ surge: What did it look like when the Cowboys scored touchdowns on two long drives before first half ended?

A. It looked like the end of games, when the Lions lost games because they couldn’t hold leads. Dallas scored touchdowns on consecutive drives of 75 and 83 yards to take a 24-14 lead into halftime.

It was not a good finish to the half, with a stalled out offense, penalties and glaring breakdowns on a defense that gave up 274 passing yards in the first half.

Q. Stopper: Driskel’s TD pass to Jones cut the deficit to 24-21 in the third quarter. Dallas retaliated with a field goal to make it 27-21 before the quarter ended. Did it look like the Lions could pull off a comeback win?

A. It looked like they were hanging on against a better team that had more offensive firepower. At least they were hanging on, down by six going into the fourth quarter.

They made it close in the end, but that’s all.

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