SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Burning questions: What early flashes, a mid-game fizzle and a few bright spots meant for the Detroit Lions in Sunday's 30-27 loss to the San Francisco 49ers that put them in a hole with an 0-2 won-loss record:
Question: What was the difference in the game?
Answer: The difference was that when the outcome was in doubt, the 49ers stepped up and made winning plays. The Lions did just the opposite.
They couldn't finish a key possession on offense.
They had a key breakdown on defense.
And they had two key breakdowns on special teams – one on a 49ers return that set up a touchdown, and then two penalties that negated Jamal Agnew's long punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
(The Lions drove to a TD after that punt return, but it cost the Lions three valuable minutes on the clock.)
Q. Are the Lions in trouble at 0-2?
A. They aren't eliminated from anything yet, but the reality of their situation is that they play the Patriots next, then follow that with the Cowboys on the road and the Packers at home. That's a tough three-bagger coming up.
They did some good things, but it still added up to a loss.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions Week 2 game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Q. Holding call: Did the officials make the right call when they flagged Quandre Diggs for defensive holding on a play when Tracy Walker intercepted a pass and returned it inside the 49ers' 10-yard line?
A. It looked like the right call, and it was a killer. With a little more than two minutes left, the Lions would have been in position for a tying field goal at least, and the go-ahead touchdown at best.
Q. Bottom line: What is it for the Lions now?
A. Against the 49ers they ran the ball better and rushed the passer better. They had the passing game going at times. But penalties in all three phases – offense, defense and special teams – were disastrous.
Even one of their most reliable pass catchers, running back Theo Riddick, dropped a pass on the final possession that would have given the Lions a first down at midfield with about 20 seconds left and a chance to get into position for a tying field goal.
Instead, it was a flat-out drop. An incomplete pass on fourth down ended the possession, the game, and a chance to win or tie.
Q. Key sequence: How did the 49ers take control, and what did it remind you of?
A. They did it with two touchdowns in the third quarter to expand a 13-10 halftime lead to 27-14. It reminded me of how the Jets took control with a 31-point third quarter. It wasn't as explosive, but it was close enough to make it seem like reliving a nightmare.
Q. First impressions, offense: Any problem that they came out running?
A. None. They got the opening kickoff, ran seven plays to get into San Francisco's territory before punting. Five of the plays were runs. They gained two first downs on the ground – as many as they had in the entire game vs. the Jets.
And no problem with running the ball on third and three, even though Kerryon Johnson gained only a yard and the Lions had to punt.
Q. First impressions, defense: What was the good and bad by the defense on the 49ers' first possession that ended in a field goal for a 3-0 lead?
A. The bad was the chunk plays they gave up – a 28-yard run on the 49ers' first play, a 35-yard catch by Dante Pettis, and two penalties that helped the 49ers along to have first and goal at the 10. The good – sacks on first and second down by Jarrad Davis and Devon Kennard for 17 yards in losses that forced the 49ers to settle for the field goal.
Ultimately, it was a good stand by the defense.
Q. Lions answer: What did it show that the Lions drove to a touchdown on their next possession to take a 7-3 lead?
A. It was a lot like last week's game, when the Lions opened the second half with a TD drive that made it 17-17. For the moment, that made it a game – and the Jets reacted by scoring 31 points to make it a runaway.
It was a different scenario Sunday. It was the first quarter when the Lions responded with a touchdown catch by Kenny Golladay, and there was a lot of football to play. Also, the offense had been playing pretty well – not great, but solid.
The one thing that was the same was that after the touchdown, it would depend on what happened next.
Q. Golladay's TD catch: What was most impressive about it?
A. There were two things, really. One was the run after the catch by Golladay, punctuated by the acrobatic leap and twist he made to reach the end zone and complete the 30-yard play.
And the other part was the nuance of the game. The Lions had established a running threat early. Golladay was wide open on the numbers to the left after Stafford's play-action fake. He was able to turn and run full speed.
It looked like the Lions were off and running. Unfortunately, they couldn't go the distance – again.