OAKLAND – Burning questions: A slow start in Matt Patricia's debut as head coach, quarterback surprise, rookie runner is the highlight and other issues in the Detroit Lions' 16-10 loss to the Oakland Raiders Friday night in the opening preseason game.
Question: The Lions didn't come out and take the game to the Raiders right from the start, which would have been the ideal scenario in Patricia's first game. Was that a surprise, and did it mean anything?
Answer: It's always better to win than it is to lose, and if the Lions had rolled over the Raiders it would have been a great way for Patricia to break in as head coach.
But the reality is that the Raiders also had a new head coach in Jon Gruden, and they were playing at home. They had reasons to do just what the Lions would have wanted to do.
Preseason games always seem to matter more when you lose than when you win, and that was the case in this opener. There were a lot of things to correct and improve – pass rush and offensive consistency being at the top of the list – and there's time to do that.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders.
Q. Lions' highlight: What was it?
A. The performance of rooking running back Kerryon Johnson, no question. It's wrong to go overboard on what any rookie does in one game, just like it's wrong to go overboard on how the Lions played in a first preseason game.
But in his debut, Johnson showed real promise that he can add something to the offense as a runner and receiver.
It was an impressive beginning, made all the more so by the fact that he did it after the starting offensive line had gone out.
Q. Lions' lowlight: What was it?
A. Lack of pressure on the Raiders' quarterbacks. Ziggy Ansah didn't play for the Lions, and it makes a difference when he's in the game. But that doesn't mean somebody else can't step up and make a play.
Q. First quarter report: It wasn't good for the Lions and it kind of set the tone. It was a sluggish start on both sides of the ball.
The Raiders gained 118 yards to only 19 for the Lions, and it could have been worse. The Raiders had a 60-yard TD run called back. Still, it was only a 3-0 lead for the Raiders – but soon to be 10-0 on an early touchdown in the second quarter.
What was the bottom line for the Lions on the first 15 minutes?
A. It was pretty obvious. The offense struggled moving the ball, both running and passing.
The defense gave up chunk plays. And the Lions were penalized four times. Still, it was only a 3-0 lead for the Raiders – but soon to be 10-0 for the Raiders on a Connor Cook touchdown pass early in the second quarter.
It wasn't the crisp execution Patricia would have wanted.
Q. Lions' D, early reprieve: A 60-yard TD run by Marshawn Lynch on the third play of the game was called back by a holding penalty. It was a good break for the defense, but do you think it made Patricia happy that his defense got off the hook because of a penalty?
A. I'm not a mind reader, but Patricia's body language didn't look like he was a happy man. He stood on the sideline with his hands on his hips. Obviously, he liked the end result – no touchdown – but he couldn't have been happy that the defense got gashed for a big run.
Q. Stafford idle: Matthew Stafford didn't play. Was that expected, and did it make a difference?
A. I didn't expect it, and it didn't make a difference. In past years he played briefly in the first preseason game. Last year was typical. He started and played the first possession, which lasted only four snaps. That isn't long enough to make any impact on a game.
Matt Cassel started and led the Lions to their only touchdown before giving way to Jake Rudock in the second half. Cassel returned late in the game.
Cassel did a little more in the battle to be Stafford's backup.
Q. Patricia challenge: Patricia threw the challenge flag in the fourth quarter, disputing a third-down catch by the Raiders. The Raiders had a 13-10 lead at the time and would have been deep in the Lions' territory with a chance to score at least a field goal to widen the lead.
Good challenge by Patricia?
A. Good challenge because he won, of course. The Raiders had to punt on fourth down.
It made Patricia 1-0 in challenges – the only coach in franchise history with a perfect record.
Quit while you're ahead.