Burning Questions: An early big play by the Detroit Lions’ defense and big plays and a trick play by the offense in a 31-26 victory over the New York Giants at Ford Field Sunday.
Question: It wasn’t a work of art, but what did the Lions’ show by winning to end a three-game losing streak?
Answer: They closed out a game – finally – against a team they were supposed to beat. The Giants had problems of their own, and they went into the game with a three-game losing streak -- just like the Lions did.
No, it wasn’t a work of art. The Lions had some costly penalties on both sides of the ball, and they gave up four touchdown passes to rookie quarterback Daniel Jones.
But they won, and that matters. A fourth straight loss would have been intolerable. As it is, the Lions are at 3-3-1.
Q. NFC North race: Does that mean they are back in contention for the division title?
A. No. It means they’re 3-3-1, nothing more and nothing less. They have a lot of work ahead of them with nine games left..
Q. Key play, Lions: What was it?
A. It was the trick play – a pitch right to running back J.D. McKissic, then a throwback to quarterback Matthew Stafford and a 41-yard pass to wide receiver Kenny Golladay in the end zone for a touchdown to give the Lions a 31-19 lead with 12:12 left in the game.
That closed out the scoring for the Lions, and it was left to the defense to close out the victory. There were some anxious moments. Giants running back Saquon Barkley’s four-yard TD catch with 1:19 left made it uncomfortably close, but the Lions clinched the win when the Giants attempted an onside kick and kicked the ball out of bounds.
Q. Trick play: What was the significance of the McKissic-to-Stafford-to Golladay play?
A. It’s that offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has dialed up trick plays when they matter, and where there could have been consequences if they failed.
The first play of the game in the loss to Green Bay was a flea flicker and a 66-yard pass to Golladay. The Lions settled for a field goal, but the play gave them a 3-0 lead in an important game against a division rival.
Sunday against the Giants, the Lions were clinging to a 24-19 lead when Bevell called for the double pass. And it worked.
It was a big play, and at a time when the Lions needed one.
Q. Fast start, then what? It looked like it would be an easy game for the Lions when they took a 14-0 lead. They got a defensive touchdown on linebacker Devon Kennard’s 13-yard run after picking up a backward pass, and a 49-yard TD catch by wide receiver Marvin Hall.
A. What happened was not much of anything for the Lions. The defense gave up two long TD passes from Jones to rookie receiver Darius Slayton. A missed extra point after the Giants’ second TD made it 14-13, and the Lions added to their lead on Matt Prater’s 52-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in the half.
That made it 17-13 at halftime. It was a disappointing finish to what looked like it would be a big half for the Lions.
Q. Why was it disappointing for the Lions to have a four-point lead?
A. It wasn’t the end of the world, but there was a chance for the Lions to take command for one of the few times this season. They had the Giants on the run with a 14-point lead, and facing a rookie QB in Jones, but they didn’t do that.
The defense didn’t do much the rest of the half after getting the 14-0 lead, and neither did the offense.
Q. Trade fallout: Any signs that some players might have been down because starting safety Quandre Diggs was traded to Seattle this week? It was the first game since the trade.
A. It didn’t look like there was any of that. You never can be sure what players are thinking about issues relating to the team, and some are more willing than others to share their feelings publicly. There were some problems with performance – including some very costly penalties – but there was nothing to question the effort.
Q. Big play Slayton: Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay was out for the Lions, but Darius Slayton burned the Lions for the Giants’ first two TDs. What did he do to get open?
A. The two catches were almost identical, except they were on opposite sides of the field. Cornerback Rashaan Melvin was covering Slayton on both catches, and Melvin did not make a play on the ball on either one.
The first TD went as a 22-yard catch. Slayton caught the ball at the two-yard line and lunged sideways into the left from corner of the end zone. The second was a 28-yard catch by Slayton over Melvin just inside the front right corner of the end zone.
It was a left-right combination – but not a knockout blow.
The Lions landed that with their trick play for a TD.