And on they go, another fresh wound on the Detroit Lions’ psyche that never seems to heal.
They took their beating Sunday on the road against the Arizona Cardinals in a 27-27 tie that most people would agree felt like a loss. And a bitter one, at that.
Their reward for that was to head home and begin practicing for the meat of their schedule – home Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers, on the road with the Philadelphia Eagles, home against the Kansas City Chiefs, then a bye followed by a road game against the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night TV.
No rest. No mercy.
This week’s Monday Countdown is about the Detroit Lions moving on after Sunday’s tie. They have no choice. The NFL rests and waits for no one. Win, lose or ugly tie, it moves on.
There’s a look this week at Matt Patricia’s comment after the game, takeaways on offense, defense and special teams, and how the Cardinals took over the game in the fourth quarter behind rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury, rookie quarterback Kyler Murray – and 36-year-old wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
There’s also a look at T.J. Hockenson and what he did as a receiver – and a play that got little attention but was as important as any catch he made and showed what a well rounded player the Lions got when they drafted him eighth overall.
There is also a final word on Matthew Stafford, and the timeout that was called that likely cost the Lions the game.
We start with Patricia:
1. 60 minutes: It’s an old line that games last 60 minutes. Sunday’s game actually lasted 70 – 60 minutes of regulation time, and 10 minutes of overtime.
“I’ve been around this long enough to know that no game is over until the clock’s stopped,” Patricia said. “It hurts. We put a lot of work into this stuff.”
No doubt about that. Patricia and his staff cover every detail. But what they haven’t gotten down yet one game into his second season as head coach is closing out games. Last year Dallas beat the Lions on a last-play field goal. Carolina drove to a touchdown in the final minute and could have tied the game with an extra point. Head coach Ron Rivera chose to go for two points, and the pass failed, giving the Lions a one-point win – instead of going into overtime.
It’s a 60 minute game, for sure, and the Lions have to learn to play better at the end.
2. Quality tie: The Cardinals felt eons better about the tie than the Lions did, and for good reason. They went into the game with a rookie head coach and quarterback, were favored slightly to lose, and were down 24-6 in the first minute of the fourth quarter. They rallied to get a tie in a game they figured to lose -- and seemed to have lost.
The Lions were favored to win, and should have won.
3. Hockenson: His rookie debut validated any questions that might have been asked about the Lions drafting him eighth overall. He had six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. But there was a play that didn’t make the stats sheet that showed his overall skill and awareness.
He sustained a block on a pass rusher long enough for Matthew Stafford to get an extra half second or so to get off a pass to Danny Amendola that went for a 47-yard TD pass in the second quarter.
Not every rookie would make that block. Neither would every veteran.
4. Takeaways, Kyler Murray:
- His size – only 5-10 – will be an issue until he learns to navigate the throwing lanes through experience. He had three balls batted down. Sometimes those result in interceptions.
- When he got in the groove in the fourth quarter, he was good. He completed 15 of 19 passes for 154 yards and both of his TDs. The rest of the game, he looked overmatched.
- He gave ground and lost yards trying to run away from the rush. He’ll learn that, though.
5. Takeaways, Lions' offense:
- The offense under new coordinator Darrell Bevell had more options than what we saw in his predecessors. The 12-yard naked run around end by Stafford was a clever play. And Stafford ran the offense like he was born into it.
- Tough day for left tackle Taylor Decker. It happens.
- Amendola is a good addition at wide receiver, but it was not a veteran move to cut inside late in overtime after a catch rather than step out of bounds.
6. Takeaways, Lions’ defense:
- Can’t blame the heat for the fourth quarter fade – 12 first downs allowed, 193 yards, no sacks, two TDs, a field goal and a two-point conversion. The stadium’s roof was closed, and it was nice and cool. The defensive line rotation should be a strength, and it was – for three quarters.
- Big game by linebacker Devon Kennard with three sacks.
- The run defense could have been better. The Cardinals had 23 carries for 112 yards.
7. Takeaways, special teams:
- There were breakdowns early and late. Jamal Agnew fumbled away a punt return that led to the Cardinals’ first field goal, and a blocked punt in the fourth quarter set up the game-tying TD.
- Not counting the blocked punt, four of Sam Martin’s punts were inside the 20. The Cardinals started their first two possessions of the game at their one- and 10-yard line.
- The Lions need more out of their return game.
8. The Timeout: On the third-down completion that might have iced the game, Patricia said he called time because he thought the play clock might expire. The gain on a pass to J.D. McKissic was nullified by the timeout call. Stafford was visibly upset when he went to the bench after the Lions failed to get the crucial first down on the next third-down play.
He spoke for less than 90 seconds in his postgame interview session. Of the timeout call, he said: “I thought we’d get it off. I understand it, too.”
My take: Go with the quarterback in those situations. No one spends more time in a game looking at the play clocks than the quarterback. They’re like side view mirrors on a car – always checking.