The final score was important in the Detroit Lions' first game of any kind under head coach Dan Campbell, but so were the details that produced it.
That's what we learned in the Lions' 16-15 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field Friday night in the first preseason game of the season.
It was a game the Lions seemingly had won on Randy Bullock's 28-yard field goal with 1:38 left, but the Bills pulled it out with a rally of their own on a 44-yard field goal by Tyler Bass with 15 seconds left.
Campbell wanted to win, no doubt about that. But there were bigger issues for him than the final score in a preseason game, as we learned in his postgame comments.
Among the other things we learned include the following: The offense's turnaround from its first possession to its second was impressive; there were encouraging signs on defense from some young players; and the energy Campbell spoke about wasn't only on the field. It was in the stands.
We start with Campbell's comments.
It was the first look he's had at his players competing against anyone except themselves in the offseason workouts and training camp, and he was satisfied with what he saw.
"They played hard," he said. "We wanted them to compete -- they did. We wanted to give ourselves a chance to win the game at the end, even a preseason game. We did that.
"This also was about evaluating the talent, giving these guys a chance to run the ball, catch the ball. Pressure, stunt, cover. All those things. We got a really good look at guys, special teams-wise as well.
"The energy out there was outstanding for a preseason game. Our guys could feel it. That was pretty impressive."
The Bills connecting on a 42-yard pass on fourth and 10 in their winning drive was the biggest downer. Campbell has stressed making plays in key moments throughout training camp.
"You've got to find a way to win when you get put in those possessions," Campbell said.
Offense turnaround: It's hard to get excited about an offense that put up three points in the first half and didn't score again until the fourth quarter, but there was one sign of encouragement from the first unit.
With Jared Goff at quarterback, the first unit went three and out on its first possession. And it was not an encouraging three and out: An incomplete pass, a run for no gain and a third-down sack forcing a punt.
The second possession was a different matter. The Lions went 70 yards on 18 plays and chewed up 9:10 of the clock. Bullock capped off the drive with a 28-yard field goal.
Most encouraging was Goff completing his first seven passes for 56 yards. His eighth pass was incomplete in the end zone.
And the offense that was stuffed on the first possession made an adjustment on the second one and controlled the ball.
"You just wanted to see them be able to create a drive, sustain a drive – find a way to get a first down, move the football," Campbell said. "What you learn is that they were able to do in preseason game one.
"That's really all you learn. But it was good. It's encouraging."
Youth on defense: Linebacker Derrick Barnes played a limited snap count by design in his recovery from a hamstring injury, but he made the most of it.
On Buffalo's first possession of the second quarter he assisted on the tackle on a run for a short gain on first down, then forced quarterback Davis Webb to throw the ball away for an incompletion with a delayed blitz on third down.
Barnes showed the potential to be a three-down player, an asset for an inside linebacker.
Outside linebacker Julian Okwara, who missed most of his rookie season in 2020 due to injury, had one of the Lions' three sacks. And third-year defensive end Kevin Strong had a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a team-high five tackles.
Energy: As Campbell said, the Lions had it. And so did their fans.
After a 2020 season of virtually no fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were into the game from start to finish.
Football is back – on the field, and in the stands.