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O'HARA: What we learned from Week 1

Reputations don't win football games. Neither do expectations, resumes, home-field advantage, past performances or anything else that had Monday night's opening game against the New York Jets tilted in the Detroit Lions' favor.

Or so it all seemed.

What we learned from the Lions' 48-17 loss is that performance wins games, and lack of it loses them. The best storylines are written after the game.

Among the other things we learned: 20 seconds of great football at the start of the game is just that – a great start; a minute and 55 seconds of faultless offensive production by the Lions is just a small slice of the game that has to be continued; 12 minutes and 20 seconds of dominating football can put a game hopelessly out of reach; turnovers really do decide games.

And from the personal archives, there are lessons to be learned about going overboard in either direction on one game.

We start with performance:

The setting was perfect for Matt Patricia's debut as head coach of the Lions. The Lions were solid favorites to beat a Jets team that had gone 5-11 in each of the last two seasons and was starting rookie quarterback Sam Darnold.

There was a lot that favored the Lions, not the least being Patricia's background as defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. He is expected to put his stamp of Patriots preeminence on the Lions.

The Lions have worked and planned all offseason to be stronger and tougher, and they were neither against the Jets.

The new and improved running game looked like the old one. It produced 39 yards on 15 attempts.

The run defense, which is supposed to be stouter, gave up 169 yards on 36 carries with a long run of 62 yards by Isaiah Crowell for a touchdown.

Patricia was asked if he saw any bright spots.

"There's not a lot to be happy here, as far as that's concerned," Patricia said. "We had a couple good plays. A couple good plays aren't going to win games."

QB comparison: Matthew Stafford is easily one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league, and probably in the top half dozen.

There could not have been a greater edge than Stafford vs. Darnold, no matter how bright the future may be for the Jets' first-round draft pick.

For the present, you'd take Stafford over Darnold on opening night.

But not Monday night. 

Stafford threw one TD pass against four interceptions. He was thoroughly outplayed by Darnold, who was able to stick to a tightly scripted game plan with help from the Lions' massive breakdowns across the board.

Darnold completed 16 of 21 passes for 198 yards and two TDs.

"I'll take this one," Stafford said. "I hope I never have to say that again. It starts and ends with me. I have to do a better job."

Short bursts: It took 20 seconds at the start of the game to make it look like there would be one of those dream scenarios for Patricia's first game. That's when Quandre Diggs intercepted the first pass of Darnold's career and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

And after the Jets had dominated the remaining 14:40 of the first half to hold a 17-10 lead, it took 1:55 at the start of the second half for the Lions to score a touchdown to make it 17-17. Stafford's TD pass to Golden Tate tied the score.

Surely, the Lions had righted the ship and would take control?

None of that happened. Not with Diggs' TD return. Not with Tate's TD catch.

The game continued, and the Jets outplayed the Lions in every phase. In all, the Lions played 2:15 of good football out of 60 minutes.

"There came a point in the third quarter where we didn't have control in all three phases," Patricia said, referring to the Jets' 31-point rampage that blew the game open.

Time lapse: The Jets scored 31 points in 12:20. They got their four TDs on a catch, interception return, punt return and a run. They added a field goal for good measure.

The Jets' 12:20 of good football in all three phases – offense, defense, special teams – beat the Lions' 1:55 of good football on one possession by the offense.

From the archives: It will be 50 years ago this week – Sept. 15, 1968 – that the Lions opened the regular season at Dallas. Mel Farr scored the first touchdown on a screen pass from rookie quarterback Greg Landry to give the Lions a 7-0 lead.

They were rolling, right?


The Cowboys won, 59-13, and legendary Detroit News columnist Jerry Green – a close personal friend and colleague — wrote this lede for The Detroit News: "Time to panic?"

It has been a laughing point between us for 50 years.

The next week in Game 2, the Lions beat the Bears, 42-0, at Tiger Stadium.

Do I expect the Lions to beat the 49ers, 42-0, on Sunday?

No. But I never thought they'd play so poorly against the Jets.

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