The Detroit Lions play all 60 minutes, from start to finish.
That's one of the oldest clichés in football – and the Lions stretch it out and play more than 60 minutes when necessary.
That's what we learned most about the Lions in Sunday's 27-24 road win over the Eagles. They compete from start to finish – especially the finish. They've done it three straight weeks – first in a disappointing overtime tie with the Cardinals, and again the last two weeks in wins over the Chargers and Eagles.
Among the other things we learned are the following: Get open, and quarterback Matthew Stafford will get you the ball, as he did with wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr.; rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson is learning that opposing teams recognize talent – and adjust accordingly after his hot start; and the Lions actually practice reacting to a turnover, as they did on the blocked field goal in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game.
We start with the Lions playing to the end:
End game: In all three games the Lions have made a critical defensive stops late in the fourth quarter or overtime, as follows:
Game 1: It got overlooked because of the disappointment from the Lions settling for an overtime tie after blowing a 24-6 lead early in the fourth quarter, but it easily could have been a loss.
On the first possession of overtime, the Cardinals had first and goal at the Lions' eight. A touchdown would have ended the game, but the defense held, forcing the Cardinals to settle for a field goal.
The Lions drove to a tying field goal, and that's the way it ended – a 27-27 tie. Disappointing, yes. But not as bad as a loss had the defense not held.
Game 2: Stafford's TD pass to wide receiver Kenny Golladay gave the Lions a 13-10 lead over the Chargers with 7:21 left. Cornerback Darius Slay ended the Chargers' last threat with an interception, and Stafford completed a third-down pass to tight end Jesse James for a game-clinching first down.
Game 3: After 59 minutes and a few seconds of ups and downs, good plays and misplays, the Lions had a 27-24 lead when the Eagles lined up for their final play on fourth and 15 at their 45. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz launched a deep pass down the middle that rookie receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside went up for in the end zone.
With cornerback Rashaan Melvin in coverage, Arcega-Whiteside came down with a handful of air – but no ball. He might have been distracted by Melvin's presence. No matter, there was no catch. There might have been a little luck on the Lions' side on that play, but they competed to the end and survived.
Bottom line: Three games, three tight finishes, and the Lions are 2-0-1 with two straight three-point wins.
Hot hands: With six catches for 101 yards, Jones became the Lions' fourth player to have 100 receiving yards in the first three games. In the opener Hockenson had six catches for 131 yards and a TD, and slot receiver Danny Amendola had seven catches for 104 yards and a TD.
It was Golladay's turn against the Chargers: Eight catches for 117 yards and a TD.
Rookie reality: The sky was the limit for Hockenson after his rookie debut. Six catches in the opener would be 96 in 16 games, and 131 receiving yards would be 2,096 – with 16 touchdowns.
Since that brilliant debut, Hockenson's had one catch for seven yards against the Chargers, and one catch for a yard against the Eagles.
Football has happened. That simple. Teams adjust defenses every week to take away what their opponents have been doing. And the Lions have won the last two games with Golladay and Jones as the primary receivers – and veteran tight end Jesse James catching the clincher against the Chargers.
No worries about Hockenson. He'll be fine. More than fine, in fact.
Block and chase: The Lions have had two massive breakdowns on special teams in the first three games. A blocked punt in the opener led to the game-tying TD and two-point conversion.
Against the Eagles it was a blocked field goal by Melvin Jenkins that teammate Rasul Douglas recovered and ran to the Lions' 22 with 1:39 left. A penalty on the return put the ball back to the 50.
The Lions reacted to the block immediately. The players on the field-goal protection unit suddenly became pursuers, and not by accident.
They practice for change of possession plays.
"Sudden change," linebacker Jarrad Davis explained later.
He was not on the protection team. What did he think watching from the sideline?
"Let's tackle that guy," Davis said. "Give us a chance."