You read that right. The Lions did what the NFL is trying so desperately to make impossible, end a game in a tie. After taking a 24-6 lead into the 4th quarter, the Cardinals rallied back to send the game to Overtime. A pair of field goals evened the score at 27, and the game ended there.
Most Lions fans are chalking this up as, “Same Old Lions”, and aren’t surprised. Cardinals fans are thrilled that Kyler Murray lead a comeback that came up just short in the end. Either way, both teams experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. For the Lions’ sake, it was the agony of a tie that has them feeling that things are the same when really, they aren’t. The “Same Old Lions” end this game in a Loss. This has literally never happened before in Lions history. Things aren’t the same.
Let’s break this game down with three takeaways from this tie that Lions fans should understand.
The rookie Tight End shined in his NFL debut, with six catches for 131 yards and a TD. For our DFS players reading this (myself included), that’s 28.1 points on Draft Kings and 22.1 points on Fanduel. As predicted in my roster breakdown (that even Nastia Liukin liked, thanks Nastia!) Hockenson would be the primary catcher while Jesse James would block and catch 3rd-down passes. That was exactly the case, as James only caught one pass for 15 yards. Hockenson is definitely an upgrade from what Eric Ebron brought to Detroit, and in Darrell Bevell‘s offense, the Tight End is used more often than people think. Just ask Luke Willson. Since Bevell’s name has been brought up, what better time than now to make this takeaway point…
2. The Timeout
Bevell called a timeout with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter on third down. In the play that was ruled dead, Matthew Stafford threw a bubble-screen to J.D. McKissic (who was signed after being released from Seattle, hence, why you won’t see his name on my initial roster preview) who would have made a first down and more. This frustrated a lot of Lions fans, and understandably so. But, here’s why the timeout was called.
Time was running out on the play clock. Stafford was in a cadence to snap the ball. Bevell wasn’t sure if Stafford was aware the clock was expiring, and the clock was at :01 when the timeout was called. After the timeout, Stafford throws a pass toward Kenny Golladay that was broken up and the Lions had to punt. After the broken play, Stafford threw his helmet off and shouted “Trust me! Trust me!”. As a 10-year veteran in this league, he has every right to feel this way.
In the scheme of things, this decision could have cost them the game. It didn’t. To me, this was just a simple misunderstanding between Bevell and Stafford, because this is their first full game working together. A misunderstanding that, because of the Lions’ comical past with simple things, led fans to believe that this costed them the game. When really, it was the third point of this takeaway that almost costed them.
3. Second Half Offensive & Defensive Play
In the second half, the Lions were outscored by the new Cardinals’ offense 21-7. In the first half, the secondary played well and kept Murray in check. In the second half, Murray was finding the holes in the secondary and finding Larry Fitzgerald, KeeSean Johnson, Damiere Byrd and Christian Kirk with ease. On the final drive of the 4th quarter, it felt like it all depended on the two-point conversion to decide the game. This is not good by any means for the Lions going forward.
As explained, the offense only scored seven points after halftime. Great teams continue to score points to put the competition away after the second half starts. The Lions only had 116 yards rushing total. Kerryon Johnson and the offensive line need to open more holes for the running game as Joey Bosa and the Chargers come to town next week. There are concerns for this offense as the season moves forward.
On a positive note, the defense found a way to relax and make plays once Overtime came around. They held the Cardinals to three on the first drive, to ensure that Stafford and company had a chance. They also scored three, and the game was virtually over. Like any team and any classroom, there are lessons learned and lessons yet to learn. The Lions sure have their work cut out for them.
The home opener brings the Chargers to town. Melvin Gordon is still on a holdout, but Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson proved last week against the Colts that the running game isn’t holding out just because Gordon is. The Lions will have to stop the run as effective as they held David Johnson in check, as he was held to 82 yards. Four years ago in San Diego, Keenan Allen was unstoppable against the Lions defense, and he looks to do that again this time. Of course, Philip Rivers is a seasoned vet and will do what he can to start his season 2-0. Once again, the Lions have their work cut out for them, and it will be exciting to see what improvements they make against a team that’s vastly more improved than the Cardinals.
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