The Detroit Lions headed west, looking to keep their early season momentum going in a late night duel with the San Francisco 49ers. Unfortunately for them, they found a fist fight that they weren't ready for, and ran out of fourth quarter magic. The handshakes were perhaps the only successful thing about this west coast hunt, as the Lions went down hard and couldn't sustain much offense or defense in a tough road loss.
Here's some other reverberations, as the Lions lose their first game of the season much earlier than they did in 2011.
Matthew Stafford's Struggles Continued. Though he didn't have the three interceptions he had early against St. Louis, Stafford didn't start the game hot and was throwing behind receivers all night. His interception was mysteriously overthrown, and plenty of routes looked like they were crossed. Stafford was out of synch most of the game, and it showed on his face, as he grimaced after throws. Cris Collinsworth commented on the mistakes during NBC's telecast, saying it seemed as if Stafford just wasn't right. With a passing game that is vital to the team's success, Stafford had better get himself fixed in a hurry, or the Lions' offense will be in trouble.
The Secondary Was Toasted. Playing without Chris Houston, Louis Delmas and Bill Bentley, the Lions secondary wasn't up to the challenge this week. They were often beaten deep, and short passes over the middle went for easy yardage for Alex Smith. Perhaps the worst offender was John Wendling, a backup safety, who had a terrible game while filling in and was picked on often. As a group, they didn't play well this week, and didn't play together as good as they did against the Rams. That's probably because the challenge was a bit greater playing on the road facing a tougher group of wide outs.
Third Down (And Short Yardage) Defense Was A Problem. Though San Francisco was only 4-11 on third down, late in the game, it felt like they completed every third down they needed to, which helped them salt away the game despite the fact Detroit still had a chance. The problem was, the Lions rarely put themselves in the situation to stop third downs by allowing the 49ers to run all over them in early downs. When they did, a bad penalty derailed things. It wasn't a great combination. At times, it felt as if the Lions were just one or two big stops away from flipping the momentum of the game. They didn't find success late, which is what they needed to do the most.
Stupid Penalties Played A Big Role. Again. Eight penalties for 67 yards isn't the recipe for success on the road. Perhaps the biggest turn of events was a roughing the kicker penalty which prolonged a San Francisco drive and led to a touchdown instead of a field goal. There were penalties in the secondary, up front and on the lines. Plenty were silly mistakes, like false starts To win against a good team on the road, a perfect game was needed. Making mental mistakes doesn't help the cause when playing a solid team like San Francisco. The Lions must work on controlling their play as this season gets underway.
Lions? DeAndre Levy played an excellent game at linebacker, stuffing plenty of runs and collecting 10 tackles, with two coming for loss. Jason Hanson did all he could to keep the Lions' offense in the game, pounding home four field goals in the loss.
Lambs? The biggest lamb of the night was Stafford, who didn't play well at all. The Lions' secondary was bad collectively, feeling the effects of injuries.
What About The Five Things? Heading into this primetime affair, the biggest thing to watch was if the Lions could contain Frank Gore. They didn't, as he ran for 89 yards and a touchdown. The turnover battle was a push at 1-1. Kevin Smith got the ball plenty but didn't do anything spectacular, only rushing for 55 yards. Calvin Johnson, injury or not, was not as effective with a struggling Stafford. Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh got along fine, and even enjoyed two harmless handshakes.
Stalking The Next Prey: The Lions stay on the road against the Tennessee Titans next Sunday. The game begins at 1 p.m. and is on Fox.
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