DETROIT — Through the years, the Lions have often found different ways to lose.
Sunday was different.
The Lions lost 30-26 to the Atlanta Falcons, the defending NFC champions.
It ended on a call that Jim Caldwell said was according to the NFL rules, but left many in the crowd stunned. After the Golden Tate touchdown call was reversed, the game was over due to a 10-second clock runoff.
(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)
The Lions are 2-1 and play at the Vikings (2-1) next Sunday.
This ending will be a distant memory for the players and coaches but probably not for the fans.
Five standout efforts:
1. Glover Quin intercepted Matt Ryan and returned it for a touchdown while Darius Slay finished with a pair of interceptions. It was Quin’s second interception in the first three games. In Atlanta’s first two contests, Ryan had not thrown a pick. The Lions have recorded two interception return touchdowns in the first three games of the season for the first time since 1967. The team has now accomplished this for the third time in team history, including 1967 (two) and 1950 (two). Typically a team that wins the turnover battle — the Lions forced three, the Falcons forced none — wins the game. Well, that didn’t happen but it’s a good sign the secondary is playing well.
2. Safety Miles Killebrew earned a separate category since he was making his first start. It seemed like he was everywhere. With eight tackles (seven solo), Killebrew was tied with Quin for most tackles for the Lions. Tahir Whitehead was right behind with seven tackles. He started in place of Tavon Wilson who is out with a shoulder injury.
3. Matthew Stafford took the blame on that final pass to Golden Tate. The quarterback said he should’ve thrown the ball higher to make it easier for Tate to get into the end zone. Stafford got a slow start but went 25 of 45 for 264 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked twice and hurried often. Part of that could fall on shoulders of the makeshift offensive line. With Travis Swanson (ankle) out, Graham Glasgow shifted from left guard to center. With Joe Dahl (lower leg) out, Zac Kerin started at left guard. Zac who? He was acquired off waivers from the Vikings on Sept. 3.
4. Matt Prater. Amazing. He kicked field goals of 55, 57, 40 and 35 yards. He became the second player in NFL history to make at least 10 career field goals of 55 yards or more. He now has 11. With the Lions, Prater has now made five field goals of at least 55 yards. Prater joins Jason Hanson (1992-2012) as the only kickers in team history to make two 50-plus-yard field goals in at least two different games. For his career, this marks the fourth game he has registered two 50-plus yard field goals. It was the third time since he joined the Lions in 2014 that he has made at least four field goals in a game
5. Golden Tate didn’t finish with gaudy numbers — seven catches for 58 yards. But on many plays he’s the go-to guy. He gets open and hold onto the ball. Of course he came up a half-yard short on the final play, but that call looks like it could have gone either way. “It hurts, it hurts. It hurts to lose one like that at home, especially when your defense just kept coming up with turnovers, it hurts,’’ Tate said. “But I think if anything, guys are going to — we’re going to find a way to learn from this and try to bounce back next week on the road.” Tate surpassed 300 receptions since joining the Lions in 2014, and now has 301 with Detroit. He reached 300 receptions faster than any player in team history by accomplishing this feat in 51 games. He broke the previous best of 66 games to 300 catches by Calvin Johnson.