DETROIT — The Lions’ offense gained plenty of yards on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense which was second-rated in the NFL.
It didn’t matter.
Matthew Stafford and the Lions’ offense accumulated 482 yards (411 passing) in the 20-15 loss to the Steelers on Sunday night at Ford Field.
Those gaudy offensive numbers were useless because the Lions could not score a touchdown. The 15 points were courtesy of Matt Prater’s five field goals.
According to Pro Football Reference, the Lions’ offensive effort of 482 yards ranks third all-time in NFL for most yards without a touchdown in a game. No. 1 was San Francisco with 501 yards versus Washington in 1986 and second was Cincinnati with 496 yards versus Seattle in 1994.
Yikes. Not exactly a record you want to break.
“Couldn’t execute (in the red zone). We were close on a lot of plays whether I missed a throw or we didn’t catch a ball or whatever it is. It’s obviously frustrating to get down there and not come away with points twice,’’ Stafford said.
The Lions have lost three straight and now hold a 3-4 record. It was their third straight home loss.
Five reasons the Lions lost:
1. They were 0-for-5 in the red zone. Three times they settled for field goals but twice they got nothing. Zip, zilch, nada.
In the third quarter they got to the Steelers’ 4-yard line after a 23-yard catch by TJ Jones. On first-and-goal, Dwayne Washington got stopped less than a yard from the goal line. Then an incomplete pass to Marvin Jones was followed by a Washington run for no gain.
They went for it on fourth-and-1. “We had a pass play called, they dropped a lot of guys into coverage, thought I had a stop to step up and make a play and their guys did a good job rallying and tackling me,’’ said Stafford who was sacked for a one-yard loss.
Then in the fourth quarter, when they were losing 20-15, Stafford checked into a draw play for Theo Riddick on third-and-5 from the Steelers’ 6. He was stuffed, losing two yards. Stafford made the decision because the Steelers had dropped eight in coverage.
“We just didn’t execute it well and that’s on me to get everybody on the same page,’’ Stafford said.
On the next play they went for it on fourth-and-7. Stafford’s attempted pass to Eric Ebron was broken up by Ryan Shazier. That was basically the ball game with 1:54 left.
2. The run game struggled again, combining for 71 yards. Ameer Abdullah had 27, Theo Riddick has 21 and Dwayne Washington 12 yards on six carries.
Coach Jim Caldwell was defensive when asked why Washington, who had missed the last four games due to injury, is the power back. He’s their best option but was not good in the red zone. No one was.
“It’s annoying because, I mean, we’ve got a good kicker, but we’ve got a good offense too. We’ve got to score,’’ Abdullah said. “We’ve got guys that can score. We’ve got guys who, if we put them in the right position, they can make big plays for us down there. We’ve just got to find a way to do that.”
3. Detroit was 2 of 12 (17 percent) on third downs. In comparison, the Steelers were 7 of 14 (50 percent). Enough said.
4. Mistakes, miscues, you name it. You can’t pin this all on tight end Eric Ebron but he was targeted six times and caught just two — one was for 44 yards. Still he has to be more consistent. He knows that, everyone at Ford Field knew that.
Even the sure-handed Golden Tate caught a pass and then the ball slipped out of his arms and was recovered by the Steelers. “That was a great play by everybody but me. It got away from me, I don’t know what it was, if I was thinking about my next move. I have to hold onto the play. This team looks to me to make plays,’’ Tate said.
5. This loss can’t be pinned on the defense but they can take their share of the blame. They had a lousy start on the Steelers’ opening play on their first drive, a 41-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to JuJu Smith-Schuster.. And then there was the 97-yard pass play from Roethlisberger to Smith-Schuster in the third quarter that put the Steelers up 20-12.
“I don’t know, (Smith-Schuster) just made some catches. He got put in some good situations and he just made some plays for them,’’ safety Glover Quin said. “We go into a game, you know, if they’ve got a top receiver like that (Antonio Brown), you want to force the next guy to do that. He did.”
Quin intercepted Roethlisberger and also recovered a fumble.
Running back Le’Veon Bell was held to 76 rushing yards after rushing for more than 300 yards in the past two games combined.