Since Day One, Lions coach Dan Campbell has said they had a thin margin needed for a win. It has proven out all season. No more so than on Sunday when quarterback Tim Boyle threw an interception on a first-and-goal play with just seconds left. Kalif Raymond was the intended receiver surrounded by three Falcons’ defenders. He never had a chance.
Boom. Falcons win 20-16 at Atlanta.
The Lions (2-12-1) were coming off a huge win over the Cardinals and hung close throughout the game, but could not hold on for the win.
Five things to know:
1. Coordinator Aaron Glenn has the defense ready each week no matter who he has on the active roster. On the Falcon’s first possession — 6 snaps — the Lions sacked quarterback Matt Ryan three times. Quite the nice hello. With so many starters missing, never have seen a next-man-up philosophy work so well. Of course, it’s probably good there are only two more games because he might be running out of bodies.
2. The Lions have been a different team since Campbell took over the play-calling following the Thanksgiving game. Good mix of run and pass, aggressive when it needs to be. With Jared Goff out with COVID, Boyle was ready to go. He completed his first six passes. His worst pass was his final one – the interception. Boyle finished 24 of 34 for 187 yards, 1 touchdown and the interception. “I thought he played fast, efficient, clean and certainly gave us a chance. He wasn’t a hindrance to us at all,” Campbell said. The offense ate up 7:34 on its opening drive ending with a field goal. It was similar to the 8:50 opening drive against the Cardinals.
3. Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown has produced 8-plus receptions in 4-straight games, joining Odell Beckham Jr. as the NFL’s only rookie wide receivers in the Super Bowl era to have such a streak. Pretty nice company. St. Brown joins WR Calvin Johnson Jr. as the only Lions to ever post 8-plus receptions in 4-straight games. He finished Sunday with nine receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. He also carried the ball twice for 19 yards.
4. Who doesn’t love trick plays? The fake punt in the first half, set up Boyle’s 20-yard touchdown pass to St. Brown. Special teams has been solid all season. Rookie kicker Riley Patterson is perfect on field goal attempts. He kicked three in the loss – two for 27 yards, one for 36 yards.
5. This final stretch of the season is not about draft picks, it’s about trying to win every game and develop the young players. With so many injuries, guys like running back Craig Reynolds – are getting plenty of snaps. The Lions are showing positive signs for next season. Campbell has made it clear he is not concerned about the draft at this point. So no more belly-aching, OK?
UP NEXT: Lions at Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m. on Sunday, Jan.2.
(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)