DETROIT — The Lions fought back from a 17-point deficit in the third quarter to make it a game, but they came up just short.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles were just too much and prevailed in a 38-35 win on Sunday in the season opener at Ford Field.
“What mistakes did they make? They really didn’t,’’ Lions coach Dan Campbell said.
The coach made no excuses. His defense allowed 38 points and Hurts provided 333 yards (243 yards passing).
“I was proud we fought our way back, but we’ve got a lot to clean up,’’ Campbell said.
The Lions haven’t won a season opener since 2017. And, again, Campbell and the players made no excuses, but they did find reasons that this team is different from the one that lost 44-6 to the Eagles last season.
“The good news is we didn’t play very well, but we only lost by 3,’’ Campbell said
Running back D’Andre Swift provided a spark offensively with 144 rushing yards (9.6 yards per carry) along with 3 catches for 31 yards.
Swift credited the execution up front as phenomenal along with the blocking downfield.
“It’s good but we let one slip away from us,’’ Swift said.
That seemed to be a theme afterward.
Quarterback Jared Goff (21-37, 215 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception) agreed that they left too much on the field.
“We felt like we could have scored 50 points,’’ Goff said. “We shot ourselves in the foot.’’
His interception which was returned for a touchdown in the second quarter gave the Eagles a 21-7 lead. Goff said it was a matter of miscommunication between him and tight end T.J. Hockenson.
The Lions offense opened with a 9-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, but then sputtered with three 3-and-outs. Goff found more of a rhythm in the second half and in doing so said they may have found a bit of their offensive identity including explosive plays and going downfield.
The Lions were down 24-14 at the half, but scored three touchdowns in the second half. Ama-Ra St. Brown caught a 4-yard pass, Jamaal Williams scored on a 1-yard run and wide receiver D.J. Chark caught a 22-pass in the corner of the endzone.
The defense had its hands full from the get-go.
“I think in the run game, we did a good job against them. It was more of the pass, drop back, scramble situations that we weren’t able to contain him,’’ linebacker Alex Anzalone (9 tackles) said. “Obviously, that was a focus and a point of emphasis this week, so we’ve just got to figure out how to be disciplined and our rush lanes and where the help is in coverage situations and get it cleaned up.”
Rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, who drew loud cheers every time his name was mentioned by the P.A. announcer, played against Hurts in college. “He’s very slick and obviously, he’s progressed in the League. He got a couple of runs on us, so we’ve got to fix it. The next day, we’ve got to fix it,’’ Rodriguez said.
Safety Tracy Walker led the defense with 11 tackles, a sack and a pass defense. He could have added to those numbers, but was tossed out of the game in the second half after two personal fouls on the same play.
“I just let my team down. Me, as a team captain, I’ve just got to be better,’’ Walker said. “I was hot-headed at the moment, and like I said, I’ve just got to make better decisions at the end of the day.”
Cornerback Jeff Okudah, who is coming back from a torn Achilles, finished with 10 tackles while linebacker Alex Anzalone had 9.
“I think I did pretty well, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the win,’’ Okudah said. “That’s something that we preach upon, and the win is what’s going to change the narrative about the Detroit Lions.”
First-round pick Aidan Hutchinson only notched one tackle. His presence was felt even if it didn’t show up in the stats.
“He’ll be better next week,’’ Campbell said. “He needed this.”
(Up next: Washington Commanders at Lions, at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18. The Commanders defeated the Jaguars, 28-22, on Sunday.)