DETROIT — While there was no hiding the disappointment and frustration of being within seconds of a win against one of the NFL’s elite teams, the Lions learned a little about themselves on Thursday.
When it was over the Lions lost 28-25 to the Buffalo Bills in the annual Thanksgiving game at Ford Field before 66,000-plus fans. It was the second straight win at Ford Field for the Bills (8-3) whose game against the Browns on Sunday was moved due to a snowstorm.
The Lions had turned a corner with three straight wins – two of them on the road. The loss on Thursday does not impact their faith in themselves. This is a different team than it was before those wins.
“I said it before the game, ‘This isn’t the (effing) same old Lions anymore.’ We’re going to go out there and we’re going to get our respect. We’re going to earn that respect,’’ left tackle Taylor Decker said. “We came up short today. Week in and week out we know we’re going to go out there and bring it. We’re not going to get down, we’re going to keep fighting. … I think we’re still trending up, I really do.’’
Coach Dan Campbell feels the same way. “I think just for (the team) to know that once again when you play a team like this it doesn’t always have to be perfect but when you’re playing that caliber of team the margin for error is very minute,’’ the coach said.
“I also want them to understand it should sting that we lost that game because we had our opportunities.That doesn’t mean we’ve taken a step back either. I still felt growth today. I feel like we’re continuing to take a step, we are fighting some things out. Yeah, there are still mistakes but I don’t feel like this was a step back, I still feel like we’re moving forward. … This can be a positive for us, not a negative,’’ he added.
Five keys to the game:
1. With 32 seconds left in the game, and the Lions down 25-22, Jared Goff’s pass to D.J. Chark on third-and-1 from Buffalo’s 33 was incomplete.”I wish I had thrown a different ball. I thought the play-call was great and (I) had some options what to do there, and yeah, if you had to do it again, do you do something differently? I don’t know, maybe, but if I throw a better ball, it might not matter,’’ Goiff said.. “But yeah, unfortunately, that’s going to be the play that gets focused on, but there’s a lot of plays that could have gone either way today as well.’’
2. Then instead of going for it on fourth-and-1, Michael Badgley kicked a 51-yard field goal to tie it. That left 23 seconds for the Bills to go downfield and score. Turns out they only needed 21. Josh Allen moved the Bills downfield to get in field goal range for Tyler Bass who kicked the game-winning 45-yard field goal. Campbell said he was trying to balance everything and wouldn’t change his calls. The Lions converted three fourth downs early in the game, one for a touchdown.
3. Goff was pressured all game with two backup guards starting — Dan Skipper at left guard and Kayode Awosika at right guard. Still Goff found success especially getting the ball to Amon-Ra St. Brown who had nine catches for 122 yards and a touchdown. Goff was 23 of 27 for 240 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
4. Bills quarterback Josh Allen gave the defense fits with his mobility and all-around strong play. “That quarterback is the real deal, he’s a warrior, he’s clutch and homemade a lot of significant plays,’’ Campbell said. Allen completed 24 of 42 passes for 253 yards, two touchdowns, He was also intercepted by Alex Anzalone. Allen also was the Bills’ leading rusher with 10 carries for 78 yards and a rushing touchdown. He gave credit to the Lions. “That’s a good team playing very well and playing good football right now, and they’re coached extremely well. So credit to them for such a good game plan,’’ Allen said.”But again, guys just continuing to grind. Guys going down, stepping up, just finding a way. Proud of our guys for doing that.’’
5. While kicker Michael Badgley came through with a 51-yard field goal to tie the game with 23 seconds left, he missed a 29-yarder wide left early in the game. The loss isn’t all on him but certainly the Lions need everyone to play nearly perfectly against a team like the Bills – or any NFL team for that matter.
BONUS: Rookie linebacker James Houston, a sixth-round pick, made a statement when he sacked Allen twice. It was his first NFL game experience. His mom and dad were able to make it to Detroit for the game and as a bonus it was his mom’s birthday .”I was expecting to kind of spare a little bit and go in on third downs and kind of help out a little bit,’’ Houston said. “With (LB Julian Okwara) JO going out I went in a little bit more. It’s just, opportunity meets preparation and that breeds success.”
(Up next: Jacksonville Jaguars at Lions, 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4)