Detroit Lions implode, lose opener to Bears

DETROIT — Coach Matt Patricia said he put his arm around rookie D’Andre Swift as they walked up the tunnel to the locker room after the game

Swift could have been the hero with a touchdown catch in the end zone with just 6 seconds left. He caught the ball with both hands and inexplicably dropped it. On the next play (third-and-7 with 6 seconds left), Matthew Stafford couldn’t complete a pass to Marvin Jones Jr. 

The Lions, who held a 23-6 lead early in the fourth quarter, imploded and lost to the Chicago Bears, 27-23, on Sunday at Ford Field.

Dagger time? Not so much.

“I don’t think there’s a mentality issue at all. I think the whole fourth quarter we’re just talking to each other trying to say let’s go finish this thing and do everything we can to do it,’’ Stafford said. “We just have to execute better.”

It was the home opener at Ford Field, minus the fans and much of the energy they bring.

Still no excuses there.

It was not all Swift’s fault – the list is long of couldas and shouldas. Perhaps some you’ve heard in previous seasons — missed opportunities, key turnovers, inopportune penalties and even an ejection.

“It’s not all on one play, it’s a bunch of plays we didn’t do a good enough job,’’ coach Matt Patricia said.

The Bears cut into the lead with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell Trubisky to Jimmy Graham on the fourth play of the fourth quarter.

The Lions had a chance to boost their lead with 4:02 left but Matt Prater kicked a 55-yard field goal attempt wide right. Stafford had taken a sack two plays before that for a 9-yard loss.

“Yeah, I probably could have thrown it away. I think that would have made the field goal easier,’’ Stafford said. “We probably could’ve gotten another five yards on the next play and we’re in better range for him. I definitely wish I had thrown that one away.”

When the Bears got the ball back they went 55 yards in 5 plays ending with a 17-yard Trubisky touchdown pass to Javon Wims. Detroit’s lead was cut to 23-20.

The Lions had 2:58 on the clock which is plenty of time for a 75-yard, Stafford-led scoring drive. Instead, he threw his first interception of the day on a pass intended for Marvin Jones Jr. 

Three plays later Trubisky threw the dagger with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Miller to take a 27-23 lead, the Bears’ first lead of the game.

The Lions had 1:54 left. They got down to Chicago’s 16-yard line before Swift dropped what could’ve been the winning touchdown.

When Stafford was asked if he was disappointed, he said “yes” and did not elaborate.

Patricia took blame for the coaching. He and Stafford were visibly upset in their post-game press conference via Zoom.

It’s a killer start to a season with not only a heart-breaking loss, but one to a division opponent. And next week the Lions are at Green Bay (1-0). The Packers defeated the Vikings 43-34 on Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

New Lions RB Adrian Peterson an easy fit

While coach Matt Patricia wouldn’t say, don’t be surprised to see newest the Lions running back Adrian Peterson on the field on Sunday in the home opener against the Chicago Bears.

“We’ll see, it’s Monday, he just got here, so we’ll see how everything goes,’’ Patricia said on a Zoom conference call on Labor Day.

The Lions announced the signed Peterson, a 35-year-old free agent, on Monday. He had been released by the Washington Redskins on Friday. 

“Glad to see him in our uniform — saw him too many years in purple and gold and he was doing his thing against us,’’ quarterback Matthew Stafford said on a Zoom call. “Nice to have him. Obviously a really talented player, one of the greats at the position. I think he raises the bar for a lot of people just to go out there and watch the way this guy works at the age he is and what he’s accomplished.’’

Certainly Peterson’s familiarity with Darrell Bevell, the Vikings offensive coordinator at the time who is now with the Lions, played a factor. The two worked together from 2007-10. 

“It was a great part, kind of a perfect storm to get him here. Being so familiar with Bev’s offense and obviously being very productive in that offense,’’ Patricia said.

As a rookie, Peterson set an NFL game record when he rushed for 296 yards against the Chargers.

“So that’s always a good draw when you have that kind of production in an offensive scheme,’’ Patricia said.

“Being familiar with the type of offense we run, for him to be able to come in without a training camp, step right in and hopefully try to contribute I think it’s a big factor, it gave us a little bit of an advantage,’’ the coach added.

That was a few years back, but Peterson’s production the past two seasons was 898 rushing yards (2019) and 1,042 in 2018. He averaged 4.3 and 4.2 yards per carry. In his 13-year career he’s averaged 4.7 yards per carry — an absolute gaudy number compared to what any Lions’ running back has accomplished since Hall of Famer Barry Sanders averaged 5.0 yards per carry.

Peterson’s experience in the running backs room should also prove valuable. Kerryon Johnson enters his third season and only played in 18 games total, eight of them in 2019. D’Andre Swift, a second-round pick, is a rookie. (Bo Scarborough was placed on injured reserve.)

“I think it’s always great to see young players see vets who have been in the league a long time, see how they approach game week, how they approach preparation, how they practice and how they perform,’’ Patricia said. “That’s a big part of younger players developing and becoming professional at this level right out of college.’’

While Swift and Johnson have had some injuries during training camp, Patricia said that is not why the decision to sign Peterson was made.

“With Adrian Peterson it was kind of Independent of everything else going on,’’ Patricia said.

While Lions fans are quite familiar with Peterson, here are the career stats that he has run up — 3,036 rushing attempts for 14,216 yards (4.7 avg.) and 111 touchdowns, ranking eighth in NFL history in attempts, fifth in yards and fourth in rushing touchdowns. The 2012 NFL MVP, Peterson has been named AP All-Pro seven times, has been selected to seven Pro Bowls, was a member of the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team and rushed for an NFL single-game record 296 yards on Nov. 4, 2007.

Lions rookie RB D’Andre Swift could also play factor in pass game

In two days, Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift has found a certain level of comfort on the practice field which isn’t easy for a rookie.

Certainly the second-round draft pick has plenty to work on and improve. 

“Just getting everything down as far as the playbook, different terminology, quarterbacks speak faster, signals come quicker, just taking my studying habits and taking my knowledge of the game to the next level to make sure the coaches trust me,’’ Swift said on Tuesday in a Zoom call.

Coach Matt Patricia doesn’t like to talk starters or where a rookie might fit on a depth chart. It’s too early for that.

Still when Patricia was asked on Tuesday if Swift has a chance to start, he nodded in the affirmative. So far he likes what he sees from the back who played college ball at Georgia, Matthew Stafford’s alma mater.

“For me, for Swift obviously I think he’s got a great skill set of what we saw in college. We’re exploring the different things he can do certainly at our level and to do it consistently is a big thing for us right now,’’ Patricia said on a Zoom call late Tuesday afternoon.

To translate: Swift has turned a few heads as a pass catcher early in camp.

“I think some of the different reads in the run game right now we’re trying to get improved for him and his eye control and some of those scenarios,’’ Patricia said. “We do know that he’s a smart guy and he can handle a lot, not only in the run game but the pass protection and being able to get the blitz pickups and some of the technique there. Some of the linebackers at this level are maybe bigger than they were in college and some of those guys going through there, so the technique is really important for us to make sure we have that pocket protected.’’

Patricia said he wants to build on things Swift can do in the passing game.

“Not that it’s small steps, but we try to make sure we build it in the proper manner. So far he’s done an outstanding job of handling all that,” Patricia said. “And then certainly as we get towards more and more live contact in the running back position and being able to have really good contact balance, things like we saw in college, being able to break some of those tackles. The more of those scenarios that we can get into and see and have that confidence in certainly that will help him along the way.’’

Swift said when he played 7-on-7 football as a kid, he discovered his ability to catch the ball. 

The Bulldogs didn’t exploit that part of his game. In three seasons he had just 20 catches, but five of them were for touchdowns.

“It’s something I want to definitely perfect at this level of football just being used in different amounts of ways,’’ Swift said.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)