Five things to know about Lions’ 20-16 loss to Falcons

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)

Lions Matt Prater rates his game-winning kick

Matt Prater’s NFL career features many highlights, but Sunday’s 48-yard, game-winning extra point topped them all for the Detroit Lions kicker.

“For me personally, that’s up there at the top especially since it’s an extra point. The distance doesn’t matter, you’re expected to make it every time,’’ Prater said. “It just happened to be a really far extra point. It’s definitely the farthest extra point I’ve ever attempted in my life. It was crazy. I’m happy we came through and got the win.’’

Prater is not new to the Lions. He warmed up on the sideline on Sunday in Atlanta when the Lions got the ball, down 22-16, with 64 seconds left.

“Anytime we get the ball with (Matthew) Stafford and a minute or less I’m always confident we’re going to score,’’ Prater said in a Zoom call on Monday. “So I started kicking into the net. Some guys let the emotions get the best of them and start celebrating, so I backed it up.’’

Good idea. Wide receiver Danny Amendola was penalized for ripping off his helmet (unsportsmanlike conduct) after Stafford’s touchdown throw to T.J. Hockenson tied the game at 22-22. That cost the Lions 15 yards making it a 48-yard extra point.

“I basically treated it like a long field goal and swung hard and it went straight so it worked out,’’ Prater said.

It was not new for him, but it was a first-time experience for some of the younger Lions.

“I think everyone was so excited on the sideline because some of the younger guys hadn’t seen him do it yet,’’ Prater added. “As soon as we got the ball I was getting ready but it’s always fun watching Stafford in those minutes.’’

Earlier in the game he had kicked field goals of 50, 51 and 49 yards. But he had missed one from 46 yards.

As it turned out, it didn’t matter. He nailed the one that mattered the most.

The Lions (3-3) face the Indianapolis Colts (4-2) at Ford Field at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Lions come back in fourth for 23-22 win at Falcons

Every second counts in the NFL and if you didn’t believe it, now you do if you watched the Lions pull out a 23-22 win at the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

The Lions (3-3) got the ball back with 64 seconds remaining, on their own 25-yard line with no timeouts and needing 7 points for the win.

Turns out Matthew Stafford had a comeback in his pocket and his 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end T.J. Hockenson who worked hard to keep his route alive.

“They played a different coverage than we thought and it ended up being zone. There’s a guy I can’t remember what number he was, he was sitting right in the middle at the goal line,’’ Hockenson said. “I turned around and saw Staff scramble and I continued on the route, he ended up finding it.’’

Hockenson (5 catches, 59 yards) knew it was coming.

“When (Stafford) reared back I was like, ‘Here it comes, let’s do this.’ We work on that all the time,’’ Hockenson said. “It’s super cool to see it come to fruition on Sunday.’’

And, it was National Tight Ends Day. Perfect.

It was Stafford’s 30th career fourth-quarter comeback and his 36th game-winning drive. He finished 25 of 36 for 340 yards, one touchdown and a 108.6 rating.

That last drive was something. It started with an incompletion to Kenny Golladay (6 catches, 114 yards) who couldn’t stay inbounds on the catch.

Then a 13-yard pass to Hockenson who had trouble getting out of bounds to stop the clock. 

Stafford spike

Then a 22-yard pass to Danny Amendola.

Stafford spike

Then a 29-yard pass to Golladay at the Atlanta 11-yard line.

Then a challenge.

Stafford spike.

Touchdown pass to Hockenson which tied the game at 22-22.

Lions took a penalty on the touchdown, so extra-point yardage was from 48 yards.

Prater’s kick was good.

Lions win 23-22 with no time left on the clock.

And here’s the thing, Atlanta running back Todd Gurley played a big part in Detroit’s win. He ran in for a touchdown on first down from 10 yards out with 64 seconds left. Had he not gone in, the Falcons could have run more time off the clock.

Falcons coach Raheem Morris admitted afterward they were trying to get to the 1-yard line and it looked like Gurley knew that but it was too late — he was over the goal line.

The win was the second straight for the Lions and it boosted their record to 3-3. They’re at Ford Field next Sunday to host the Indianapolis Colts (4-2) who will be coming off a bye week.