Five things to know about Detroit Lions’ loss to San Francisco 49ers

DETROIT — Dan Campbell’s analytical approach after the 41-33 loss to the San Francisco 49ers seemed almost void of emotion. 

Of course he wanted to win in his debut as coach of the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Sunday, but he put a finger on why that didn’t happen against a solid 49ers team.

The Lions dug a hole — they were behind 31-10 at the half and 38-10 in the third quarter. The deficit spelled doom. Not gloom and doom -— just doom.

They clawed back and with seconds left on the clock had a chance to tie the game. It didn’t happen, but they were in it until the end. 

“One of the things I wanted to make sure we did in this game was continue to play and give yourself a chance at the end of the game. We did do that,’’ Campbell said in his post-game presser. “Now you don’t picture it being that or you’re going to throw it 57 times, but ultimately our guys played until the end, they didn’t throw their palms up, they didn’t start sulking. And they just went back to work and found a way to get back into this game.’’

The defense played better in the second half and the offense found a way to score. Special teams kicked in by recovering a late onside kick.

“We gave ourselves a chance. Our margin for error is so small, it’s just the way we are and the way we’re built. We don’t have the luxury of making some of the mistakes we made and being able to win. So we’ve got to clean that up, we’ll clean it up,’’ Campbell said with a certain confidence.

Five things to know about the loss to San Francisco:

1. Campbell’s aggressiveness was evident early on. In the first quarter he went for it twice on fourth downs. On fourth-and-2 from San Francisco’s 35, Jamaal Williams couldn’t convert. Then on fourth-and-1 from the 49ers’ 17, Jared Goff converted with a 7-yard pass to Tyrell Williams and then the Lions scored their first touchdown on Goff’s 6-yard pass to T.J. Hockenson. “I felt like we needed to do that in this game, I think every game has its own challenges and its own unique floor plan if you will. I felt like it was important to try to create some momentum and I know 3 wasn’t going to be good enough to beat this team,’’ Campbell said.  “I don’t second-guess those, I was trying to be aggressive but smart at the same time.’’ The Lions were 2-of-5 on fourth downs.

2. In his Detroit debut, Jared Goff finished 38 of 57 for 338 yards, 3 touchdowns and one interception. The interception — he was trying to get the ball to T.J. Hockenson and held on too long — was returned for a touchdown making it all the worse. “All in all when you put 57 passes on a guy, relative to the way the game was going, he gave us a chance to come back,’’ Campbell said. “I’ll say that. At the end he gave us a chance. I’d like to believe if we could keep ourselves out of that situation our odds are even better.’’ Goff obviously has faith in Hockenson who had 8 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.

3. Running backs Jamaal Williams (9 carries, 54 yards) and D’Andre Swift (11 carries 39 yards) much of it in the first half. In the second half with such a deep deficit, the gameplan was thrown out the window and Goff was forced to throw early and often. Williams got the start and then Swift, who missed weeks of practice with a groin, stepped in. “Jamaal has been the rock because he’s been there every day. He’s been steady, he’s been sound. We know exactly what he is. He’s been very durable and dependable. That showed again today. He was exactly who we knew he would be and there’s value in that,’’ Campbell said. “Swift hasn’t practiced a ton. Now, we got him back, and you could see what he could do when you get him back. But there were things that Swift was able to do—that screen that he took to the house was something special. But it’s clear that he’s missed some practice. He was rusty. There were little things to his game that he can—and will be so much better now that he’s got this game under his belt. He’ll just get a little better and a little better and a little better. So look, I’m encouraged with that,’’ the coach added.

4. Rookie Penei Sewell lined up at practice at right tackle almost exclusively since the start of camp. When left tackle Taylor Decker injured his finger and underwent surgery last week, Sewell was moved to left tackle even though Campbell had a few other options.  “Ultimately, we felt like we knew that matchup would be (Nick) Bosa over there, who was – we all know the type of player he is. We just felt like, athletically, (Sewell) was the best matchup for him knowing he would get a dose of him and he is. He’s powerful, he’s big, he’s explosive, I’m talking about Sewell and he’s played some left tackle in college. I mean, that’s what he had done and I know he embraced it,’’ Campbell said. “Like, he was really excited to go back to the left. So, it just felt like the right move and from that standpoint, we felt like he performed pretty well.’’ Going up against Bosa in an NFL debut is one huge challenge but Sewell didn’t back down. “Can’t let the name on the back of that jersey beat me, so going in I gotta just focus on just kind of looking at them as another person and go from there,’’ Sewell said. Campbell said late in the second quarter he was going to say something into the headset about how well Sewell was playing but he didn’t want to jinx him.

5.  On the 49ers first snap on offense, Jimmy Garoppolo fumbled and it was recovered by Detroit’s Jamie Collins. But after that, Detroit’s defense didn’t get a stop until the third quarter. The hole they dug was just too deep for the offense to overcome. Cornerback Jeff Okudah couldn’t finish the game and was carted off with an injury. Campbell said it’s either his ankle or Achilles, the test results were not in. “I would say for Jeff it was an up and down game, he flashes on a few plays you’re like, ‘Whoa, OK there he is.’ Next thing you know something happens. I don’t want to make excuses but at the same time he’s in Year 2, he made some young errors,’’ Campbell said. The defense cracked down only allowing 10 points in the second half but it was too late.

NEXT UP: Lions at Packers, 8:15 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 20.

Five things to watch as Lions close out season vs. Vikings

You can call it a meaningless game with the Lions hosting the Vikings on Sunday. After all it’s Week 16 and neither team is heading to the playoffs. But that is not how the players and coaches view it. 

“This is what we do. This is what we love. This is why we’re in this business is to play the game of football and play the game we love. We signed up for 16 games,’’ Lions interim coach Darrell Bevell said. “They’re giving us the 16th game, another opportunity, regardless of scenario situations. This is what we do, so we want to go play.

“We want to put our best foot forward. We want to play the way that we’re capable of playing and look for a win and be able to go out the way that we would like to go out,’’ he added.

Fans may want the Lions lose to get a better draft pick but that is not how the guys on the field look at it.

Five things to watch:

1. Matthew Stafford, who injured his ankle last week in the loss to the Packers, is officially questionable to play. Or, in other words, expect him to start. “With Matthew, I think the best thing for him is that he’s got the best feel and read for his body. So, we’ll continue to progress like we normally do with him. Some of the other injuries are resolving, so we’ll see how this injury on his ankle resolves as well by the end of the week,’’ Bevell said.

2. When the Vikings beat the Lions, 34-20, on Nov. 8, running back Dalvin Cook was on fire with 22 carries for 206 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Cook won’t play Sunday due to his father’s death. His absence obviously plays in the Lions’ favor but that does not mean it will be an automatic win for  Detroit. 

3. Detroit’s defense must play better than against the Packers. It was an embarrassment. It’d be nice to see them close the season on a more positive note but not counting on it.

4. D’Andre Swift will get the start again at running back with Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson picking up the slack. Johnson is the third-down back like he’s been most of the season. Swift averaged 4.9 yards per carry in the first meeting with the Vikings.

5. Bevell said his message didn’t change for this week. “It’s the same thing I’ve kind of talked about almost every day that I’ve been up here. I basically talked to the players today about the love of this game, and basically, respect for this game and what that means and what that looks like,’’ Bevell said. “I think for all of us we have a great love for this game. To echo (Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer) ‘Zim’, yes, this is the last game that you’ll play, and it will stick with you for a long time. It’s one that you’ll remember the most, but there’s still other things that we’ll remember. As far as going out – it’s what we signed up for, it’s what we love to do.’’

PREDICTION: Vikings 34, Lions 17

Five keys in the Lions’ 31-24 loss to Packers

DETROIT — The Detroit Lions, in their second game under interim head coach Darrell Bevell, hung with the Packers in the first half but then couldn’t get Green Bay’s offense off the field in the third quarter.

When it was over, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers beat the Lions 31-24 in a late matinee game on Sunday at Ford Field.

“We were going up against against one of the best quarterbacks to ever do it in this league,’’ Bevell said. “To be able to be in it at the end of the game with one possession to determine it. I was really proud of the guys and how they fought, they finished all the way to the end.’’

Quarterback Matthew Stafford wasn’t able to finish the game after getting crunched in the ribs in the fourth quarter. Bevell said it was too early to know if Stafford will have to miss a game or more. The quarterback was getting X-rays after the game.

“Matthew Stafford is as tough as they come, he’s a huge competitor, I know he’s going to want to be out with his team, it’s going to have to be pretty drastic for him not to be in there,’’ Bevell said.

Five key plays in the game:

1. Tied 14-14 at the half, the Packers had the first possession in the third. Talk about total domination for one quarter. In the third, they led in time of possession 13:49 to 1:21. In the third and into the fourth, Green Bay had two scoring drives. One was 14 plays, 75 yards eating up 8:49. The other was a dozen plays for 79 yards taking 7:49 off the clock. “That’s not how I wanted to start the second half, they came out, went on a long drive, when that happens on the offensive side of the ball we need to respond and do a good job of giving our defense a time to rest,’’ Bevell said. “We didn’t do that. We went three-and-out put them back out there and I think they had another long drive.  Fortunately for us we were able to get it settled but that was a big swing in the game.

2. Aaron Rodgers was, well, Aaron Rodgers. He completed his first 10 pass attempts and finished with three passing touchdowns and 290 yards. He was never sacked and the Lions’ defense recorded one quarterback hit. He also carried the ball six times for 13 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown scamper. He’s 37 but his age certainly isn’t showing.

3. In the first half, Stafford was methodical in two scoring drives. One ending with a 1-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Hockenson and the second a 3-yard run by D’Andre Swift. It was a solid start for the Lions against a good Packers defense. “It doesn’t surprise me, I’m proud of this team. Like I said at the beginning of this thing, these guys are ready to fight, they want to continue to play week-in and week-out,’’ Bevell said. “As you saw they were in it untilt he tend. We’re going toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in our division but also in the NFC. I couldn’t be happier for these guys and the way they played.’’

4. Quarterback Chase Daniel, in for an injured Stafford, ran in from 4 yards out for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter but it was negated by a holding call on Matt Nelson. It definitely would have closed the game with 2:03 remaining. The Lions had to settle for a field goal. It’s uncertain if it could’ve been the difference in the result. Certainly there is a chance of that.

5. Yes it was a loss, so Bevell is 1-1 as head coach. It was a tough assignment against one of the best offenses in the NFL. The Packers beat the Lions 42-21in Week 2. Here’s the thing, Bevell had them ready to play. On the Packers first possession, they scored on a 56-yard touchdown toss to Davante Adams capping a three-play drive. It looked like it was going to be a long day in Detroit, but the defense hung in there and the offense found a rhythm (and the magic of a screen pass). 

BONUS: The Packers held the edge in rushing yards, 120-51. … Green Bay was whistled for a dozen penalties (68 yards) while Detroit had 4 for 30 yards. … Final time of possession was 35:30 for the Packers and 24”30 for the Lions … Stafford threw for 203 yards in the first half and 41 in the second. … Danny Amendola had six catches for 66 yards. … Cornerback Darryl Roberts led the Lions’ defense with 7 tackles. 

Up next: Lions (5-8) at Titans (9-4). Tennessee dropped the Jaguars, 31-10, on Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)