Lions offer no excuses after loss to Eagles; still a few positives emerged

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.)

Five things to know about Lions 44-6 loss to Eagles

For the second straight home game, the Lions embarrassed themselves with a one-sided loss. On Sunday they fell 44-6 to the Eagles (3-5) who had lost five of their previous six games.

This should have been a game the Lions were in, but they most certainly were not. It wasn’t bad calls by the officials, it was weak play on all three units along with questionable coaching at times.

The Lions (0-8) may be the best team in the NFL at shooting themselves in the foot. A dubious distinction to be sure.

Coach Dan Campbell did not mince words afterward.

“We got pushed around bad. … I felt like we got out-coached today and out-played across the board and that starts with me. You don’t play that bad with a number of guys and areas and turn the ball over and penalties and low-energy,’’ Campbell said. “You don’t do that unless that comes from the top and that’s on me. I did not set the tone and the tempo properly obviously because that was bad. We didn’t even give ourselves a chance.’’

With next Sunday as the bye, Campbell, his staff and every player have time to reflect on the 0-8 start.

Five things to know about the loss

1. So far this season, maybe with the exception of the Bengals game two weeks ago, the Lions have shown a fighting spirit. Even at the Rams a week ago, they came out on fire scoring 16 first-half points before being slowed down in the second half. The want-to was not really apparent on Sunday. “I really felt like we were flat. I’m not worried about my message … well I guess maybe I should be worried about my message right, when you play like this that’s why you’re asking,’’ Campbell said.  “I’m not worried about losing this team, I am worried that I didn’t deliver the right message to get them ready to go. That’s what concerns me about what I do.’’

2. Quarterback Jared Goff had a brutal day. He was sacked five times (four in the first half), and completed 25 of 34 passes for 222 yards. On a fourth-and-11 in the third quarter it looked like he threw the ball away although Goff said it was a misfire, a physical error, he was not trying to throw it away. Campbell still has Goff’s back. “Aside from the fact on the fourth-down he threw it into the stands which yes, that’s not a good decision, I don’t know what he’s supposed to do as far as the way that game went,’’ Campbell said. “I don’t look at him and go, ‘He’s the problem.’ That’s not how I see it. I do see this —  offensively we were very anemic. If you’re going to ask me where are you going to look this week, I’m going to look at it three times before I look at anything else.

3. Running back D’Andre Swift was not effective at all against the Eagles defense. Jamaal Williams was out with an injury so they needed Swift to have a big day. The Lions have to be able to run and it was not there at all. Swift carried a dozen times for 27yards, a 2.3 per carry average and caught five passes for 24 yards. “We know Swift can help us, we couldn’t get him going. We tried, we just couldn’t get him going the way we wanted to get him going,’’ Campbell said.

4. The defense knew exactly what to expect of mobile Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts – they couldn’t let him out of the pocket and yet they did. He had more rushing yards (71) than all the Lions combined. This was not a surprise. He was the Eagles leading rusher going into the game. Lions safety Tracy Walker put the lack of execution on himself and his teammates. The coaches, they can make the game plan, they can draw up as many plays as they want but they can’t throw that playbook out there to make those plays,’’ Walker said. “At the end of the day us as players we’ve got to go out there and execute the plays that are called regardless of what the scheme may be we have to go out and do our jobs.’’

5. Give Campbell credit that he will always take the blame for a loss. That’s swell but he has to find ways to make this team more competitive. Everyone knew that wins this season would be extremely tough to get but this has been worse than billed. Campbell will spend the bye week looking at every aspect of the team in all three phases. Goff says the team has not given up. “I think that’s kind of been the theme the whole year. As bad as it’s been, the effort is there . We have young kids who are fighting, we have veteran guys who are fighting and we love each other,’’ Goff said.

UP NEXT: Lions have bye next Sunday, Nov. 7. They play at Cleveland on Sunday, Nov. 14.