Five things to know about Detroit Lions’ collapse, ending with a tie at Arizona

This was a game the Detroit Lions had to win to start the season. The Arizona Cardinals featured a rookie quarterback in Kyler Murray, were without their two starting cornerbacks and were playing first game under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Instead the Lions blew a 24-6 fourth-quarter lead and ended up with a 27-27 tie against the lowly Cardinals.

Oh, there’s plenty of blame to go around, but the coaching staff deserves a huge portion of it. This is a game of adjustments and they did not make them in the fourth quarter or overtime.

Also, they have to trust quarterback Matthew Stafford who had a solid opener (27-45, 385 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions and 22 yards rushing). 

With 2:47 left in the fourth quarter, the Lions had the game most likely won. But offensive coordinator Darell Bevell called a timeout on a third-and-5. Stafford didn’t hear him, so ran the play – a screen pass to J.D. McKissic along the sidelines. It was complete. The Lions just had to hold on — the Cardinals did not have a timeout left.

But the timeout call negated the completion and the next pass attempt to Kenny Golladay was incomplete. The Cardinals got the ball after the punt, went downfield with Murray scoring on a 4-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald and completing the 2-point conversion to Christian Kirk to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Murray looked like a rookie in the first three quarters and like a savior in the fourth and overtime. That was in part due to adjustments from the Cardinals and the fact that the Lions’ defense disappeared after playing solid in the first three quarters.

Five things to know: 

1. Patricia and his staff failed to adequately prepare the players and make adjustments when necessary. The Lions had a 24-6 lead in the fourth quarter, but everyone in Detroit knows that does not guarantee a win. That timeout is on his shoulders, as is the play of the defense in the fourth quarter and overtime.

2. Matthew Stafford was clearly angry after that bad timeout call. Can’t blame the guy. He appeared to be in midseason form. Starting his 11th season, he passed for 200 yards in the first half and 385 overall. The Lions are going to need more out of this new Bevell offense, but certainly saw a few good signs today. The run game needs work. Kerryon Johnson had 16 carries for 49 yards and C.J. Anderson had 11 for 35. OK, but not good enough for a Bevell offense which historically has leaned on the run. 

3. Two newcomers on offense were standouts. Neither really a surprise. Rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson had six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. The first one for 28 yards, another for 39 yards. Wide receiver Danny Amendola’s 47-yard touchdown catch was half a great play by Stafford who dodged a pair of rushers just to get the ball in the air AND a stutter step by Amendola after the catch to clear the path to the end zone. Amendola did make a mental mistake on a reception in overtime. After catching the ball instead of running out of bounds to stop the clock, he cut inward. He finished with seven receptions for 104 yards.

4. The offensive line was a bit of a question mark going in. Frank Ragnow, who was injured in the preseason, started at center. Joe Dahl got the start at left guard and Graham Glasgow at right guard, but Kenny Wiggins rotated in at those two positions throughout the game. Left tackle Taylor Decker certainly did not have his best day in fact he was awful. He had at least three penalties and allowed two sacks. 

5. The defense played well for three quarters but it wasn’t enough. They were back on their heels the fourth quarter and Murray took advantage. Devon Kennard was credited with three sacks, and rookie Jahlani Tavai, who started in place of the injured Jarrad Davis, notched his first sack and was effective when he was in the game. 

BONUS: It doesn’t get easier. The Lions host the Chargers (who beat the Colts in OT) next Sunday at Ford Field. Then they play at the Eagles on Sept. 22, then home to the Kansas City Chief on Sept. 29 and at Green Bay on Oct. 14 after a bye week.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

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Detroit Lions coordinator Paul Pasqualoni: Defense more comfortable, but Cardinals will provide challenges

ALLEN PARK — What a difference a year can make. When the Lions open the season at the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Detroit’s defense has a built-in advantage due to experience.

Defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni enters his second year with the group that has added a few new pieces since last season.

“I think we’re much more comfortable, all of the players who’ve returned, fortunately we’ve got quite a few guys who returned. I think we’re much more familiar with the system is, fitting pieces, trying to get the right guys on the bus and getting them in the right seat, so to speak,’’ Pasqualoni said on Monday. “I think that’s a process, that’s a work that you keep trying to get better at.’’

He does admit that the defense has a disadvantage because so many players have been injured.

“From a defensive standpoint we need to play together, we’ve had so many injuries and nicks and bumps we haven’t really had an opportunity to put the whole unit together and get them out there for an extended period of time,’’ Pasqualoni said. “That will be a work in progress this week and the first weeks of the season.’’

Early in the season, it’s difficult to know what to expect from any NFL team because they just don’t show much in preseason games. That will be amplified against the Cardinals who have a new coach in Kliff Kingsbury, a first-time NFL head coach, and in rookie quarterback Kyler Murray.

Pasqualoni expects a wide-open, spread offense, run mostly out of the shotgun, with 3-5 receivers on the field each snap. Oh, and no-huddle too. 

“It stretches you this way (holds his arms out wide) horizontally, and they stretch you vertically based on the speed of what they have in Kyler Murray’s ability to throw the ball, he can throw the ball deep,’’ Pasqualoni said.

Plus they have Arizona running back David Johnson to keep under control.

“You put too many resources into the pass and the run hurts you, you put too many resources into the run and the pass hurts you,” Pasqualoni said. “That’s the whole idea of this, this offense is really an explosive deal when you’ve got real speed at the wide receiver position, they’ve got a Hall of Fame receiver in Larry Fitzgerald who is going to really present issues in this offense too. It presents a lot of problems.”

The Lions’ defense took a while to get going last season. They lost 48-17 in their opener at home to the New York Jets.

But once they got going and added James “Snacks” Harrison on the defensive line, they improved steadily.

Now they’ve added veterans Mike Daniels and Tre Flowers to the defensive line along with a few other key pieces.

If middle linebacker Jarrad Davis doesn’t play (he’s not expected to be ready), rookie Jahlani Tavai could be running the defense. Pasqualoni wouldn’t say much about Tavai because he doesn’t want to put more pressure on him.  But if the second-round pick starts, that says the coaching staff believes in him.

The defense is a work in progress. It’s flexibility will definitely be tested in the opening week.