Game Recap: Lions Tie Cardinals in Shocking Season Opener

Most Lions fans woke up Sunday morning expecting a win or a loss, not a tie. After the Lions blew an 18 point lead heading into the start of the 4th quarter, we headed to over time. After exchanging field goals, time ran out and both teams left winless. For three quarters, the Lions were everything we wanted them to be. The defense gave Kyler Murray trouble and our offense provided great play calling. Although, the fourth quarter was every Lions fans nightmare. It’s tough to look at this one because it’s a game we should have won and most of us are left with disappointment.

I have three major and three minor takeaways from this game.

Darrell Bevell had a good performance, despite his major mistake.

Until the start of the fourth quarter, I can’t complain about our offensive game plan. The Cardinals focused on stopping the run, we exposed that. Bevell came into the game with a pass heavy game plan, which opened up the run later, but not by much. Lions were throwing the ball and not just short screen passes or five yard outs, but making throws that Stafford is known for. Bevell also utilized the play action fairly well that resulted into big gains.

After a starting slow in our first three drives, we scored on four out of seven drives moving forward. Everything looked promising, as far as the play calling is concerned. Even in the fourth quarter we did a fine job managing the clock. There was one mistake that he did make, costing us the win. Calling a time out with 2:47 left in the fourth quarter on 3rd and 5. The Lions snapped the ball and converted, which would have ended the game, but prior to the snap he called a timeout, which negated the play. Stafford was livid, told Bevell to trust him. The Lions had to punt which led to the game tying drive led by Kyler Murray.

Other than that, I believe he called a great game. We threw effectively and had a good balance between the run and pass. My favorite was a zone read option play that came out of nowhere. Yes, we did struggle to run, but as I mentioned the Cardinals game plan was revolved on stopping the run. Our blocking didn’t help much either (more on this later).

Stick with Bevell for the moment, I believe he knows what he is doing.

Offensive line put together a horrid game.

I had my concerns heading into this season, but I didn’t think it would be this bad. It started right away, on the first drive we started out fast. With a 7 yard catch and a 9 yard run from Kerryon Johnson, followed by a 9 yard catch from Kenny Golladay. A good start only to get blown up on 3rd and 1 at the 50 yard line.

Two drives later, Chandler Jones went unblocked that led to a strip-sack recovered by Arizona when we were in the red zone. It doesn’t stop there, in the third quarter Terrell Suggs beat his man to grab a strip-sack as well, luckily we recovered. There was an offensive holding on that drive that set us back, too. The next drive there was another early holding call that completely killed momentum. Then we got it together and scored a touchdown and we began to play the clock game.

The offensive line was the only problem I had offensively, multiple time drives were killed with flags and poor blocking. We couldn’t open up holes for our running backs either. This could have been a more of a higher scoring game if it wasn’t for multiple mistakes from our offensive line.

Taylor Decker had 6 total penalties and allowed a strip-sack.

The good thing is it can’t get any worse than this or at least let’s hope. We have a tough matchup next week with a much more talented defensive line.

Defense lost the game in the 4th.

The defense was amazing for three straight quarters. The Lions had a 24-6 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, they were also able to take off 5:56 minutes from the clock. Then everything went down the drain, a game that we were starting to feel good about, became the opposite.

They allowed four straight scoring drives, it’s a mystery to what the problem was. Was the defense tired? Did the Cardinals figure out our defensive scheme? Or did the Lions try to coast with an 18 point lead?¬†One thing that I noticed is that we couldn’t add pressure to Kyler Murray in the fourth quarter. He had years to throw in the pocket, he was struggling with pressure all game and all of a sudden their offensive line played on another level.

Hopefully we’ll see more of the first half defense than the second half defense this year or we will be looking at a top 5 pick during draft season. The Lions need to figure out what happened and learn from their mistakes.

Minor takeaways

TJ Hockenson’s Record Performance

One of the most controversial picks from our draft class made NFL History in his first career game. He racked up 131 yards on 6 receptions with 1 TD. That 131 receiving yards was the most by any tight end in his debut game in NFL history. He will be a huge part of our offense moving forward.

Another thing that could put a smile on your face in such a gloomy night is that Eric Ebron’s career high in a single game is 105 yards and it took him 4 years to do it. Hockenson just beat that by 26 yards in one career game played.

Secondary Did Improve

Justin Coleman and Rashaan Melvin made multiple plays today. Yes, that’s right, I said multiple. They looked much better than last season’s duo in Teez Tabor and Nevin Lawson. I do understand that their performance doesn’t look so good after Murray threw all over them in the 4th, but I guarantee you Murray wouldn’t have struggled in this game if it were played last season.

Special Teams Still Has Problems

This will be a short note, but there were multiple flags by our return team that pushed the offense behind our own 20. Losing field position in both instances. The blocked punt was also unacceptable. The muffed punt hurt us in the long run, too. Something Jamal Agnew will have to work on.

If we can’t work to fix these issues, we might as well put a 50-pound weight on Stafford’s back during games.

Overview

We should have won this game, there is no excuse. Arizona isn’t expected to be one of the top teams this season and this could be a sign of more heartache to come. We will have to wait and see how we look against the Chargers next week to get more of an idea of how this season will go for us.

See you next week…