As I write this, the Detroit Lions are on a plane heading back to the Motor City following a painful 33-28 Week 1 loss to the San Diego Chargers. A loss itself is always tough to swallow in a 16-game NFL regular season, but what made this one hurt a little more was how it happened. Depending on how the Lions respond to this early season adversity will play a big role when ultimately determining their success in 2015.
It was almost like a dream early on
When Lions head coach Jim Caldwell went to bed on Saturday night he could not have dreamed up a better start to Sunday’s game against the Chargers.
The Lions took the opening kickoff and marched down the field to the Chargers 24-yard line. That’s when rookie running back Ameer Abdullah took his first NFL carry up the middle for a touchdown to give the Lions a 7-0 lead, following the extra point of course.
By the time the first quarter was in the books, the Lions had a 7-3 lead on the Chargers but they were just getting started. With 12:37 remaining in the second quarter, Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers threw a pass intended for Keenan Allen which was intercepted by Lions safety Glover Quin and returned 31 yards for a touchdown to give Detroit a 14-3 lead.
After another three and out by the Chargers, Matthew Stafford led the Lions offense into San Diego territory before hitting second-year tight end Eric Ebron for an 18-yard touchdown to put the Lions up 21-3.
Everything was looking too easy for the Lions.
The wheels completely fall off the bus
After the Lions went up 21-3, the first thought that went through my mind was, “step on their throats and put this away!” Unfortunately, that is the exact opposite of what the Lions did. By the time halftime came, the Chargers had cut the Lions lead to 21-10 and momentum seemed to be switching.
The Chargers kept their foot on the gas for the remainder of the game and ended up scoring 30 consecutive points to give them a 33-21 lead with 2:33 left in the fourth quarter. Of course the Lions scored a late touchdown to make it look close but ended up losing 33-28.
The Lions may have only lost by five points, but make no mistake about it, following the 21-3 lead, the Chargers dominated in every aspect of the game. By the time all was said and done, the Lions had been outgained in total yards 483-302.
Phillip Rivers threw two interceptions but overall was able to do whatever he wanted to as he completed 35-42 passes for 404 yards and two touchdowns. Stafford, on the other hand, completed 19-30 passes for only 246 yards.
Though Ameer Abdullah was a bright spot on the offense, the Lions only rushed for 69 yards as a team. This was an area the Lions really hope to improve on in 2015.
Responding to adversity
Even as I write this I have to take a deep breath. There is nothing worse than waiting eight months to watch your team take the field, only to have your heart torn out once again.
That being said, the Lions have to shake this loss off quickly. When they look at the standings tomorrow they will see a record of 0-1. There will not be an explanation of how they got that record, just that it is what it is.
The great teams are able to move on from losses almost like they never happened. Can the Lions do this after their heartbreaking loss to the Chargers? Time will tell, but if they can, they still have a great chance to take care of business and get back to the playoffs for a second year in a row. If they can’t, they could be in for an extremely long season.
If this team was still coached by some of the Lions coaches of the past, I would not have any confidence whatsoever that they would rally the troops after a loss like this. But they are not, they are coached by Jim Caldwell, a leader of men. Caldwell will have this team back in the right mindset by next week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, that I can assure you.
Look for the Lions to go into Minnesota on a mission to succeed and to come out victorious.
Rest well Lions fans, this is still going to be a very exciting season!