Lions Battle Falcons to End, Win 22-21

Amazing.

In their first ever trip to England, the Detroit Lions beat the Atlanta Falcons 22-21 in not only exciting but also polarizing fashion.

Best Lions Teams: 2014

The first half was among the ugliest football the Lions have played all year. Offensively and defensively the Lions looked both mentally and physically weaker than Atlanta, and by a lot. Maybe unsurprisingly, much of the woes came from the offense’s early problems. Without WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit once again lacked any sort of unpredictability and failed to establish any honest run game. RB Joique Bell and backup Theo Reddick both struggled early on and were out rushed by QB Matt Stafford in the first half alone. Nevertheless, with some gradual second half momentum, Bell showed quiet improvement and finished the day  with 14 rushes for 39 yards.

The absence of Johnson has been detrimental to the rushing game all season, but no one has been more negatively impacted than Stafford. After going 9 of 20 for only 85 yards with an interception in the first half, Stafford looked virtually dead as the Lions were down 0-21 at the break. But much like the rushing game, Stafford showed signs of life in the second half with a 59 yard touchdown to WR Golden Tate and helped set up two other key field goals. On the whole, Stafford finished going 24 of 47 for 325 yards and two touchdowns while Tate -who has been a star this year and reliable compensation for Johnson’s absence- recorded 7 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown.

The defense was equally bemusing and also looked downright awful at times against the Falcons’ modest offense. The first half numbers parallel the offense’s shortcomings; the defense had zero sacks, zero passes deflected, and just one tackle. And while the second half wasn’t perfect, Detroit did cut down Atlanta’s marginal yardage. As expected, LB DeAndre Levy anchored the defense, recording 7 tackles despite a defensive line plagued with injuries and absences. After forcing a couple key Atlanta punts, the defense showed substantial improvement in the second half and returned to form. And in the end, down 19-21 with 3:56 left to go with three timeouts, the Lions’ defense forced Atlanta to punt giving the Lions one last chance. With just seconds left, K Matt Prater hit the 48 yard walk off and the Lions leave London with an against-all-odds win.

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