The Lions came out looking nothing like the team that didn’t show up in Chicago last week. Matthew Stafford came out firing, picking the Eagles apart with 3 first-half touchdowns, the first passing touchdowns Philadelphia has allowed all season. He finished with 3 touchdowns on 19-25 passing for 180 yards. Despite constant pressure, he made all the right plays sans a fumble he coughed up while trying to scramble in the third quarter.
As well as the Lions played in the first half, their second half habits stayed true as Detroit continues to struggle to play with second half leads. Carson Wentz was ineffective during the first two quarters but led the Eagles to their first lead of the game with 6:40 to play in the fourth quarter. Wentz completed 25-33 passes for 238 yards and 2 touchdowns but his game-ending interception gave the Eagles their first loss of the season.
Ryan Matthews was running with a chance to ice the game for Philadelphia when Darius Slay made the play of the game by punching the ball free to be recovered by the Lions at the Eagles 45 yard line with just over two minutes to go.
Stafford and the offense took advantage, quickly moving inside the Eagles 10-yard line. Detroit couldn’t get in the end zone but Matt Prater was perfect from 29 yards to give the Lions a 24-23 lead with 1:28 left.
Wentz and the Eagles would have a chance to drive down for a field goal but Wentz launched a deep pass on first down and who else but Big Play Slay was there to make a fantastic play on the ball. His interception capped a wild sequence that saw Slay live up to his nickname and propel the Lions to an improbable win.
Jim Caldwell coached like a man whose job is on the line as he played it much more aggressive than his usual gameplan. He went for it on two big fourth downs, helping the Lions regain confidence at important moments and even showed some fire that many believe he lacks. Unfortunately, with a lead, Caldwell and the Lions reverted to the status quo and once again, the Lions lost the lead late because they can’t make enough plays in the second half. Whether it’s a bad game plan or lack of adjustments, Detroit can’t figure out how to be productive in the second half of football games.
Lost in all the excitement is how much Philadelphia shot themselves in the foot with untimely and often senseless penalties. The Eagles committed 14 penalties for 111 yards, many in key moments that altered drives. Without an uncharacteristically undisciplined day, the Eagles probably walk out of Ford Field with a win.
The Game Turned When
Big Play Slay stripped Ryan Matthews of the ball with a little over two minutes left in the fourth. The Eagles had already picked up a first down and the Lions had used their last timeout. Slay’s strip prevented Philadelphia from running the clock out and set Detroit up with great field position and plenty of time (almost too much time) to get in range for a game-winning field goal. Slay doubled down with his game-sealing interception but it was his forced fumble that flipped the tables for the Lions.
A Look Ahead
As wonderful as it feels in the moment, beating the Eagles could be detrimental to Detroit’s long-term goals. The Lions are plagued by the same problems they have been since Jim Caldwell took over as coach. They haven’t grown where they need to and wins like this ultimately prolong problems rather than fix them.
Detroit stays home to host the Rams and then the Redskins, two winnable games that could have fans singing a different tune, but in reality, the Lions are not likely to catch Minnesota or Green Bay. We want so desperately to believe that wins like this can springboard this team to something meaningful but it quite possibly moves this franchise further from its goals. The worst thing the Lions can possibly do is miss the post-season but win enough games to bring everyone back with a bunch of mid-round draft picks.