The Detroit Lions couldn’t complete their comeback effort after trailing the St. Louis Rams 21-7 late in the fourth quarter. Despite recovering an onside kick with 2:03 left to play after closing within seven points, the Lions failed to seriously threaten and fell to the Rams 21-14.
An errant snap on 4th and 3 sent Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford scrambling to recover the ball, preventing him a chance to get a catchable pass off. The Rams were then able to run out the clock after a first down run by Todd Gurley.
The Lions fall to 4-9 and are now officially eliminated from playoff contention, while the Rams are now 5-8 on the season. This marks the second consecutive loss for the Lions after their encouraging three game win streak.
The Game Turned When
Take your pick. The Lions repeatedly shot themselves in the foot and somehow still managed to have a major part of the game influenced by a bad call. While it certainly was not the reason for the loss, an imaginary chop block called against Theo Riddick sapped the Lions of any momentum they were accumulating on offense and going into the half as well as possibly taking 7 points off the board.
The game, however, officially derailed when Todd Gurley took over the second half. The Lions were unable to stop him as he repeatedly tore off chunk plays and carried the St. Louis offense. With Gurley running wild, the Lions couldn’t afford to make numerous mistakes and expect to come out with a victory.
A Look Ahead
The Lions season is over and while the loss isn’t exciting now, it could help pave the way for a brighter future. The Lions are jockeying for key draft board position and the right slot may help catapult the team into contending in the near future. The Lions look to be giving the young guys more opportunities and this trend should continue going forward as the team looks to build towards a quick turnaround for next year. The Lions should have some new job openings in the aftermath of the season and if rumors are to be believed it may be a very bright future at that.
How It Went Down
The game began on par with what would be expected from two struggling 4-8 teams.. The Lions, fresh off a heart-breaking last second loss to Green Bay that all but ended their already slim playoff hopes, came out sluggish, struggling to move the ball consistently on their first few drives. The Rams going through quarterback and coordinator changes of their own, couldn’t get much going as both teams remained scoreless after the first.
The Rams, buoyed by some chunk plays on the ground, moved into field goal range to begin the second quarter, only to give up a huge ten yard sack by Ziggy Ansah on third and five forcing a punt and keeping the game scoreless.
Up and down play from Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford slowed the already lethargic offense. Stafford missed some key throws, yet also hit some tight windows, resulting in a mixed bag of inconsistent drives. Stafford’s struggles were capped by a disastrous pick six to give the Rams the first score of the game. Stafford stared down receiver Calvin Johnson on the play, before throwing into the awaiting arms of Trumaine Johnson who watched Stafford’s eyes the whole way. It was a horrible decision and a throw Stafford would certainly love to have back.
The ensuing drive saw the Lions begin putting things back together as Stafford started to find some rhythm. The Lions appeared to have drove inside the Rams 7 yard line on a big connection from Stafford to Golden Tate only to see it wiped out by yet another blatantly wrong game altering call against the Lions. A non-existent chop blocking penalty on Theo Riddick nullified the would be goal to go situation instead leaving the Lions with 1st and 25 from the Rams 39 yard line. The drive would end in a punt resulting in a huge momentum change and a potential seven point swing. What could have been a big drive for the offense was instead another failed opportunity for Stafford and the Lions.
Stafford would finish the half 12/17 for 99 yards and the crucial interception that Trumaine Johnson returned for six. Showing just how much the Lions struggled to move the ball, Theo Riddick finished the half as the Lions leading receiver and running back on just five total touches. Ziggy Ansah made his presence felt but it was Aaron Donald whom the Lions notoriously passed up in the 2014 NFL draft that dominated the line of scrimmage causing constant problems. The Lions did a great job limiting Todd Gurley’s first half impact to only 13 yards on 7 carries but he would prove to be too much to keep in check for the entirety of the game.
Down just seven at the half, the Lions came out flat but recovered nicely on their second possession. A methodical march led to a Golden Tate touchdown from Stafford who was a perfect 4/4 for 33 yards on the drive. The Lions got multiple chunk plays through the air and the ground on their way to the end zone for the first time on the day.
Not to be outdone the Rams immediately answered going the distance on the back of Todd Gurley to retake the lead. Gurley followed up a 49 yard run with a diving acrobatic effort to reach the end zone a few plays later.
A Lions punt on the following possession was returned for a touchdown by specialist Tavon Austin, but was called back for a hold during the return. On review it appeared to be a bad call, though it would not matter as the Rams again marched down the field with Gurley ripping off runs of 25 and 15 yards on his way to his second touchdown of the game.
The Lions were unable to muster much on offense until a late touchdown drive brought them within 21-14 on another touchdown pass from Stafford to Tate. The Lions managed to recover an onside kick with 2:03 left in the fourth quarter and all three timeouts. Despite appearing in good shape to tie up the game, the Lions turned the ball over on downs. TJ Jones dropped a pass on 3rd and 3 and on fourth down, Travis Swanson snapped the ball past Matthew Stafford who had to scramble to recover the ball and was unable to get a good pass off.
After another first down run by Todd Gurley, the Rams were able to run out the clock sending the Lions to their ninth loss of the season.
Outside of Golden Tate, no one had a great day in a Lions uniform. It was all about the Rams star players as Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley had their way with the Lions. Aaron Donald’s three sacks had to feel especially painful when considering he was the favored pick by most over Eric Ebron whom the Lions drafted instead.