"Alphonso Smith. Alphonso Smith."
You may not believe it, but the Lions were leading this game at halftime and were tied at the end of the third quarter. By the end of the game, however, it was all Patriots. They scored 28 straight points to finish the game, including three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The Lions went from being in control of this game in the first half, to fading a bit in the third, to absolutely collapsing in the fourth. It was a complete and total meltdown, and by game's end the Patriots won by a score of 45-24.
Early on in this game, the Lions played well on defense, getting to Tom Brady quite a bit. Ndamukong Suh got a sack to set the single-season Lions rookie record for sacks, and Detroit made a stop on a long drive, holding the Patriots to a field goal. At the end of the quarter, the Lions got things going offensively and Calvin Johnson caught a 19-yard pass for a touchdown to give Detroit a 7-0 lead.
In the second quarter, the Lions continued to play well on both sides of the ball. The defense kept making stops and on offense, Detroit went down the field and scored on a one-yard run by Maurice Morris. The TD run followed a quarterback sneak on fourth and inches that the Lions converted to keep the drive going, and it put Detroit on top 14-3.
The Patriots answered back with a 10-play, 83-yard touchdown drive to cut down the lead. The drive actually appeared to come to an end midway through on a third and six incompletion, but a weak pass interference call was made on the Lions, keeping the chains moving. New England continued driving down the field and eventually scored on a 15-yard run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who ran over a couple Lions DBs in the process.
Despite having less than a minute on the clock to put something together, the Lions moved down the field and got into field goal range. Dave Rayner nailed a 44-yarder to put Detroit on top by a score of 17-10 and in the process became the first kicker not named Jason Hanson to play for the Lions on Thanksgiving since 1991.
In the second half, things quickly went downhill after an early stop. Shaun Hill threw an interception that was returned to the Detroit 26, and four plays later Tom Brady found Wes Welker for a five-yard touchdown. The Lions did answer with a nine-play, 58-yard drive that was capped off by a one-yard touchdown run on fourth and one, but The Patriots scored again only three plays later. Alphonso Smith got burned in coverage, thinking he had safety help when no one was back, allowing Deion Branch to score on a 79-yard reception. The TD tied things up at 24.
The Lions looked like they were going to keep this shootout going with another answer on offense, but the drive stalled, forcing a 46-yard field goal attempt. Unfortunately Dave Rayner pushed it wide right, which was just really deflating for everyone. The offense missed out on a chance to retake the lead, and on the ensuing Patriots drive the defense once again looked lost. New England moved down the field very quickly and the Patriots scored in only five plays this time. Brady once again found Branch, who burned Smith en route to a 22-yard touchdown that put the Pats ahead 31-24.
Following a Lions punt, the Patriots got the ball back and took seven plays to go 84 yards, scoring a touchdown on a 16-yard pass to Welker. This score put the Pats up two touchdowns, and the final deathblow for the Lions came when Shaun Hill was intercepted by Devin McCourty on the next drive for the second time today. The Patriots scored on another Green-Ellis run just a few plays later to take a 45-24 lead, which is what the final score ended up being.
There's not really much to add at this point. Like last Sunday, the Lions showed why they are better than their record suggests, but at the end of the day they showed exactly why they are 2-9 right now. Detroit just doesn't know how to finish a game and lacks that killer instinct. Yes, the Patriots are a much better team and it's no surprise they won, but the Lions were in this until they quickly faded in the fourth quarter. That issue with being unable to finish games has haunted them all season long, and it reared its ugly head again today as the Lions lost their seventh straight game on Thanksgiving.
Next up for the Lions is a home game a week from Sunday against the Bears. It is the second of three straight home games and the first of two straight divisional games.
Here's to hoping that December is much nicer to Detroit than November was, because the Lions went 0-4 this month. It sure seemed like it was going to be a good month when the Lions were leading the Jets late in the fourth, but everything came crashing down when Matthew Stafford got hurt and so far the Lions haven't been able to pick up the pieces at all. Hopefully that will change next week against Chicago.