August 25, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (85) catches a pass behind the back of Detroit Lions cornerback Justin Miller (43) during the second quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
Saturday night's game for the Detroit Lions was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for the regular season. Based on how it went, though, the Lions better hope it wasn't a sign of what will happen in the regular season. The Lions were plagued by injuries and in general were just really sloppy, and the Oakland Raiders made them pay. The Lions lost by a score of 31-20, dropping their record to 1-2 in the preseason.
This game got off to a bit of a rough start for the defense, as the Raiders had little trouble moving the ball down the field. To make matters worse, Bill Bentley hurt his shoulder on the game's opening drive and didn't return. Things didn't look promising for the Lions, but they did rebound to make a stop, and Oakland decided not to go for it on fourth-and-one. This decision backfired on them, as Sebastian Janikowski pushed a 30-yard field goal wide left.
The Lions responded by efficiently moving the ball down the field. Matthew Stafford had little trouble finding open receivers, and Mikel Leshoure made his first appearance with the Lions in his NFL career. He didn't have anywhere to run due to poor blocking, and the Lions' drive did end up stalling after 11 plays, but they managed to get a 41-yard field goal from Jason Hanson to take a 3-0 lead.
After quickly forcing a punt by the Raiders, the Lions got the ball back and picked up a couple first downs before they were forced to punt. Unfortunately, on the final play before the punt, Stafford hit his left hand on a helmet. He was forced to leave the game because of this injury, although it's not believed to be serious by any means. Even so, it put a damper on this game, especially when you add in the Bentley injury and also an ankle injury for Chris Houston. Kevin Smith also later got hurt when he limped off with an ankle injury. Needless to say, it was a rough day at the office for the Lions health-wise.
When the Raiders got the ball back, they again had no trouble moving down the field. Darrius Heyward-Bey was a big part of their success, as he made a ridiculous catch by somehow managing to haul in the ball on Justin Miller. The catch went for 41 yards and set up an eventual one-yard touchdown run by Darren McFadden on fourth-and-goal. Initially, the play was ruled a fumble that was recovered by the Lions, but a review overturned the call and took a goal line stand away from Detroit.
On the ensuing kickoff, Miller made up for not stopping Heyward-Bey by returning the ball 80 yards. The big kick return gave the Lions the ball at the Oakland 21, but a three-and-out forced them to settle for a 30-yard field goal. Jason Hanson nailed the kick, making this a 7-6 game in favor of the Raiders.
The Lions' offense again couldn't capitalize on great field position when they got the ball back thanks to a Willie Young interception. He picked off Carson Palmer on a screen pass and gave the Lions the ball at the Oakland seven. Unfortunately, the Lions were unable to punch the ball into the end zone, and Shaun Hill threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-goal from the one, bailing out the Raiders.
Palmer was picked off again on the next Raiders possession, this time by Stephen Tulloch. The Lions offense again went three-and-out, though, and Oakland took over again with 57 seconds left on the clock. Palmer led the Raiders into field goal range, and Eddy Carmona converted a 56-yard attempt as the second quarter came to an end to give the Raiders a 10-6 lead at halftime.
The second half opened with the Lions' first good drive since Hill took over the offense. Keiland Williams had a couple good runs, and an unnecessary roughness penalty on the Raiders washed out an interception. The Lions took advantage of the mistake when Hill found Brandon Pettigrew in the end zone a few plays later for a seven-yard touchdown, giving the Lions a 13-10 lead.
At this point in the game, the Lions were in a pretty good position despite all of their injuries and mistakes. Everything was downhill from here, though. Terrelle Pryor came into the game at quarterback for the Raiders, and he made Detroit's defense look silly on several occasions. His first drive in the game resulted in a punt, but after the Lions punted the ball away on the next possession, Pryor went off. He scrambled for 59 yards on the third play of the next drive, and two plays later he found the end zone from 17 yards out. Just like that, the Raiders were ahead 17-13.
Following another Detroit three-and-out, Pryor once again made the Lions pay. Alphonso Smith actually picked him off, but a penalty for illegal use of the hands on a defensive lineman negated the pick. Pryor found Juron Criner for a 39-yard touchdown two plays later, and he went right at Smith. It was a quick turnaround from Smith thinking he had a pick to being burned for a touchdown, and it was another impressive play by Pryor, whose second touchdown put the Raiders on top 24-13.
The two teams traded punts the next few series before things went from bad to worse for the Lions. As the fourth quarter was winding down, Pryor added another touchdown when he found Criner again. This time, Criner went 76 yards for a touchdown, giving the Raiders a 31-13 lead. While Kellen Moore did get his first career touchdown on a 10-yard pass to Alex Gottlieb on the next possession, all that did was make the score look a little more favorable. The Raiders ran out the clock after Moore was picked off on the Lions' next drive, sealing a 31-20 loss for Detroit.
To say this was a bad game for the Lions would be an understatement. The offense struggled quite a bit, and the defense didn't look good, either. Plus, injuries were a huge issue on both sides of the ball. Believe it or not, but the special teams unit was really the only bright spot in this game. It was an ugly performance for the most part, and it's clear the Lions still have a lot of work to do to get ready for the regular season.