The Titans received the ball first and put DeMarco Murray to work, but Lions rookie Antwione Williams, filling in for an injured DeAndre Levy, would come up with two tackles for loss. However, Ezekiel Ansah would be forced to leave the field limping after the second play of the game. After finding Delanie Walker for a 32-yard reception, the Titans were rolling into Lions territory early. However, Kerry Hyder caught Mariota trying to escape the pocket and forced Tennessee to kick a field goal, which shot left from 51 yards out.
After two drops—one from Golden Tate and one from Anquan Boldin—the Lions would quickly go three-and-out, but a holding penalty by the Titans on the punt would put Tennessee back up against their own end zone. Devin Taylor quickly cashed in, beating rookie Jack Conklin and tackling Murray for the safety and the first score of the day.
Devin Taylor 2, Jack Conklin 0. RG also got whipped by Khyri Thornton https://t.co/xkcU2WJ4tL— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) September 18, 2016
Back in the no-huddle after an Abdullah run, Stafford made a quick pass out to Marvin Jones for a 30-yard gain. Abdullah took the ball after a first down and ran for 14 yards for the touchdown, but a holding call on Eric Ebron would wipe it out and back the Lions up to the 24-yard line. On Stafford’s second shot to the end zone, he was forced to scramble out of the pocket and found Anquan Boldin, who shed his coverage and caught the pass easily for the Lions’ first touchdown of the day.
Back on defense, Tavon Wilson made an excellent open field tackle on Delanie Walker to prevent extra yardage. Kerry Hyder got into the backfield once again on the next play, but missed the sack as Marcus Mariota barely got the ball out to the line of scrimmage. However, a holding call on Darius Slay gave the Titans a new set of downs, followed two plays later by an offsides call. A few plays later, the Lions got more bad news on defense as Antwione Williams went down and was helped to the locker room. An illegal crackback block penalty on Taje Sharpe backed the Titans up and forced them to kick another field goal. From 46 yards out, Succop redeemed himself and put the Titans on the board.
Theo Riddick opened the next Lions’ possession with a 7-yard run featuring a nifty spin move to shake a defender. Stafford eluded pressure and rolled out, finding Anquan Boldin for the first down. Matt would be forced to run on third-and-long and trucked Titans cornerback Perrish Cox, with a penalty at the end pushing the Lions to a first down. But the next set of downs would see Theo Riddick come up just short and the Lions punted from their own 40-yard line.
Any thoughts of keeping the Titans pinned deep died immediately with a 67-yard run by DeMarco Murray. The Lions defense would get their feet back with A’Shawn Robinson batting a pass down and Devin Taylor teaming up with Haloti Ngata to sack Mariota on the following play, forcing the Titans back far enough to force them to punt.
Although the offense was slow to get out of their own end zone, they got help from Ameer Abdullah, who put on a show juking two defenders to move the team to the 44-yard line. However, Abdullah would join the other Lions on the sideline with an injury as he was forced to go to the locker room to get his ankle looked at. On third down, Marvin Jones caught a short-yardage pass, shed Perrish Cox and busted out to the 7-yard line. Penalties, which had been a massive problem all day, reared their ugly head in the red zone: a ticky-tack call on Ebron for pushing off erased one touchdown, and then a holding call on Laken Tomlinson erased a touchdown catch by Anquan Boldin. A third flag—holding again—moved the Lions back to first-and-goal from the 26-yard line and began to elicit “bullshit” chants from the Ford Field faithful. Ultimately, the possession ended with a 42-yard field goal by Prater.
A Kerry Hyder sack on third down prevented the Titans from getting much on their final possession of the half, and with 15 seconds left, the Lions let the clock run out following a Stafford sack.
18 penalties marked the first half, and three Lions touchdowns had been wiped out by three of those flags. Really fun.
The second half opened with some real prime doom for Lions fans. A low hit from Titans’ defender Jurrell Casey failed to get flagged—shocking for this game—and Stafford came up limping. Stafford gave the head official an earful after the play and Mike Pereira thinks he had every reason to be upset:
The hit on Stafford looks to be a foul. The defender crawls towards him and makes forcible contact to the knee area.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) September 18, 2016
Mariota tried to take a shot deep downfield to Delanie Walker, but Glover Quin was on it, snatching the ball near the sidelines for the first interception of the day. Despite the limping, Stafford came back into the game. With Abdullah out, Dwayne Washington became the weapon of choice for the Lions ground game, busting out for 28 yards where he flashed both his balance and speed as a runner. An unnecessary roughness penalty on Golden Tate on the next play brought the flag count to 22 on the day. More flags kept coming, but “Wheels” Stafford kept the Lions possession alive on a 24-yard scamper that was only stopped when he tripped over his own legs. Injuries struck again as the Lions entered the red zone when Eric Ebron went down hard on his shoulder. He was slow to get up and walk to the Lions’ sideline to begin concussion protocols. Prater knocked in the field goal, and the Lions took a 12-point lead.
The injuries didn’t stop as Kyle Van Noy was hurt on the next Titans possession, which put the Lions deathly short on linebackers. The Titans quickly capitalized after the penalty with a deep pass from Mariota through coverage to Delanie Walker, putting the game within a single score.
Ebron came back in on the next possession, allaying fears for now that he had joined the ranks of the wounded. Theo Riddick took the ball on three of the next four plays to march the Lions down the field, but a sack on Stafford and a backbreaking drop by Golden Tate stalled the drive and forced the Lions to punt from the Titans side of the field. Sam Martin, for the second time, buried them inside their own 10-yard line.
On the next possession...
#Lions now have 17 penalties, tying their high since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. Still 9:39 to play.— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) September 18, 2016
Tate’s struggles continued as Stafford threw to him deep, but too high for the wide receiver to effectively reel in. The Lions traded punts with the Titans, but DeMarco Murray and Mariota would get the Titans grinding down the field, burning time and holding onto the ball. A deep pass from Mariota to Andre Johnson would have set up the Titans on the doorstep of the end zone, but a flag came in for offensive pass interference.
After two more plays, the Titans were on fourth down, and Mariota hit Andre Johnson this time in double coverage, somehow hauling the pass in for the touchdown. For the first time of the day, the Lions were trailing. However, with a failed two-point conversion attempt, the Lions now had a chance to come down the field in one minute and 13 seconds to make a game winning field goal.
Unfortunately, the drops flared up again as Boldin dropped another one on the first play of the drive. On second down, Stafford got sacked and an early whistle saved what should have been a fumble. On third down and forever, Eric Ebron reeled in Stafford’s pass with one hand behind his back to move the Lions to their own 45-yard line.
Ultimately, Ebron’s heroics would be for naught: Matthew Stafford threw an interception right to Perrish Cox, ending the game with a resounding thud.