The Detroit Lions were right there. Down just three with the ball near midfield another surprising upset was in their midst. But a huge turnover caused my Matthew Stafford put the Lions in a hole they couldn’t climb out of late. Here’s how it happened.
The Detroit Lions won the toss and elected to defer. That meant the explosive Rams offense was up first. The Lions run defense was on display, as Todd Gurley could only manage 1 yard on two carries. Though Jared Goff worked the ball to midfield the Lions ended up forcing a punt.
Detroit would take over with the ball inside their own 5-yard line. The Lions were able to get out of their own end zone with a couple of good runs from LeGarrette Blount and a 10-yard catch from Levine Toilolo, but that would be it for the Lions’ opening drive.
The Rams opened up the scoring on the next drive. With big completions of 14, 15 and 19 yards, Goff worked Los Angeles into the red zone. However, the Lions defense stiffened up there and forced a short field goal attempt. No love from the posts this time. 3-0 Rams.
Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense answered. Thanks to a big 24-yard throw to Kenny Golladay and a 10-yard pickup by Bruce Ellington the Lions worked their way into field goal position as the first quarter ended, facing a big third-and-5 from the Rams’ 25-yard line.
Ellington broke wide open on the key third-down play, giving the Lions an easy first down. However, it would go much further than that. Facing a third-and-2, Detroit tried an inside pitch play that worked well for them on Thanksgiving. Today, the Rams were ready and Ellington was bulldozed for a loss. Matt Prater knocked an easy field goal to tie the game. 3-3.
The Lions got an opportunity to potentially take the lead, as Goff overthrew Brandin Cooks on a deep pass. Quandre Diggs took advantage and made an athletic interception:
But Detroit would quickly go three-and-out and give the ball back to Los Angeles’ explosive offense. This time, they would finally crack the end zone. Aided by an illegal hands to the face penalty that bailed them out of a third-and-long, the Rams methodically worked their way into the red zone, and Goff found Roberts Woods on third-and-7 for an 8-yard touchdown with Darius Slay just a step behind. 10-3 Rams.
With just 2:28 remaining in the half, the Lions had a chance to tie it up or bring the score closer. Unfortunately, the Lions played some pretty conservative football. Detroit started the drive with two runs, trying to run clock while also trying to potentially score. But on third down, Theo Riddick missed a blitz pickup and Stafford was sacked. Detroit gave the ball back to the Rams with plenty of time (1:33). The Lions would mitigate the damage, however, holding Los Angeles to a field goal after a couple of big pickups through the air. 13-3 Rams.
There was still enough time for the Lions to make one last play at points, but Detroit’s offense remained stuck in neutral.
The second half started much like the first half ended. Detroit’s offense quickly got off the field with a three-and-out.
However, the Lions offense would get a second chance. A few plays into the Rams’ opening drive of the second half, Jared Goff tried to scramble, but Damon Harrison caught him and forced a fumble and recovered it on his own.
It finally looked like Detroit cracked the end zone, but a 9-yard strike to TJ Jones was called back because of an offensive pass interference call. The Lions decided to pack it in on third-and-goal from the 19 and followed it with Prater’s second FG of the game. 13-6 Rams.
Detroit tried to catch the Rams off-guard by trying an onside kick, but Sam Martin’s kick didn’t travel 10 yards, and the Rams took over inside Detroit’s 40-yard line. Detroit’s defense held strong, but the risk cost the Lions another three points. 16-6 Rams.
Finally, the Lions offense was able to respond. A big 39-yard play to Levine Toilolo got Detroit onto the Rams said of the field, but the play of the game happened next. The Lions lined up heavy ot the right side and ran a play action in that direction. What the Rams didn’t see was left tackle Taylor Decker slipping out on the other side, and Matthew Stafford hit him for an 11-yard FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN. 16-13 Rams.
The two teams traded punts to begin the final quarter, as a big sack from Eli Harold stopped the Rams at midfield. However, Aaron Donald returned the favor on Detroit’s ensuing drive, halting the Lions’ momentum at their own 41-yard line.
Detroit’s defense would show up big and nearly pick off Jared Goff twice. However, a three and out gave Detroit’s offense good field position.
Unfortunately, here’s where a familiar theme arose. Matthew Stafford felt pressure from the inside as Donald was hunkering down on him. Stafford could find daylight, panicked and fumbled. Los Angeles recovered and quickly capitalized with a 13-yard touchdown run from Todd Gurley. 23-13 Rams.
The Lions responded with an extremely slow-paced drive with some inexplicable draw plays thrown in. A 48-yard pass interference penalty moved them into Rams territory, and Stafford nearly hit Kenny Golladay for a touchdown, but his heel was just out of the end zone. The Lions settled for a field goal. 23-16 Rams.
Detroit would try an onside kick to get the ball back with just under three minutes, but the Rams recovered. Gurley would break out a monster run, giving the Rams the ability to run most of the clock remaining in the game. Despite purposely not scoring on the long run, Gurley would punch it in a few plays later. 30-16 Rams.
The loss drops the Lions to 4-8, and with another late-game mistake from Stafford, his critics will only grow louder. There are more people to blame—like some questionable coaching decisions and overly cautious play calling—but ultimately the quarterback gets the brunt of the blame and this week will be no different.
It’s gameday and the Detroit Lions are hours away from their biggest challenge of the year. In the past two weeks, the Lions have played two of the best teams the NFC has to offer. They pulled off the upset against the Carolina Panthers in Week 11, and almost took down another NFC Titan in the Bears on Thanksgiving.
But neither of those teams appear to be the steamroller that is their Week 13 opponent: The Los Angeles Rams. While all three of their last wins were all by a single possession, they’ve also won by 20, 34, and 29 this season.
Head coach Sean McVay has this Rams team playing at their full potential, and if it isn’t your team they’re playing, it’s actually pretty fun to watch.
Unfortunately, this week they do have the Lions and it could get ugly. The Lions have the second worst pass defense according to Football Outsiders, and Jared Goff must be salivating right now.
That being said, there could be some interesting subplots to the game worth watching. Ndamukong Suh will be playing his first game against the Lions since leaving after the 2014 season. He seems to have something against Matthew Stafford, but he’ll have to get by LeGarrette Blount first, who has a history with Suh. This week, Blount reignited the flames a bit, saying that Suh was still dirty.
We’ve already seen Blount get ejected once this season. Could it happen again?
Here’s how to watch and find out:
How to watch Lions-Rams
Date: Sunday, December 2, 2018
Time: 1 p.m. ET
Location: Ford Field — Detroit, MI
Week 13 TV Map: Courtesy of 506 Sports here
Announcers: Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman, Shannon Spake
Online streaming: Fox Sports Go, Yahoo Sports app
Local radio: WJR-AM NEWS TALK 760
Radio announcers: Dan Miller, Lomas Brown
Odds: Rams by 10