The debut of Detroit Lions second-round pick D’Andre Swift couldn’t have gone much worse for the rookie running back. He had had a quiet, uneventful day for most of Sunday, turning six touches into just 23 yards. However, he did have his first NFL touchdown, a 1-yard run that put the Lions ahead before the end of the first half.
But Swift, like the entire Lions team, let that lead literally slip through their hands. On the second-to-last play of the game, Matthew Stafford lobbed a perfect ball to the rookie in the end zone for the winning score, only for it to slide through his fingers.
For any NFL career to start that way has to be mentally devastating. It’s the kind of thing you’ll never forget. But in the following 24 hours after the game, Swift’s teammates and coaches made sure he knew their faith in him has not wavered after a single play.
As the team walked off the field in defeat, head coach Matt Patricia made a beeline for his rookie running back, trying to console and reassure Swift.
“When we were walking up the tunnel, I kind of grabbed him, put my arm around him, because I knew that he was going to put too much of this on him when it’s not him,” Patricia said on Monday. “It’s not him at all. We had a lot of opportunities to win that game. It’s not about him at all. It’s about the other plays that happened.”
The Lions, indeed, made several other blunders that put them in that situation. Allowing Mitchell Trubisky to throw more touchdowns (3) than incompletions (2) in the fourth quarter certainly didn’t help. Stafford, too, made two critical errors in the fourth quarter—taking an unnecessary sack that pushed the Lions out of field goal range, and forcing a ball into double coverage that was eventually intercepted.
“There’s plays that we all wish we had back,” Stafford said in regards to Swift after the game. “I can’t turn the ball over in the fourth quarter, there’s no question about that. It’s on everybody. We’re all there to pick him up and go from there.”
Luckily for Swift, he has a veteran running back on his team that has been through it all. 13-year veteran Adrian Peterson has been in Swift’s positions. He’s made some game-winning plays, and made some devastating mistakes. So he made sure to reach out to Swift immediately after the game.
“I just pulled him to the side and told him, ‘Hey, it’s about how you respond to this. Don’t let this get you down,’” Peterson said. “I can imagine how he feels—in that situation, how he must feel. But at the end of the day, what he showed me today is that he’s going to be able to help us. He’s going to win games for us going into the season.”
Team captain Taylor Decker feels similarly. Not everyone has been able to see what Swift can do for this team, but the Lions left tackle has. And he wants everyone to make sure that everyone knows: This guy is special.
“I’ve seen him practice—I know that with no preseason not as many people have seen it—but this guy’s going to make a lot of plays for us,” Decker said on Monday. (The) young guy is super talented. He’s going to make a ton of plays for us, and we’re all going to rally around him. I know he’s probably a little in the dumps about that play, but we have all the confidence in the world in him, because he’s going to be a weapon for us. He’s going to help us win games.”
The Lions will need a quick turnaround from Swift and the rest of the team. They could fall into a serious 0-2 hole in the division with a trip to Green Bay on the docket this week. The Packers are coming off a convincing win over the Vikings and look like the potential favorites to win the division.
Putting Week 1 behind them is key for the Lions, and Peterson wanted to send that message directly to Swift.
“So, keep your head up, man. We’ve got 15 more, and at the end of the day, do not let this bother you. Do not let this linger. Focus on the next game, which is Green Bay, and focus on when you get in that position again, what are you going to do to capitalize on it? That’s all that matters.”