The Detroit Lions will never be accused of a team that gives up. Much like last year’s home opener against the San Francisco 49ers, things looked bleak for the Lions midway through the third quarter with the Lions trailing by three possessions to the Philadelphia Eagles.
However, the offense came alive in the second half, and the defense got just enough stops to make things interesting.
Both teams were destroying the other on the ground, with nearly 400 yards on the ground between the two teams. But it was Eagles’ Miles Sanders who put the nail in the Lions’ coffin with a 24-yard run on a third-and-2 late in the game. That run allowed the Eagles to run most of the remaining clock—especially after Jalen Hurts keeper on fourth-and-1 just barely got the first down.
In the end, the Lions dropped to 0-1 after a 38-35 loss to the Eagles. Here’s how it happened.
The Eagles won the toss and deferred, giving the Lions the first opportunity to get on the scoreboard. D’Andre Swift opened up the game with a huge, 50-yard run to get the Lions deep into Eagles territory and a couple runs from Jamaal Williams got them into the red zone.
That’s when the self-inflicted wounds started. DJ Chark dropped a first-down pass, and then Logan Stenberg had back-to-back false starts—pushing the Lions back to a second-and-20 at the 25-yard line. Swift picked up half of that on a draw play, and Jared Goff found T.J. Hockenson for just enough to pick up the first down and set up a first-and-goal from the 5. Williams took the ball to the 1-yard line and the bounced off a defender to punch it in on second down. 7-0 Lions.
Jalen Hurts got the Eagles moving with his feet. Facing an early third-and-15, Hurts scrambled and picked up 16, pushing Philly into Lions territory. But the Lions secondary showed up big. Jeff Okudah broke up a pass on third-and-5, and Amani Oruwariye had tight coverage forcing an incompletion when the Eagles opted to go for it.
The Lions offense took over at their own 41-yard line. But Detroit couldn’t take advantage of the turnover on downs, going three-and-out for what would be the first of many for Detroit’s offense.
Hurts continued to punish the Lions with his legs, picking up another third down by tucking and running after finding nobody open. The Eagles faced a pivotal third-and-5 as the first quarter came to an end.
Hurts rifled in an impressive pass just over the reach of Austin Bryant to A.J. Brown to pick up the first down and set the Eagles up first-and-goal at the 5-yard line. Two plays later, Hurts tried to run it in, but was stopped a yard short. For the second time, the Eagles went for it on fourth down. This time, Hurts walked it in following a play action. 7-7 tie.
The Lions offense went three-and-out for the second consecutive drive after a couple of inefficient runs and a miscommunication between Goff and DJ Chark that resulted in a pass nowhere near the Lions receiver.
The Eagles shot themselves in the foot the next drive, working themselves into a good situation—second-and-1 at their 49-yard line, but a dropped pass and a penalty forced them into a third-and-6, and good coverage forced Hurts to scramble. This time, he was caught from behind by Chris Board, though the Eagles quarterback threw the ball away to avoid the sack. The play resulted in Philly’s first punt of the day.
Detroit tried to get a little more aggressive on offense, coming out with three straight passes, but all three fell incomplete, with the second and third down tosses both batted down by Eagles defenders in tight coverage.
The Eagles took their first lead of the game on the next drive as the Lions defense looked gassed. Misdirection continued to give the second level of the defense fits as Hurts found Dallas Goedert for a big 27-yard gain. Philly capped the eight-play, 66-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown drive from Miles Sanders up the gut. 14-7 Eagles.
Things went from bad to worse for the offense on the next drive. Facing a second-and-long, Goff saw immediate pressure, and threw the ball before the play had developed—and it went straight into the arms of Eagles cornerback James Bradberry who waltzed into the endzone for a 21-7 Eagles lead.
The Lions finally picked up their first, first down of the second quarter with a big pass to Josh Reynolds for 28 yards. That was quickly followed up by a 12-yard run from Swift and a 13-yard catch from Amon-Ra St. Brown into the red zone. Staring at a fourth-and-inches at the Eagles 6-yard line, the Lions faced a big decision at the two-minute warning. The Lions came out of the break, rushed to the line, and gave Swift the ball on a sweep that he easily took for the 7-yard score 21-14 Eagles.
With 1:51 remaining, the Eagles looked to add to their lead. After dinking and dunking down the field for a couple plays, Tracy Walked picked up a nice sack on a blitz. Though, coach Dan Campbell made a curious decision to call a timeout as the Eagles faced a second-and-16. After Hurts picked up 12 on the next play, the Eagles called a timeout. Then, Hurts went deep to Brown with Will Harris in coverage for a 54-yard bomb, setting the Eagles up first-and-goal from the 4.
It’s unclear why Okudah was not in for the play, but he would return in the second half.
The Lions defense did hold up from there, though, forcing two incompletions and a run that went for -1 yards. The Eagles would make the chip-shot field goal to make it a two-score game at halftime. 24-14 Eagles.
After deferring in the first half, the Eagles started with the ball in the second half. The Lions defense had an opportunity to get off the field quick, but Hurts found Brown for a 10-yard pickup on third-and-7 with Jeff Okudah in soft coverage. A few plays later, a read option to Sanders picked up 24 yards, and a roughing call on Alex Anzalone tacked on another 15 yards. A few plays later, Kenneth Gainwell banged it in from 2 yards out to make it 31-14 Eagles.
The Lions offense kept the chains moving the following drive with third-down pickups of 16 from Swift on the ground and 13 from Chark through the air. Then, on a third-and-7 in the red zone, Goff scrambled his way out of trouble for a 10-yard gain, setting up Detroit first-and-goal from the 10. A few plays later, Goff hit Amon-Ra St. Brown for the 4-yard touchdown to make it 31-21 Eagles.
The Lions tried to win a possession back with a surprise onside kick, but the Eagles recovered; it didn’t take long for the Eagles to make them pay. Hurts scrambled for a first down on a third-down play that proved extremely costly for Detroit. Tracy Walker was called for a personal foul for hitting Hurts while he was sliding, and then he threw a punch after the play. Though the Lions were only hit with one of those penalties enforced, the two personal foul calls on Walker meant he was ejected from the game.
On the very next play, the Eagles hit a 22-yard pass to Dallas Goedert, bringing the Eagles to the 1-yard line. Boston Scott punched it in from there. 38-21 Eagles
The Lions offense continued to give the team a glimmer of hope, though, as Goff found St. Brown for a 29-yard gain, then hitting Hockenson for 11-yards to move deep into Eagles territory. Philly challenged the bobbling catch, but it stood as the teams headed to the fourth quarter.
The Lions pulled a nifty fake double screen on the first play of the final quarter, and Swift took it all the way down to the 1-yard line. Williams punched quickly to make it a 10-point game again. 38-28 Eagles.
The Lions defense finally got a much-needed defensive stop thanks to a delay of game penalty and a batted down pass from Austin Bryant. Detroit took the ball back over at their own 20-yard line, down 10 with 12:37 remaining.
A critical drop from Josh Reynolds on what would’ve been a big play stalled the Lions’ offense, and Goff bobbled a third-down snap leading to a sack. Detroit was forced to punt the ball back and give the defense an opportunity to make a play. And, indeed, they made a play, forcing a quick three-and-out for the Eagles.
The Lions didn’t have a ton of time remaining—just 8:19 left—to get two unanswered scores. But the offense kept the pressure on with a steady drive and a dime to DJ Chark for a 22-yard touchdown and a 38-35 Eagles deficit.
With just under four to play, the Eagles needed two first downs to clinch it. On a third-and-2, it looked like the Lions got the three-and-out they needed, but Sanders bounced off the wall of Lions defenders formed at the line of scrimmage and broke it for 24 yards and a big first down.
With just two timeouts left for the Lions, the Eagles could run one more play unstopped. Eventually, Hurts snuck it on a gutsy fourth-and-1 for a first down, sealing the game for Philadelphia, 38-35.