Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, center, is not heads-up enough to avoid this sack from Lions rookie Ndamukong Suh in the third quarter. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
Detroit -- You can't waste time or effort or points. And, sigh, that's precisely what the Lions keep doing.
Here was rookie Jahvid Best, in his Ford Field regular-season debut, running all over the place, showing the speed they've craved for at least a decade. Here were the Lions building a 10-point lead, igniting the crowd, then, poof, it was gone.
A comeback was wasted. A scintillating performance by Best was wasted. And once again, receiver Calvin Johnson was wasted until the very end, leaving wasted fans sputtering. The Lions dropped their home opener to the Eagles, 35-32, although they had their shot, recovering an onside kick and getting in position to cap a stunning rally from an 18-point deficit.
It was gone in four straight incompletions by fill-in Shaun Hill, gone as fast as it appeared. And here now is the challenge for the Lions and coach Jim Schwartz: Don't let this get ugly quickly. If the 0-2 Lions aren't careful, it could, with road games against Minnesota and Green Bay next, with injuries an issue.
Roughed up and robbed
There's no new word on when quarterback Matthew Stafford will return from his shoulder injury, and also no new word on whether the Lions ever will upgrade their secondary from awful. A week ago, they got robbed in Chicago on the Johnson catch-no-catch. This time, they barely could slow down the rejuvenated Michael Vick.
Patience is one thing. And everyone understands what the Lions are trying to do, get younger even as their story grows older. They showed glimmers, especially from their young talent, but something always, always breaks down, doesn't it?
Hill may have played hard, but he sure wasn't accurate enough. And I simply don't get why Johnson wasn't remotely dangerous until 1:50 remained, when he scored on a 19-yard pass and a two-point conversion. He finished with only four receptions to go with four last week (not counting, you know, that one) and still hasn't caught anything deep.
I understand this is all a process, but the Lions have collected enough pieces to at least steal a game here or there.
"The next two weeks, I'm looking forward to seeing what this team is all about," center Dominic Raiola said. "We'll see what kind of (guts) we got, real fast. We can't wait until the end of the game to make something happen. We know what Jahvid has, he's a special back. I thought it was gonna happen today, I really believed that."
You'd think it would happen when you have a guy who runs for 78 yards and two touchdowns, and also catches nine passes for 154 yards and another touchdown. Best was patient (behind blockers) and impatient (heading toward the end zone) and it was nice to see, since the Lions haven't had that big-play running threat since a fellow by the name of Barry Sanders left 11 years ago.
More chances, same results
All Best did was give the Lions a chance. Same for second-year tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who rumbled for 108 yards. Same for rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was impactful, leading the team with eight tackles and posting one of the Lions' six sacks.
Oh, they hit Vick often, and whiffed just as often. It's sort of the way the Lions are right now, possessing flashes that aren't enough to complete the process and compensate for the holes.
"We have a sour taste in our mouth, but we put a lot of good things on film," said Best, the first-round pick out of Cal. "Last week, I was nervous (20 yards on 14 carries). This week I was calm, and I need to be that way."
The Lions may have hit with their Best shot Sunday, but not with their best shot. And back to the key wasted effort -- Johnson.
He gets double-teamed, yes, and maybe that'll change as Best gives the running game more respect. But if it's that easy to take the Lions' 6-foot-5 receiver out of a game, what's the point of having such a unique weapon?
This falls on Johnson, too. It seems when it's time for him to get involved, he can, as he did on the final touchdown drive. Schwartz knows there's plenty more to utilize.
"We're gonna try to get the ball in all our playmakers' hands," Schwartz said. "But we need to make great decisions. We do want Calvin to get the ball more, but we can't force it."
It didn't help the Lions lost receiver Nate Burleson with an ankle injury on the first play. But they did grab a 17-7 lead on Best's 75-yard reception, which basically was a short pass and straight-line speed.
This was a winnable game, and if you want to say Vick went out and swiped it, fine. But we've seen how quickly things can spiral around here, when decent effort gets squandered in tough losses. The Lions aren't getting blown out these days, but it wasn't enough and it shouldn't be enough for anyone anymore.
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