Oakland, Calif. — Matthew Stafford and the first-team offense moved quickly and efficiently, but the Lions lost 27-26 to the Oakland Raiders in an exhibition Friday night at the O.co Coliseum after the backups struggled in the second half.
Oakland’s No. 3 quarterback Matt McGloin hit receiver Brice Butler for a 19-yard touchdown with 6 seconds left that put the Lions on the losing end of a late-game comeback after they won in similar fashion last week.
In addition to the Lions’ starting offense looking sharp, the defensive starters played well with safety James Ihedigbo making an interception on the opening drive after a tip by cornerback Rashean Mathis. The front seven also created plenty of pressure on Raiders quarterback Matt Schaub.
But the Lions showed they have plenty of work to do before the regular season begins in three weeks after giving away a 13-point lead in the second half.
They had 11 penalties for 74 yards as well as several others that were declined. The run game was nonexistent most of the night. Even though the defense created pressure early, the Lions failed to notch a sack until late in the third quarter and finished with only one. And, the Lions gave up a 50-yard punt return by Oakland’s TJ Carrie after Kyle Van Noy overran the play and other would-be tacklers missed opportunities along the sideline.
Coach Jim Caldwell said the Lions had too many blunders on the night, and they'll have to continue working on avoiding penalties and making technically-sound tackles.
"We’ve got to be really good at the basics," he said.
Stafford played three series and threw for touchdowns on the first two, finishing his night 9 of 10 for 88 yards. His only incompletion was a drop by running back Reggie Bush on a screen.
"Obviously we did some things that were positive on the offensive and defensive side of the ball early," Stafford said. "But we’ll always have things to work on, things we’ll like to have back and do a little bit better next time. … It was a positive step in the right direction."
On the first series, which started at the Oakland 36 thanks to Ihedigbo’s 38-yard return, the Lions scored on their second play, a 28-yard pass from Stafford to Golden Tate. The Lions’ prized free agent was wide open after shaking Raiders cornerback Tarell Brown.
However, rookie kicker Nate Freese missed the 32-yard extra point after hitting the right upright after the first score.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Lions methodically moved the ball on their second series with an 11-play drive, ending with an impressive 4-yard touchdown catch by Kris Durham on a well-defended fade route.
“I thought we came out with a purpose today and really capitalized on the short field and then we came back out and scored again,” Lions center Dominic Raiola told WXYZ-TV at halftime. “I was pretty happy with what we did.”
Freese made the second point after try to put the Lions up 13-10 with 2:01 left in the first quarter. He also made a 55-yard field goal near the end of the first half.
But before Freese’s field goal, the Lions’ second team defense allowed 10 points, including a 1-yard touchdown by Raiders running back Darren McFadden that only happened because of a 12-men-on-the-field penalty on a field-goal attempt. So at the half, the Lions led 16-10.
Led by quarterback Dan Orlovsky, the Lions’ second unit put together a great drive to open the second half that included a shifty 36-yard catch and run by back Theo Riddick. A 1-yard touchdown run by George Winn put the Lions up 23-10.
The Raiders answered with a touchdown and field goal to cut the lead to 23-20 with 14:06 left, but a 25-yard field goal by kicker Giorgio Tavecchio put the Lions up 26-20 with 7:34 left. Tavecchio, who’s battling Freese for kicking duties, also made the 32-yard extra point after Winn’s score.
First-round pick Eric Ebron had two catches for 37 yards. The first was a 23-yard completion from Stafford that he nearly dropped on his way to the ground. Had he caught it in stride, it could have been an easy touchdown. The second was a 14-yard catch from Orlovsky along the sideline.
Orlovsky played much better than last week and finished 8 of 12 for 153 yards.
"He played well," Caldwell said. "I thought he moved the ball well; I thought he handled himself in the pocket extremely well. He stepped up out of trouble and was able to deliver the ball down the field. I thought his pace of operation was good. It was very good tempo, and he led us on some scoring drives, which was key. I thought he played a lot better tonight."
Kellen Moore relieved Orlovsky late in the third quarter and finished 5 of 8 for 49 yards.
The Lions had 53 yards on 26 carries as the backup offensive linemen struggled much of the night. Mikel Leshoure had the best night rushing the ball, finished with seven carries for 23 yards.
“Obviously we weren’t satisfied with it, so that’s an area we’ve got to get a little bit better in.”
The Raiders honored late Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr. with a moment of silence before the National Anthem.
... Lions cornerback Darius Slay left the game in the second quarter with an injury, but returned briefly.
... Lions safety DeJon Gomes was involved in a dangerous play in the fourth quarter and left with a neck injury. Raiders tight end Scott Simonson was running toward the end zone after a catch when Lions cornerback Jonte Green pushed him, leading to a helmet-to-helmet hit between Gomes and Simonson, who fumbled and lost his helmet. Lions linebacker Brandon Hepburn recovered the fumble.