Foxborough, Mass. — For most of the 2014 season, the Lions appeared to have corrected one of their biggest problems the past few years.
But Sunday, costly drops were a constant issue in a 34-9 loss to the New England Patriots as the Lions let three potential touchdowns slip through their fingers in addition to a few other big gains.
On a third-and-goal from the 2 in the second quarter, Joseph Fauria dropped a pass in the end zone while defended by safety Patrick Chung. On the next drive, the Lions had a free play because of a New England offsides, and Matthew Stafford's deep pass sailed through Corey Fuller's hands in the end zone.
And early in the fourth quarter, Jeremy Ross got both hands on a deep pass in the end zone, but couldn't make the catch.
"We've just got to tighten up and get back to seeing the ball," said Calvin Johnson, who also had a couple drops. "It's as simple as that. If it takes us catching more balls, we've got to do whatever it takes."
Under new head coach Jim Caldwell, Lions pass catchers have tried to catch 100 passes per day, so Ross' explanation after the game made sense.
"Just a lack of focus," he said.
Tight end Eric Ebron also had a costly drop on what would've gone for 30-plus yards in the third quarter.
Stafford was off target for most of the game, completing just 39.1 percent of his passes, but if a few of those drops go the other way, the game could've played out much differently.
"Any time you have mistakes, doesn't matter what they are, they're going to cost you, especially on the offensive side of the ball," Stafford said. "You have to have everybody keyed in, playing good football together."
The Patriots also did well to contain the Lions receivers most of the game. Golden Tate finished with four catches for 97 yards, but Darrelle Revis limited him to one catch in the second half. Playing primarily against Brandon Browner, Calvin Johnson had four catches for 58 yards.
But the Lions could've had a much better offensive performance if they caught a few of their drops. Instead, they finished the game without a touchdown for the second week in a row.
"We had opportunities to catch balls in the end zone, and we didn't make plays," Caldwell said. "And if you don't make plays obviously it looks as if you're inept in that regard."