Live updates: Lions squander lead, fall 33-28
Expectations are high for the Lions, who christen their 2015 season on the road at San Diego on Sunday at 4 p.m. Follow the action here with live updates throughout the game by Rod Beard of The Detroit News.
Lions squander lead, fall 33-28
The Lions got the quick score they needed, but needed to follow up with an onside kick and recovery to keep their chances alive. But the kick went out of bounds and the Chargers were able to run out the clock and take the 33-28 win.
It's another disappointment for the Lions, who dominated the 20 minutes of the game and had a 21-3 advantage before things fell apart. The defense looked rudderless and the offense struggled after halftime to get any continuity. Matthew Stafford's two interceptions were not completely his fault, but the coaching staff will get plenty of heat for this one.
Chargers take command with another late TD
It's shocking to see that the Lions now have given up 30 straight points, following Danny Woodhead's 1-yard TD run, making it 33-21. The Lions were in control and seemed to be coasting, but the Chargers rallied in the third quarter and the defense hasn't found its footing in the second half.
After taking a couple big hits and throwing two interceptions, Matthew Stafford hasn't quite been the same, and Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate have been invisible for most of the game. As much as the Cowboys loss in the playoffs was a letdown, this is a gut punch to start the season.
All the fears about the defense have been realized in the last three quarters and there's plenty to work on before next week's matchup at Minnesota.
Chargers ahead after 23 straight points
It seemed unfathomable in the second quarter, when the Lions led, 21-3, and looked to be on their way to a laugher, but they've managed to give up the lead, as the chargers have scored 23 straight points, after a TD pass from Philip Rivers to Ladarius Green. San Diego originally lined up for a two-point conversion, but a penalty pushed them back and they had to go for an extra point, which they missed, making it a 26-21 lead.
The Lions are shell-shocked and need a big offensive possession -- if for no other reason than to give their defense a rest and time to get composed.
Things fall apart in second half
As much enthusiasm and optimism as there was in the first half, the script has flipped in the third quarter. The Lions gave up a field goal on the Chargers' first drive and Matthew Stafford has thrown a pair of interceptions. The first pick was on an uncontested sack, when the ball flew up in the air and a was intercepted. The second one was a miscommunication between Stafford and Tate, which led to a Chargers return deep into Lions territory.
With an eight-point lead, things are still pretty sticky for the Lions, who haven't had the same flow on offense since the Chargers took over the tempo and have controlled the play, doubling what the Lions have been able to produce statistically. More importantly, the Lions still lead on the scoreboard, but barely.
A third-quarter touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson cut the Lions' lead to 21-20 and the Lions were reeling. It's a complete turnaround from the first half, as the Chargers' adjustments took hold. The Lions defense hasn't been able to make the big stop that they were accustomed to last season and the offense has looked disjointed, with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate being held in check.
Even with lead, Lions defense a concern
After jumping to an early lead, the Lions have had their defense on the field for most of the second and third quarters. The Lions got a break just before the half with an interception by Darius Slay on a poorly thrown pass by Philip Rivers. But the Chargers opened the third half with a long drive -- and with temperatures on the field at more than 100 degrees, the depth will be tested, especially on the line.
San Diego also has changed the tempo of the game, with sustained drives and a focus on mixing the running and the passing game.
Lions jump to 21-10 lead at halftime
After a nice flurry in the second quarter, the Lions jumped to a 21-3 advantage over the Chargers, but the defense gave up a pair of long drives in the final 10 minutes of the second quarter and the Lions led, 21-10.
The offense looked crisp on two scoring possessions, with a pick-six by Glover Quin added to make it look like an early rout. But the Chargers responded with a nice drive, including a TD run by Danny Woodhead, and cut it to 21-10. They looked to pull within one score just before halftime but Philip Rivers had an underthrown pass in the end zone and Darius Slay got an easy interception to end the threat, keeping it at an 11-point advantage.
The defense is giving up some big running plays, but the offense is keeping things together without costly mistakes.
Ebron TD catch makes it look easy
The Lions pushed their lead to 21-3 after a touchdown pass from Stafford to Eric Ebron in the second quarter. The offense is clicking -- all of the main targets have at least one catch -- and Ebron atoned for his earlier drop with the sure-handed catch from Stafford. It's all coming up roses for the Lions, who are looking good on defense, but even better on offense, with Stafford making all the right calls and some good passes to put his receivers in the right position to make plays.
It's still early to get too excited, but there's plenty to be optimistic about in the first half.
Quin's pick-6 boosts Lions' lead
The first quarter is going pretty well for the Lions, who lead, 14-3, following an interception return for a touchdown by Glover Quin -- who led the league in interceptions with seven last season. On a tipped pass to Keenan Allen, Quin was able to corral the ball and head almost uncontested to the end zone. There were questions about the front four, but the back seven on defense has done a good job today in coverage and stopping the Chargers from getting their passing game going.
Chargers settle for FG after near-TD
After a Lions drive ended with a third-down drop by Eric Ebron, the Chargers answered with an impressive drive, looking to get a touchdown after a sensational run by rookie running back Melvin Gordon. He made a spin move after contact from Lions safety Glover Quin, but his forearm touched the ground and he was ruled down before he was able to rumble to the end zone for the apparent score.
That second-down play led to a third-down incompletion and the Chargers had to settle for a field goal, cutting the Lions' lead to 7-3. It was a good drive that tested the Lions defense, but they go the stop they needed.
Abdullah gets things started with TD run
An impressive opening drive for the Lions ends with a 25-yard touchdown run by Ameer Abdullah -- on his first NFL carry. It capped a nice, 80-yard drive, where Matthew Stafford mixed in all facets of the offense -- passes on Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, and runs by Joique Bell. The Lions already have the Chargers on their heels with a crisp first possession, aided by good protection on the offensive line, giving Stafford plenty of time to throw and find his open receivers.
The Abdullah touchdown run was scintillating, as he hesitated in the hole, freezing safety Eric Weddle, and coasting in for the final few yards. It's the boost that the Lions needed, to show that they will be fine without two of their starters on the offensive line, and that they were hitting on all cylinders behind Stafford.
Let's get it started
All the talk and speculation and expectation for the 2015 are over now. Well, almost
The Lions open the season on the west coast or the first time since 2007, taking on the Chargers. It's the first in a critical series of games in the opening quarter of the season, which will do a lot to blaze the initial course for their season.
There's optimism in opening the season, with an 11-5 record last season and despite a few personnel changes and some injuries at key positions, the Lions believe that they are ready to put together another successful season. The offense has much higher expectations, with what could be the best receiving tandem in the league in Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, and rookie Ameer Abdullah whet the appetites of fans who have long searched for flash in the running game.
If Matthew Stafford can produce in his seventh season, things bode well for the Lions this season.
There are concerns, though, with Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and George Johnson gone from the defensive front. Haloti Ngata hasn't played in a game yet and leading tackler DeAndre Levy isn't playing in the opener. There will be plenty of eyes on the front four, and without Caraun Reid (injury), it'll be a bigger challenge in getting some pressure on Chargers QB Philip Rivers.
It'll be a big gut-check with opening on the road, but if the Lions are going to join the contending group of teams in the NFC, this is a game that they should be able to win.
In our predictions this week, I called it 27-21 Lions win. Even with the injuries on the offensive line, I'll stick with that score.