After hot start, Lions’ offense goes cold in ‘tale of two halves’

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is gaining national attention. He's thrown 14 touchdowns versus four interceptions through six games.

Detroit — The Lions’ offense couldn’t be stopped in the first half against the highly touted Eagles’ defense.

Matthew Stafford threw touchdowns passes on all three of the Lions’ first-half possessions as Detroit rolled into halftime with a 21-10 lead.

In the second half, though, everything fell apart.

The Lions were held to 45 yards of offense — compared to 199 in the first half — but were able to do just enough, picking up 34 yards on their final drive that led to Matt Prater’s winning 29-yard field goal in Sunday’s 24-23 win at Ford Field.

“We didn’t execute the way we wanted to in the second half,” receiver Anquan Boldin said. “We had some miscues here and there. I thought you saw a tale of two halves but we came up and made plays when we needed to.”

After the Eagles marched 75 yards and scored a touchdown on the first possession of the third quarter to cut the deficit to 21-17, the Lions were unable to counter.

On the ensuing drive, Stafford was sacked for a 1-yard loss and Boldin was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to set up a second-and-24 at the Lions’ 12. On the next play, Stafford scrambled as he tried to avoid another sack but ended up fumbling the ball and Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham recovering it at the 16.

The Lions didn’t fare much better on their next possession. Receiver Golden Tate was dropped for a 4-yard loss on first down and Boldin was tackled two yards shy of a first down as the Eagles’ defense forced a three-and-out.

“They played better than we played (in the second half),” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “Everybody talks about adjustments and oftentimes nothing changes in terms of what you do schematically. It’s just guys making tackles and maybe we’re missing tackles, or we’re blocking people or we turn a couple guys loose.

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“We had a couple penalties, so it’s a little bit of both. They’re not a team that’s going to just flat lay down on you. These teams are all too close from a talent standpoint, to ever think that some team is going to run away and win by three, four touchdowns.”

It wasn’t until the Lions’ third second-half possession that the offense was able to move the ball more than 10 yards. Facing a fourth-and-1 at the Eagles’ 43, running back Theo Riddick picked up the first down with a 2-yard run.

But the Lions ended up going backward from there as Stafford was sacked for a 9-yard loss on third down.

After the Eagles kicked a 49-yard field goal to take a 23-21 lead, the Lions once again couldn’t come up with a response.

Riddick was tackled for a 6-yard loss on second down to put the Lions in a third-and-16 situation it couldn’t convert, leading to another three-and-out and third consecutive drive ending with a punt.

However, the Lions were able to muster enough yardage on their final drive, highlighted by Tate’s 27-yard reception on third down that put them well within field-goal range.

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“We just struggled,” receiver Marvin Jones said of the second half. “It’s the NFL. At the end of the day, we have that W and we made the necessary plays to get in that position to win.”

Riddick shoulders load

After rookie running back Dwayne Washington (ankle) was ruled inactive for Sunday’s game and Mike James wasn’t promoted from practice squad, the Lions took on the Eagles with just two healthy running backs — Riddick and Zach Zenner.

Riddick finished with 11 carries for 49 yards and six catches for 33 yards and two touchdowns, Zenner had seven carries for nine yards and two receptions for 23 yards, and Tate added three carries for six yards.

The Lions failed to record at least 100 yards rushing for the third straight game, tallying 80 yards on 27 carries.

“You have to try and muster up a running game and I don’t think we ran it as well as we liked, but we were patient,” Caldwell said. “I think we would’ve run it 27 times or so. You need to run it somewhere around that number. The production wasn’t quite where we wanted it.”

Extra points

The Lions were without linebacker DeAndre Levy (quad, knee), who missed his fourth straight game after playing every defensive snap in Week 1; defensive end Ziggy Ansah (ankle), who missed his third game after being injured on first series in Week 2; and tight end Eric Ebron (knee), who wasn’t in action for the first time this season.

Defensive tackle Stefan Charles, offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas and guard Joe Dahl were also inactive for the Lions.

… Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Ron Brooks each raised a fist during the national anthem.

First-half possessions

11 plays, 75 yards, 5:23, TD

9 plays, 80 yards, 5:09, TD

12 plays, 75 yards, 7:13, TD

Second-half possessions

3 plays, 6 yards, 1:31, fumble

3 plays, 8 yards, 2:40, punt

7 plays, 5 yards, 4:24, punt

3 plays, 3 yards, 1:41, punt

7 plays, 34 yards, 1:06, FG