Busted plays shatter Lions' win streak at 3

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, center, is pressured by Houston's Jadeveon Clowney with offensive lineman Graham Glasgow trying to protect Stafford.

Houston — There were no fourth-quarter heroics for Matthew Stafford and Detroit Lions this week. The offense sputtered for too long and the defense struggled late as the Lions fell to the Houston Texans, 20-13, Sunday, ending their three-game win streak.

The Texans (5-3) remained perfect at home behind another strong performance from the team’s pass defense, which kept the Lions (4-4) out of the end zone until the fourth quarter.

“We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times with some untimely penalties, and that really hurt us behind the chains,” Stafford said. “I thought we moved it well in the first quarter especially — the first and second quarter.”

Detroit failed to capitalize on its early success. The offense turned the ball over on downs after driving into Houston territory on the opening possession. Stafford evaded pressure in the pocket, but wasn’t able to find an open receiver on fourth down.

BOX SCORE: Texans 20, Lions 13

The defense quickly got the ball back for the offense, forcing a three-and-out when defensive end Armonty Bryant sacked Brock Osweiler on third down. Again, the Lions marched across midfield, driving 63 yards, but kicker Matt Prater wasn’t able to convert on a 49-yard field goal attempt, slicing a low liner off the right upright.

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Houston took advantage of the field position, going 61 yards on 12 plays to break the scoreless tie early in second quarter. Houston heavily utilized their tight ends on the series as Osweiler connected with Ryan Griffin for two third-down conversions before hitting C.J. Fiedorowicz on a six-yard touchdown.

“There’s been times throughout the season where we’ve gotten to third down and we haven’t been able to get a new set of downs,” Osweiler said. “I think It really just boiled down early to executing well and converting third down. Anytime you can convert on third down, get three more downs, you’re going to put yourself in good position.”

After the Lions countered with a three-and-out, the Texans extended their advantage to 14-0.

Working with another short field, Houston drove 53 yards on 10 plays, capped by running back Lamar Miller plunging in the end zone from a yard out.

The Lions didn’t get on the board until the final play of the half, when Prater converted a 47-yard field goal as time expired.

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Following an interception by Johnson Bademosi with 32 seconds in the second quarter, Stafford needed four passes to gain 52 yards, connecting with tight end Eric Ebron three times for 47 yards.

Ebron, returning from a three-game absence, finished with a career-high seven receptions for 79 yards.

The teams traded punts to open the second half, before Houston was able to tack on 33-yard Nick Novak field goal with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter, extending their lead back to 14, 17-3. Earlier in the series, receiver DeAndre Hopkins appeared to fumble after being hit by Bademosi, but the pass was ruled incomplete. The Lions opted not to challenge the ruling on the field.

“We got a late look at it and the way we looked at it, it did not look like it would be one that would be overturned,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “Everybody has their opinions on it, but we didn’t’ think it was a completion.”

The Lions offense finally got it together on the ensuing possession, churning out a 75-play scoring drive. Leaning heavily on Ebron and running back Theo Riddick, Stafford methodically moved the Lions down the field in 13 plays. A pass interference call against Houston in the end zone set Riddick up for a one-yard touchdown pass, the 11th scoring reception of his career.

The score cut the Texans’ led to 17-10.

Both teams punted after three-and-outs, before the Texans’ ground game finally found its bearings.

The Lions had held the Texans to 29 yards on 17 carries through three quarters, but running backs Alfred Blue and Miller combined to gain 47 yards on five carries, leading to another short Novak field goal, which put the Texans up 10 with 4:09 remaining.

“I think it’s just a matter of stick with it,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “Eventually, if you stick with it and our line  kept kind of willing themselves on the defensive line, I think those are good things. Those runs that were three yards in the first half or even in the third quarter, they end up being eight-, nine-, 10-yard runs as long as you’re patient.”

A 42-yard kickoff return by Andre Roberts kept the Lions alive, helping set up a 34-yard Prater field goal to make it a one-score game with just under three minutes remaining.

Despite having plenty of time and all three timeouts, the Lions attempted an onside kick but failed to recover.

The Texans, keeping the ball on the ground, converted two more first downs on Miller runs of three, 10, six and six yards, allowing Osweiler to take a knee three times to run out the clock and seal the victory.