'It's disappointing': Lions ousted from playoff hunt
Orchard Park, N.Y. — Kenny Golladay did everything he could. The Detroit Lions wide receiver ripped away an interception for a 24-yard gain, caught a 40-yard bomb and finished with seven catches for 146 yards, but it wasn’t enough.
Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback Josh Allen connected with wide receiver Robert Foster on a 42-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter for what proved to be the winning score in Sunday’s 14-13 victory over the Lions.
With the loss, and the Minnesota Vikings’ victory over the Miami Dolphins, the Lions (5-9) have been officially eliminated from postseason contention.
"It's frustrating," Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "You play this game for the opportunity for the playoffs and a chance to win the whole thing, so any time that gets taken away from you, right now or the championship game, whenever it is, it's disappointing."
The Lions took a 13-7 lead into the half and maintained it through the fourth quarter before Allen connected with Foster on the go-ahead score, capping a two-play, 61-yard drive.
The Lions had an opportunity to retake the lead on the ensuing possession when a 20-yard Golladay catch put the team in field-goal range. But Matt Prater missed wide right on a 48-yard attempt with 5:55 remaining.
"I expect to make those kicks, and I have in the past, so it's frustrating any time you don't come through when you have a big opportunity for your team," Prater said. "It's frustrating for sure, and I expect to make that kick and hopefully I get another shot at it."
Prior to the miss, Prater had made 15 consecutive field goals, dating back to Week 5, and had never missed a go-ahead kick in the fourth quarter during his career.
After's Prater's miss, the Lions quickly got the ball back by forcing a three-and-out. On third down, cornerback Nevin Lawson undercut Allen's throw, but couldn't hang on to make the diving interception.
"That's a play I feel like I need to make," Lawson said. "I don't even know how it came out. I thought I had it."
Taking over at their own 30 after a punt, Detroit quickly coughed the ball back up after two short completions and a Theo Riddick run was stuffed for a 2-yard loss. After the game, Lions coach Matt Patricia was asked if the team's play-calling was too conservative for the situation.
"We'll look at it," Patricia said. "Retrospect is easy. If we convert any of that stuff, this isn't even a conversation. We're going to do everything we can in that moment to put ourselves in a situation to win."
The Lions never got another shot. A third-down stop by the defense, on a pass breakup by cornerback Darius Slay, was negated by an offside penalty against linebacker Jarrad Davis. Facing a fourth-and-1, Allen converted a sneak to end the game.
"I (screwed) up," Davis said. "That's it. I (screwed) up. I messed up and lost it for the team. I have to go out and I have to be better. I have to be better for me and I have to be better for my teammates."
Foster's touchdown proved to be the only points of the second half, a slow finish after a brief flurry of offense in the first half.
After a scoreless opening quarter, the game briefly turned into a shootout in the second frame with three consecutive touchdown series.
The Lions opened the scoring with a nine-play, 75-yard drive.
Golladay kick-started things with a 31-yard grab down the left sideline and Riddick’s 19-yard run gave the Lions first-and-goal from the 3. After two LeGarrette Blount carries went nowhere, Stafford found Andy Jones in the back of the end zone from four yards out for the first touchdown of the young receiver’s career.
"It was a great play," Jones said. "(Stafford) was going through his reads and I was able to come back, come open late in the back of the end zone. It was a great experience."
A botched snap on the point-after attempt left the Lions up, 6-0, with 10:45 left in the second quarter.
"That's my job for that not to happen and I just didn't do it today," long snapper Don Muhlbach said.
The Bills (5-9) responded with an 87-yard drive. Foster, working against rookie cornerback Mike Ford, hauled in a 28-yard crossing pattern before drawing a 43-yard pass interference call on the next play. Allen punched it in with a 3-yard scramble, eluding blitzing Davis and beating a handful of Lions defenders in a foot race to the pylon to give the Bills a 7-6 edge at the 7:55 mark.
"I came in kind of slow, tried to set him up and he had a good move and stayed outside," Davis said. "Obviously, as a rusher coming to the quarterback, you have to stay outside."
The lead was short-lived thanks to Golladay, who delivered two huge third-down grabs. On the first, he yanked a sure interception out of the hands of cornerback Levi Wallace, who had jumped his route. A few plays later, Golladay went up over Tre’Davious White down the right sideline for a 40-yard completion, converting a third-and-7 and giving the Lions first-and-goal from the 10.
"I thought he played really hard, executed really well," Patricia said. "He played a good game from that standpoint, but for all of us, we're just disappointed that we didn't win. The stats and all that stuff, that doesn't matter. We're just trying to win"
Zach Zenner, who got the start at running back for Detroit, finished the drive from there with runs of six, three and one yard for the score, giving the Lions a 13-7 halftime advantage.
The Lions return home to face the Vikings this week and will close the season against the Packers in Green Bay on Dec. 30.