Lions hold on, clip Eagles in frantic finish to stay unbeaten
Philadelphia — It shouldn't have been so difficult, but things rarely come so easy for the Lions.
Following a blocked field goal, it took an offensive pass interference call and a dropped pass in the closing seconds to preserve a hard-fought 27-24 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins blocked a 46-yard field-goal attempt by Matt Prater with less than two minutes remaining, giving the Eagles a chance to tie or take the lead. But a fourth-and-5 conversion was waved off when it was ruled running back Darren Sproles pushed off to make the catch.
"I felt the push-off, I just hoped those guys would call it," safety Tavon Wilson, who was in coverage on the play, said. "I felt I was in great position on the play."
It marked the fourth time the Eagles were flagged for offensive pass interference in the game.
Facing a fourth-and-15 after the penalty, quarterback Carson Wentz's deep throw floated over the extended arms of Lions cornerback Rashaan Melvin, but bounced off the hands of rookie receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, preserving Detroit's victory.
"Obviously we'd love to be up three scores, all have a bunch of sunflower seeds in our cheeks and just having a good time, but it doesn't happen that way all the time," Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "You got to go out there and play and go out and finish these games off. Our team has done it a number of different ways throughout the first couple weeks."
The Lions (2-0-1) return home to face the Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) next Sunday in a battle of unbeatens.
The action was relentless from the start of the game as the team's combined for 24 points on the game's first four possessions. The Eagles took the opening kickoff down to the Lions' 7-yard line before stalling and settling for a 25-yard field goal.
The Lions wasted little time responding. Coming back from a benching last week, return man Jamal Agnew got a block from J.D. McKissic to bring the kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown.
"We were expecting left kicks and he kicked it right," Agnew said. "I believe they thought we were returning it right and we were actually going left. I seen McKissic, he was leading, I seen him go up and the only (defender) I see is 42, (Andrew) Sendejo and I was like, we've got a shot right here."
The counter-punch came in the form of a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive for the Eagles. On third-and-6 from Detroit's 20, Wentz scrambled up the gut for 19 yards and running back Jordan Howard capped the series with a 1-yard run off right tackle.
Getting their first crack on offense with 6:15 remaining in the opening quarter, the Lions answered with a long touchdown drive of their own. Converting three third downs on the possession, Kerryon Johnson leaped across the goal line to put the Lions up, 14-10, with 14:09 left in second quarter.
"That's something I don't want to do, which is why I didn't do it the first time, because it's very risky," Johnson said. "They're very stout. They had a lot of guys in there and it was the only way to get in."
After a pair of punts, the Lions extended their lead thanks to a pair of turnovers. Fumbles by rookie running back Miles Sanders and wide receiver Nelson Agholor turned into a pair of field goals, giving the Lions a 20-10 lead at the half.
The Lions forced three fumbles in the victory, recovering two. Through three games, they've forced seven and recovered five.
"We want to be that type of defense that attacks the ball and give our offense more opportunities to make something happen," defensive end Trey Flowers said. "We're going to continue to work on that and hopefully get even more out."
The scoring slowed to start the second half before the Eagles put together a touchdown drive late in the third quarter. On third down, Agholor took a short pass from Wentz, ran through a tackle attempt by safety Quandre Diggs and waltzed into the end zone for a 20-yard score.
But again the Lions quickly countered. Stafford beat an Eagles blitz on third down for a 27-yard gain to Marvin Jones and finished the touchdown drive by connecting with Jones on a 12-yard crosser to make it 27-17 with 14:53 to play.
"All-out blitz, again," Stafford said about the scoring play. "We don't have enough to block with all those coming, but we had enough window dressing on the play to kind of slow them down and then the (blitzers) came late.
"I put a ton of air on it and Jones walked it down, which was sweet."
For the series, Stafford completed four of his five throws for 71 yards and the score.The Eagles closed the gap back to three with 4:32 remaining in the game when Wentz connected with Agholor again, this time from two yards out. Lions defenders Jarrad Davis and Flowers each committed personal foul infractions in the red zone, with Flowers' late hit on Wentz coming on third down.
After a Lions punt, the Eagles turned it over on downs to set up the blocked field goal and the game's dramatic ending sequence.
"I knew they were going to come back strong in the second half," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "They just continually do that. They've show that time and time again. ...Just really proud of our players. Give them a lot of credit."
Stafford finished 18-of-32 passing for 201 yards and the one touchdown to Jones. Johnson managed just 36 yards on 20 carries, while Jones led the Lions' receivers with six catches for 101 yards.
Wentz completed 19-of-36 passes for 259 yards and two TDs. Sanders had a game-high 53 yards rushing and he also led the Eagles in receiving yards with 73, while Agholor had a game-high eight receptions.