Oct. 15, 2019
Lions Look: 20 Seconds Too Long
It was close, even though many thought it would not be.
The Kansas City Chiefs and the Detroit Lions both entered this game undefeated (3-0 & 2-0-1, respectively), but were each viewed completely different. The Chiefs were and are a favorite to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LIV in February, led by reigning league MVP Patrick Mahomes not missing a beat as one of the game's most exciting players. The Lions, meanwhile, were lucky to be in this position. After gagging away an 18 point lead in Arizona to force a tie with the Cardinals, they defeated two injury compromised opponents in the Los Angeles Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles, and looked ugly doing it. This game was to expose the Lions as frauds while the Chiefs whip up on yet another ill equipped opponent to counter their explosive offense.
But the Lions had other ideas.
Where KC came in ready for a game, Detroit came ready for a fight. The defense, without their top cornerback in Darius Slay (hamstring), would harass Mahomes all day while literally punching out footballs from Chief ball carriers in forcing 4 fumbles (one of those was on special teams), with the Lions recovering 3 of them. Meanwhile, the Lions offense, led by QB Matthew Stafford, who was hampered by a hip injury, were tasked with trying to keep up with the Chiefs juggernaut. With 3 touchdown passes and 297 yards through the air, Stafford actually outdueled Mahomes (24/42 for 313 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT) on this day.
The Lions won the turnover battle (3 to 2) and time of possession (33:54 to 23:06). But the Chiefs showed why they are Super Bowl contenders and the Lions aspire to be one, and that can be encapsulated in two events. Midway through the third quarter, the Lions were trying to break a 13 all tie. The ball was handed off to RB Kerryon Johnson as Detroit was driving toward the goal line. Johnson attempted to extend his arms with the ball in his hands, trying to break the plane of the goal line to score a touchdown. Amidst the sea of humanity which Johnson was enmeshed, the ball was jarred loose. As it ultimately squirted out of the pile of bodies, Chiefs defensive back Bashaud Breeland scooped up the ball and ran 100 yards to score a touchdown for KC to give the Chiefs their first lead of the game. That heady play turned the momentum of the game around, as it forced the Lions to play catch up. And the second was the final Chiefs drive, where they converted a 4th & 8 in their own territory en route to a Darrel Williams 1 yard TD run giving Kansas City a 34-30 lead they would never relinquish, as they left the Lions 20 seconds to try to respond.
While moral victories often feel hollow, the Lions, both the organization and its fans, can make one conclusion after such a contest. As long as the Lions do not beat themselves, they can match up against any other opponent on their schedule and have a reasonable expectation to win. Yes, this is coming off the Lions first loss of the season (2-1-1), but this singular game strips away the narrative that Detroit got lucky in preceding weeks. Did the Lions seem fluky in your estimation, provided you watched the game? No, they did not, and if anyone still suggests otherwise, then they either did not watch this game or disingenuous with their analysis. The Chiefs (4-0) are a lot to handle, and this Lions team took them to the brink. They will and should be a tough out going forward.
The Lions will enter their bye week next week, and will face the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in the Week 6 installment of Monday Night Football. That will be the first of two consecutive division games, as the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings on six days prep in Week 7. The Packers are leading the NFC North, but last place is only a game behind. Every divisional game will be crucial if any team wishes to fulfill a higher destiny in January.