Lions Look: Desert Debacle
This should count as a loss.
The Detroit Lions were rolling out a new offense and their shiny new toys on defense against the Arizona Cardinals, who themselves were introducing a new head coach in Kilff Kingsbury and his Air Raid offense, as well as the professional debut of QB Kyler Murray, this year's #1 overall draft pick. For three quarters, Detroit held Murray in check, limiting the Cards to two Zane Gonzalez field goals. Lions rookie tight end TJ Hockenson put up a record 136 yards for a debuting player at his position on 6 catches, one of which was for a touchdown. That scoring reception would give Detroit a 24-6 lead with 14:47 remaining in the fourth quarter. This should have been game over.
However, Murray, Arizona, and the Lions defense had other ideas.
On three successive drives, Murray led Arizona to three straight scores to tie the game in regulation. Then, after trading field goals in overtime, the Lions and Cardinals finish up tied 27-27 to post the first tie of the 2019 season. While Arizona last played to a draw in 2016 against Seattle, Detroit last posted a tie game in 1984 versus the Philadelphia Eagles.
A lot to unpack here.
First, kudos to the rookie signal caller who bounced back from a crummy first half and lead his Cards to an 18 point comeback. Murray's second half line (23/38 for 267 yards & 1 TD) showed this young man's mettle, and quite frankly, proved Cards management right in investing that precious draft pick in him. While it is way too early to call him a success, Murray displayed athleticism and leadership that are cornerstones of a franchise quarterback. After winning the overtime coin toss and marching down the field to score a field goal, that should have been it. However...
Your humble scribe did not think that the perennial Overtime Rules Are Garbage rant would be wheeled out so soon, but here we are. This is yet another example as to the idiocy of regular season OT, between the exemption of scoring a FG in the period's opening possession allowing a response by the first defenders to the abbreviated 10 minute quarter, the NFL has ensured yet another unsatisfactory conclusion to a league game. And because of the concept of "fairness" is being applied with the response to a field goal on an opening possession, this will never get fixed, or more so, retracted back to pre-2010 rules. Overtime was never broken to begin with, yet more cracks and fissures arise with every gimmicky fix.
And that leaves us to the Detroit Lions themselves. There is no gentle way to put it; that was pathetic. 18 points up, 13 minutes and change left in the fourth quarter with the offense possession of the ball should have meant a 1-0 start to the season. Instead, the defense gets split wide open while the offense can't sustain drives and continue to pad a thought to be comfortable lead. While one is trying to hold onto the fact that this is only one game in a season of 16 and many teams do not look crisp in September, this squandered opportunity has the potential to metastasize in the psyche of the entire roster. The Lions are playing in a brutal division, where 9-7 may be lucky to get you third. Combine that with a schedule that has a lot of tough stretches and only small patches of softer competition, and that makes this tie sting that much worse. Due to the activity and imperativeness of the Lions front office, this cannot be considered acceptable. General manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia will only feel more heat if this becomes more than an isolated incident.
Next up for the Lions is the first of a hard three game stretch as the Los Angeles Chargers come to Detroit for the Lions home opener. The Chargers made the playoffs last year and fought hard to upend a game Indianapolis Colts squad in overtime in Week 1. Facing the Bolts was going to be a task unto itself, but now the Lions need to put their trip to the Copper State out of their minds to rebound with a quality performance against a very good interconference opponent.