It was in his hands and then it wasn’t. The pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford was as perfect as the play call, but rookie running back D’Andre Swift couldn’t hang on for what was certain to be the game-winning touchdown against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
It could have been a magical debut for Swift, who also rushed for a touchdown early in the game, but ended up a nightmare with a sting likely to linger for some time.
But there’s no changing the past. What is done is done. Now all Swift can do is use that moment as fuel, so that he doesn’t make the same mistake again.
“Really going to have to,” Swift said Thursday, his first comments since the game. “I just got to do my part to make sure nothing like that happens again. Just got to finish better. And I will.”
When asked what happened on the play, the length of Swift’s answer matched his name, “I dropped the ball.” But when pressed for clarification, he acknowledged it was a lapse of concentration.
“Just me focusing and finishing the play all the way, though,” Swift said. “Thought I ran a pretty good route. Perfect ball. Perfect ball by Stafford. Just got to look it all the way in, and got to finish better.”
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Swift’s ability to catch passes out of the backfield was one of the primary reasons the Lions drafted him at the top of the second round this offseason, No. 35 overall. Although it wasn’t a central feature of the University of Georgia’s offense, opponents had little answer for Swift when he was deployed as a pass-catcher. And his hands were as reliable as his ability to get open.
That’s what makes Sunday’s drop, his second in the fourth quarter, inexplicable.
In the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s blunder, teammates have figuratively wrapped their arms around the rookie, seeking to both lift him up and prevent him from tearing himself down. From Adrian Peterson to Matthew Stafford to coach Matt Patricia, the focus has been the future and many brighter days Swift has ahead.
“It’s amazing just to know they got my back,” Swift said. “In the heat of the moment, I’m going to be down on myself. It’s just the competitor in me. I want to make that play. Like I said, I just got to do a better job of just focusing and finishing. But just to have them guys, just to hear their words of encouragement meant a lot.”
And the support has come from outside the Lions facility, as well. Swift joked he’s probably heard from every person in his phone contacts at some point this week.
“My parents and family and friends kind of just kept my spirits high,” Swift said. “I’m a real confident person in my style of play, so like I said, I know that wasn’t me. Just got to get back to fundamentals and having a good week of practice is being consistent throughout the week, so when I get the opportunity again, god willing, I don’t make that mistake.”
Swift’s workload in the opener — he saw more snaps than Peterson and Kerryon Johnson, despite missing a significant portion of training camp with a hip injury — only goes to show the confidence the coaching staff already has in him. And the fact the Lions put Swift on the field for some of the game’s biggest moments, from the goal line carry he scored on at the end of the half to the dropped pass in the end zone in the closing seconds, only rubber stamps the notion.
Now it’s up to Swift to quickly turn the page, to learn from his mistake and validate that confidence going forward.
“I know that’s not me, at all,” Swift said about the drop. “Just keeping my confidence up high and just knowing who I am as a player, and getting back to the fundamentals. That’s all.”