The Detroit Lions lost their first game of the season but within that loss, quarterback Jared Goff learned something about himself and his new team.
“I think we learned how we can be down in a game and come back and make it a ball game,” he said. “You don’t ever want to have to be there (trailing big) but we have that ability to throw the ball and come back and make it a game.”
The 41-33 loss to the San Francisco 49ers wasn’t as much a tale of two halves as it was a tale of 2 ½ quarters and a 1 ½ quarters. After falling behind, 38-10, with 7:54 left in the third quarter, the Lions showed their mettle and mounted a furious rally, outscoring the Niners, 23-3, down the stretch.
Goff wound up having a decent game statistically. He was 38 of 57 for 338 yards with three touchdowns and one interception (a bad pick-six).
But he struggled to throw deep and find his wide receivers in the first half, when he completed just two of his 15 passes to a wide receiver and threw mostly shallow; Lions pass-catchers averaged 6.1 yards per reception. The Niners averaged 14.1 yards per catch and built a 31-10 halftime lead.
In the second half, Goff and the Lions were forced to be more aggressive. Goff and offense seemed to operate more fluidly, but offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn doesn’t sound like he’s ready to order Goff to execute an all-out aerial attack just yet.
“I think it’s too soon to say he needs to be more aggressive throwing the ball down the field after one game, I do,” Lynn said. “He’s been very good at taking what the defense gives him and that’s what you want in a good quarterback.
“Tom Brady will check it down 23 times. He did it on me 19 one time. I like that mindset, but there will come a time and place when you have to go down the field with the ball and he’s got the arm to do that.”
The offense always works as a marriage between the run and pass and the Lions were clearly stronger running the ball the first week with D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. Along with tight end T.J. Hockenson, the run game was the heartbeat of the offense.
“It’s huge, it’s huge,” Goff said of the run game’s efficiency. “You see Swift the other day catch that screen pass and take it to the house. Having a guy like him who can hit home runs like that and Jamaal is just the same. It’s a good little combo for us.”
Typically, teams run the ball in order to open up the passing game. But that philosophy may have to be reversed if the Green Bay Packers’ defense decides to key on the run Monday night.
“When you’re running the ball well,” Lynn said, “and you’re making the defense defend the run, it’s a lot easier to throw the ball down the field and get your run-action shots. If we continue to run the ball well, we will have those shots down the field.”
But injuries in the receiving corps could limit the Lions’ options on going deep. With No. 1 receiver Tyrell Williams out with a concussion and No. 2 receiver Kalif Raymond questionable as a surprise visitor to the injury report Saturday with a thigh injury, the Lions’ passing game suddenly has more concerns as it prepares to face Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander.
“You can go deep, you can pass to run and run to pass,” Lynn said. “But that deep passing game, it’s more than just Jared. You have to have the right people around him to have a deep passing game as well.”
Goff also learned something else after the first game that he plans to implement Monday: executing the basics.
“Just go back to the fundamentals,” he said. “Like I said, be efficient on first and second down, take care of the football, move the ball down the field and watch our defense fly around out there and hopefully good results will come.”
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.