Lions’ first-half observations: Defense on field too long as Eagles hold 24-14 lead

Detroit News

Nolan Bianchi of The Detroit News offers his observations after the first half of the Lions game against the Eagles at Ford Field in Detroit.

Offense needs a tuneup

After racing 75 yards down the field in nine plays on its first possession, Detroit’s offense badly needs a tune-up entering the second half.

The Lions on their next four possessions ran just 11 plays total, a trio of three-and-outs and a pick-6 for Jared Goff that put the Eagles up by two scores. Goff ended the second half 7-for-15 with 53 passing yards and the pick.

D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams carried the ball with authority on the Lions’ opening drive to give Detroit a 7-0 lead. On his first carry, Swift ran the ball 50 yards en route to a touchdown drive that saw the Lions rush for 77 yards on six plays (an average of 12.83 yards per carry).

Outside of that first drive, the Lions’ offense was an absolute mess. The next three drives all resulted in three-and-out: A total of seven yards were gained as Goff was nearly intercepted twice in the final drive of that stretch. Despite pairing wonderfully together in training camp, it looks like he and wide receiver D.J. Chark might still have some getting used to. Chark was targeted twice: He dropped the first one, and on the second pass, he cut inside while Goff threw outside to end a drive.

The Lions picked up some momentum after the interception, as Goff fired a 28-yard throw to Josh Reynolds that eventually led to touchdown for Swift, who ended the first half with 97 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. But regardless of two drives that looked great, Detroit simply won’t be able to stay in any 60-minute contest in which the defense is forced to play as much as it has.

More: Live updates: Lions vs. Eagles

Third-down thorn

On each of the Eagles’ first two offensive series, Jalen Hurts managed to keep Philadelphia alive on third down by scrambling from the pocket and moving the chains with his feet. On the first series, that came on third-and-15. On the second, it resulted in Philadelphia scoring its first points of the game.

Philadelphia ended the first half 6-for-10 on third down; Detroit was 2-for-6.

By going for it on fourth down twice to start the game, it’s clear that the Eagles think they’ll eventually win out in high-leverage situations over 60 minutes in a law-of-averages type deal. It looked like the Lions had already started to tighten things up, as a designed run for the Eagles on third-and-6 near midfield in the second quarter resulted in a stop.

But the very next drive, Philadelphia converted easily on third-and-2 at their own and scored. Then, on the final drive of the half, inexperienced cornerback Will Harris found himself covering A.J. Brown down the sideline on-one-one, resulting in a 54-yard reception that put the Eagles in a position for a two-score lead at half.

No rush

At the start of this one, the Lions’ new-look pass rush looked a lot like the old pass rush: Ineffective. The Lions finally grabbed their first sack of the half when Tracy Walker took Hurts down for a loss of four on the Eagles’ final drive of the half.

Granted, the Eagles have a ton of moving pieces in a high-powered offense to counteract the rush, but the point remains that Detroit has been mostly unable to reach the quarterback. While Hurts has executed flawlessly in a scheme that does a lot of the work for him, he’s shown that he’ll get a little cavalier with the ball in his hands when the Lions have shown some semblance of a pass rush, and Detroit needs him to make mistakes if it wants a chance to be the better team in the second half.

Twitter: @nolanbianchi

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