Lions notes: Defeat dampens T.J. Hockenson’s record day

Detroit News

Detroit — T.J. Hockenson never was worried about his lack of production to start this season, and on Sunday, he showed why.

With Amon-Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift and DJ Chark all missing from the starting lineup, the fourth-year tight end Hockenson had a franchise-record 179 receiving yards for a tight end, to go along with two touchdowns on eight catches.

“Going into the week, I knew it was going to be a fun one. I knew I was going to have to do a lot,” Hockenson said. “… We knew somebody was going to have to put the team on, and make sure the ball was moving. So that was kind of my goal coming into this game — just keep the ball moving, make plays when they’re called.”

Entering the weekend, Hockenson in three games this season had caught 10 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown.

“We knew we needed him to step up for us. He was going to be more of a focal point today, and he did that,” Lions head coach Dan Campbell said.

But in Sunday’s 48-45 loss to the Seahawks, Hockenson was the biggest piece of an offense that produced 45 points in a game without three of its biggest playmakers — and lost Quintez Cephus in the second half. He also caught the longest pass of his career Sunday, an 81-yard reception in the third quarter that got the Lions right back into a two-score game.

“I loved it. I love getting out, getting loose,” Hockenson said. “Got the ball in some space and was able to make something happen. It was nice to see: I come around that corner and (Lions receiver Josh Reynolds) was right there, made one miss and then I see my guys downfield blocking.”

Hockenson’s previous career-high for receiving yards came in his NFL debut in 2019, when he caught nine passes for 131 yards and a touchdown in a tie against the Arizona Cardinals.

Confusion costs Lions on third-and-long

In the waning moments of the third quarter, the Lions finally got the third-down stop they needed. Geno Smith dropped back on third-and-16 and quickly tossed the ball away. Ford Field erupted.

There was just one problem: The whistle blew before the completion of the play, rendering it dead, but nobody on the Lions sideline heard it.

“No, I couldn’t (hear the whistle),” Campbell said.

The Seahawks had committed an intentional grounding penalty the previous play, and according to referee Clay Martin, the refs blew the whistle because the clock was not properly set.

“After the intentional grounding play, we had set up for third down and our side judge noticed an error in the game clock,” Martin said. “… So, we never had, if you will, that third-down play, because the side judge came running in and shut that down prior to fixing the game clock.”

The two teams lined back up to do it all over again; this time, the whistle didn’t blow until Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny crossed the goal line for a 36-yard touchdown run — a backbreaker as far as second-half rallies is concerned.

“It was just the front we were in,” defensive tackle Alim McNeill said. “We were in a pass rush front. We were ready to just tear it up and get to the quarterback; we’re in pass-rush mentality right there, and that’s just where we were…getting off the ball right there, and then they ran the ball.”

Return of K-9

Former Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III ran right into the hearts of Spartans fans last season in his only season in green and white.

He made his return to Michigan — a place he called his “second home” — on Sunday as a rookie running back with the Seahawks.

“I’m originally from Memphis, a lot of people don’t know that, but (Michigan is) like a second home to me, because a lot of people show support to me, and I love it,” Walker said.

Unfortunately for Walker, he didn’t get much chance to shine. Penny went off in front of him, rushing for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Walker had 29 yards on eight carries. Still, it’s hard to be upset about a homecoming when you leave with the victory.

“It was cool being able to see a lot of people with my jersey on,” Walker said. “I don’t see that as much (anymore). I’m just a rookie, but it was pretty great seeing a lot of the fans just show support, even though they are rooting for the Lions.

“… It’s a blessing to be in this position and it was a great atmosphere, and you know, to come out here and get the win, that’s our main goal.”

nbianchi@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @nolanbianchi

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