The News’ Justin Rogers, Bob Wojnowski analyze Lions’ loss to the Bills
The Lions gave a Super Bowl contender their best shot, but fell just short, snapping the team’s three-game winning streak. We talk about what it means.
Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Detroit — Taylor Decker is the longest-tenured Detroit Lions player.
After a crushing Thanksgiving Day loss in which many fans have been quick to point out just how much these Lions still feel like those Lions, you’ll have to pardon his French.
“This isn’t the f—— same old Lions,” Decker said following the 28-25 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
“We’re gonna go out there and we’re gonna get our respect and we’re gonna earn that respect. We came up short today, but week in and week out, we know we’re gonna go out there and we’re gonna bring it, and we’re not gonna get done. We’re gonna keep fighting, and those will turn into wins against those sort of high-caliber teams.
“I think we’re still trending up. I really do.”
Those who are quick to jump on the “SOL” mantra probably won’t like this quote. After all, the Lions did beat themselves — which Decker himself admitted — and playing a close game before eventually losing by 3 is the same result as games against Philadelphia and Seattle (the Lions also lost by four to both Minnesota and Miami).
On the flip side, with the exception of the Minnesota game, each of those close losses to contenders saw the Lions fall out of the game, storm back late, and fall short. This was not the case Thursday; the Lions got stops when they needed them and traded leads in the fourth quarter.
“When you’re playing that caliber team, the margin for error is very minimal,” Lions head coach Dan Campbell said. “But I also want them to understand it should sting that we lost that game, because we had our opportunities. But that doesn’t mean we took a step back either. I still felt growth today. I feel like we are continuing to take a step.”
They just left too much time for Josh Allen.
“That’s a good team playing very well and playing good football right now, and they’re coached extremely well. So credit to them for such a good game plan,” Allen said.
Inside the Lions locker room, things certainly felt different; lots of heavy sighs in a room otherwise filled with silence and disappointment — they truly believed they would win, know exactly where they fell short, and are confident they can fix it.
“I think over the last four weeks, we just are such a different team. It’s such a different feel,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “There’s just a feeling you get. I don’t know if it’s tangible, but there’s a feeling that once we got the Packers win, and then once we went on the road and beat the Bears, we walked into New York thinking that nobody in the league could beat us, and we kind of displayed that, and today we had our moments that were good, our moments that were bad, and ultimately, the bad moments made it, so we didn’t win the game.”
Decker has been in Detroit since 2016. He’s competed for a division. He’s seen Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson walk away from this city empty-handed. He’s played for a team that had potential to go winless. If anybody on this team has the prerogative to be Lionized, it’s him. But he’s not. As a matter of fact, he didn’t feel “like we were outmatched at all.”
“I thought the entire game we were going to win,” Decker said. “Even on the last-second field goal, I was like, ‘Man, they’re gonna block the kick.’ … I mean, we just — I felt it. We truthfully went out there expecting to win and we didn’t, and that’s on us. I don’t think it’s anything they did. They’re a great team; give them their credit.
“But I think we had opportunities to put that game away or at least get into a four-minute situation where we could run off the clock, so yeah. We’re going out there expecting to win every single game, no matter who it is that’s on the opposite side.”
You may not want to believe that these Lions are different, and frankly, nobody would blame you. At the end of the day, it’s on them to prove it with wins and losses — but the process of getting better still matters.
Houston is a problem
Not Aidan Hutchinson — not Robert Porcher, Ezekiel Ansah or Ndamukong Suh.
No, it was sixth-round draft pick James Houston who on Thursday became the first Lions player to have a multi-sack game in his NFL debut. Houston, who’d been limited to practice-squad reps until the Lions were forced to go without Josh Paschal (knee) and Charles Harris (groin), sacked Josh Allen twice on Thanksgiving Day and recovered Kalif Raymond‘s punt-return fumble in the first half.
“Knowing that I was on the practice squad and switching positions, I had a lot on my plate mentally, physically, everything,” Houston said. “Obviously, the guys in the front office, they knew what I had a little bit more process to go. They unleashed me and it showed.”
Veteran Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone said Houston’s pass-rush abilities are “special.”
“(We’ve) just (been) trying to find a way to get him up,” Anzalone said. “He definitely capitalized on his opportunities and they were not ready for him. It’s fun to watch when young guys like that get an opportunity and then capitalize on it.”
Jerry Jacobs to concussion protocol
The Lions certainly could have used the services of second-year cornerback Jerry Jacobs as the Bills made a mad dash for field-goal range in the final 23 seconds.
But as Allen’s 36-yard seed sailed over the middle to Stefon Diggs, Jacobs was in the locker room. The Lions announced after the game that Jacobs, who’d played a big role in helping limit Diggs to 41 yards before the final drive, was in concussion protocol.
Before knowing that Jacobs went to protocol, Campbell said the staff wasn’t sure what exactly ended up happening on the play.
“I know he felt a little light-headed, so we’re not sure,” Campbell said. “There’s a chance he goes into concussion protocol, but yet, we never really saw him bang his head. He feels a little off, so we’ll see.”