The Lions Suffered A Controversial 30-26 Loss To The Atlanta Falcons Sunday. Here’s How It Happened.
The Atlanta Falcons started the game with possession of the football and took it right down the field for a touchdown. They took nearly seven minutes off the clock on a balanced 12 play drive that ended with a four yard touchdown from Matt Ryan to Mohamed Sanu.
The Lions got off to a good start on their ensuing possession, as Stafford completed his first three passes to pick up two first downs. The drive was derailed by an unnecessary roughness penalty by TJ Lang after that and the Lions had to punt.
The Falcons ran two plays netting eight yards on their next possession, setting them up with a 3rd down and two. Nevin Lawson committed a pass interference penalty on the third down attempt, giving the Falcons 22 yards. Atlanta picked up one more first down with a 12 yard Devonta Freeman run, then the first quarter ended.
Falcons lead 7-0
Atlanta started the second quarter at the Detroit 15 yard line. A false start penalty and a sack from Anthony Zettel forced them back though and they had to settle for a 36 yard field goal to make the score 10-0.
The Lions advanced the ball down the field on the ensuing possession thanks to a 12 yard reception by Marvin Jones and an unnecessary roughness penalty on Deion Jones. The drive stalled shortly thereafter and the Lions put their first points on the board with a 55 yard field goal.
Atlanta followed that up with another long, balanced drive, this time going 64 yards in nine plays, culminating in a one yard touchdown run from Devonta Freeman, bringing Atlanta’s lead to 17-3.
Ameer Abdullah carried the Lions offense into field goal range on the next drive with a 22 yard reception and a 10 yard rush. Matt Prater connected on a 40 yard field goal to make the score 17-6.
On the first play of the next drive, Matt Ryan was intercepted by Glover Quin, who returned the turnover for a 37 yard touchdown, narrowing Atlanta’s lead to 17-13.
The last meaningful possession of the first half was right after the interception. Matt Ryan completed a 27 yard pass to get into Detroit territory, and Matt Bryant made a 48 yard field goal with 31 seconds left in the first half.
Falcons lead 20-13
The Lions started the second half with the football and immediately went three and out after Matthew Stafford was sacked. Atlanta picked up 19 yards on their next five plays before settling for a 40 yard field goal to make their lead 10 points again.
The Lions scored their only offensive touchdown of the game on the next possession, as they went 75 yards in 12 plays. Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah and Eric Ebron made receptions of more than 10 yards and TJ Jones made a 20 yard catch to set up an 11 yard Golden Tate touchdown.
Atlanta picked up one first down on their next possession before Matt Ryan threw a high pass that was tipped and intercepted by Darius Slay, who returned it to the Atlanta 21 yard line.
The Lions offense was unable to capitalize on the interception as they only advanced the ball four yards on the next three plays. Detroit connected on a field goal to tie the game at 23.
Devonta Freeman has runs of 8, 11 and 16 yards to get to the Lions 40 yard line before the end of the third quarter.
Tied at 23
The very first play of the fourth quarter was a Matt Ryan screen pass to Taylor Gabriel that went for a 40 yard touchdown to give the Falcons a 30 to 23 lead.
An 18 yard Golden Tate catch and 11 yard Ameer Abdullah run put the Lions in field goal range on the ensuing possession but the Lions couldn’t advance the ball any further and Matt Prater made a 57 yard field goal to shrink Atlanta’s lead to 4.
Atlanta ran the ball at will on the next drive gaining 38 yards on four rushing attempts. However, once they got into the red zone a pass deflected off of Mohamed Sanu’s hands and was intercepted and returned to the Detroit 45 by Darius Slay.
The Lions were unable to get anything going off of the interception and punted. All of the next three possessions ended in punts.
On the last possession of the game, Detroit got the ball at their own 11 yard line with 2:23 left to go. Stafford hit Golden Tate for 15 yards, then TJ Jones for 29 yards to move down the field quickly. He then threw a 16 yard pass to Theo Riddick and scrambled for 11 yards. Controversial penalties occurred over the next several plays, including holding and pass interference penalties on both teams.
This culminated in the Lions having the ball at the one yard line with 19 seconds left. Stafford threw incompletions on first and second down. On third down with 12 seconds left, Matthew Stafford threw a screen pass to Golden Tate, who dove into the end zone for a touchdown. After the play was reviewed, Tate was ruled short of the end zone though, and the game was over.
Atlanta wins 30-26
Atlanta had 428 offensive yard compared to Detroit’s 324
The Falcons offense had a pretty easy time moving the ball on Sunday, while the Lions offense struggled at times. It was to be expected that Atlanta would be able to move the ball but the Lions offense was simply not able to keep up with them.
Atlanta rushed for 151 yards at 5.4 yards per attempt
The Falcons ran the ball at will in this game. Whether it was Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman, the run blocking was superb for Atlanta. Detroit’s defensive line got pushed back seemingly every running play and the linebackers were unable to make tackles.
Atlanta gained 26 first downs
The Falcons racked up 26 first downs, a huge number. There were stretches of this game where it seemed like every other offensive play would pick up a first down for the Falcons.
Atlanta possessed the ball for 32:35, Detroit for 27:25
In the first half of the game, Atlanta completely dominated time of possession. The Lions evened it out some in the second half, but Atlanta still won this statistical battle.
The Lions committed 9 penalties for 98 yards
Penalties were very costly for the Lions on Sunday. They lost just shy of 100 yards because of them. Some of the calls against the Lions were highly questionable, but Detroit still needs to be more disciplined.
The Lions only rushed for 71 yards at just 3.7 yards per attempt
Even down by four points with three minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Lions insisted on running the football. In my opinion, their unwavering focus on the run cost them this game, as the Lions offense threw away multiple possession with run plays that went nowhere. The run blocking and the backs need to improve.
Matthew Stafford only completed 25 of 45 pass attempts for only 265 yards
Stafford completed just over half of his passes in this game and only averaged 5.9 yards per attempt. There were several throws (particularly in the first half) where Stafford was off. If he had played better for much of the game, this likely would’ve been a Detroit win.
The Lions won the turnover battle 3 to 0
The biggest positive for the Lions from this game was that they proved their ability to take the ball away in weeks 1 and 2 was not a fluke. They intercepted Matt Ryan (who had not thrown an interception since last December) 3 times and now lead the NFL in turnover differential.
Plays That Made The Game
Devonta Freeman’s 3rd and 16 conversion set the tone for this game early on. After a sack, the Lions had Atlanta backed up and facing a third down and very long. Devonta Freeman ran a deep route. Tahir Whitehead was unable to stick to Freeman in coverage, allowing Atlanta to gain 18 yards.
Mohamed Sanu’s 4 yard touchdown reception was the first touchdown of the game. Sanu lined up in the slot and ran an out route. Matt Ryan scrambled to the left and was able to find Sanu right on the goal line for a touchdown pass.
Anthony Zettel’s sack was a big play for the Lions defense early. It forced Atlanta to settle for a field goal on their second possession of the game. Zettel got a good bull rush on Atlanta’s right tackle and ran pushed him back directly into Matt Ryan for the Lions second sack of the game.
Devonta Freeman’s 1 yard touchdown run was a microcosm of Detroit’s run defense throughout this game. Matt Ryan pitched the ball to Freeman, and the Atlanta offensive line opened up a huge running lane on the goal line. Freeman got into the end zone for an easy touchdown, and the Falcons were now winning by two touchdowns.
Glover Quin’s interception was the first touchdown for the Lions on Sunday. Atlanta was leading by 11 points and looking to put up more points before halftime. Matt Ryan targeted Julio Jones, but Glover Quin was able to step in front of the pass and intercept it. There was only open field in front of Quin, and he took the pick into the end zone.
Golden Tate’s 11 yard touchdown made this game close in the 3rd quarter. Tate ran an in route over the middle of the field, and Stafford was able to hang in the pocket long enough for Tate to get open against the zone coverage. Tate made the reception at the five yard line and was able to elude a could of Falcons and score the touchdown.
Darius Slay’s first interception was a great overall play from the Lions defense. Ryan’s first read was taken away by good Lions coverage on the play, and the defensive line was able to make him uncomfortable in the pocket. Ryan threw an off balance pass to Tevin Coleman, put the pass was high and tipped into the air. Slay was then able to make a great play on the ball, giving the Lions possession.
Taylor Gabriel’s 40 yard touchdown ended up being the game deciding score in this game. Ryan faked the handoff to the right and then threw a screen back to the left. Gabriel made Quandre Diggs miss, got a few nice blocks and ran into the end zone for an easy touchdown.
Darius Slay’s second interception was huge because it prevented the Falcons from scoring on a red zone trip. Atlanta for sure would have had a field goal, and maybe a touchdown on this drive if not for the turnover. Mohamed Sanu dropped a relatively easy reception, and Slay made a great heads up play to come up with the ball.
Matthew Stafford’s incomplete pass to Eric Ebron looked like it could have been a game winning touchdown had Ebron seen the ball. Stafford put the perfect amount of touch on the pass, and Ebron should have caught it and been able to get into the end zone. Instead, Ebron lost the ball in the air and the pass was incomplete.
Golden Tate’s goal line reception was the most controversial play in the NFL this week. The play was originally ruled a touchdown, but after review the referees said that Tate was short of the endzone. Because of the official review, there was a 10 second run off on the game clock. There were only eight seconds left in the game, so the referees declared the game over after overturning the touchdown.
Player Of The Game
Darius Slay is this weeks player of the game. Slay played with a lot toughness win and was the best player in Honolulu blue on Sunday. He finished the game with 5 tackles, 3 passes defended, and a career high two interceptions.
Slay is arguably the best player on the Lions defense, and he showed why on Sunday. He displayed excellence in all areas of his game, making good tackles, showing sticky coverage, and making plays on tipped passes. If Slay can keep up his level of play from Sunday, the Lions secondary will continue to be the strength of the defense.