NFL Wire News

Lions have work to do after loss to Chargers

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ALLEN PARK, Mich. — After having the second-best defense in the NFL in 2014, the Detroit Lions appeared to be a completely different team in a 33-28 loss to the San Diego Chargers in Week 1.

The Lions allowed 483 yards, struggled tackling and made few adjustments. They also let the Chargers battle back with 30 straight points after taking a 21-3 lead in the second quarter.

“We’re banking on this being the asterisk and not the standard,” defensive end Darryl Tapp said.

Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, strong safety James Ihedigbo and cornerback Rashean Mathis were among the players who struggled, and even though star linebacker DeAndre Levy missed the game with a hip injury, there were far too many mistakes by guys expected to be reliable on defense.

Meanwhile, the offense didn’t do enough to support a defense that wore down during the Chargers’ 38-plus minutes of possession. The Lions had just 47 offensive plays, seven of which came on their final drive, and 302 yards. Quarterback Matthew Stafford finished 19 of 30 for 246 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson had just two catches for 39 yards on a surprisingly low four targets.

“We’re just trying to take what the defense gives us,” Stafford said. “And they were doing a good job of playing two-man to his side quite often, cutting to him if he was running shallow routes. They were paying a bunch of attention to him, just like all the teams do that we play. Every game is different.

“We’ll find ways to get him the ball when we need to.”

The Lions needed to get Johnson the ball early and often, but they seemed disinterested in testing the cornerback and safety over the top that followed him around the field. Rookie running back Ameer Abdullah played well with 94 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown on his 11 touches, but poor execution overall led to many failed drives.

“There were obviously quite a few things we need to get straightened out,” head coach Jim Caldwell said. “There’s no question about that.”

NOTES, QUOTES

–Quarterback Matthew Stafford took a hard hit from linebacker Melvin Ingram in the third quarter and later had to wear a protective sleeve on his throwing arm. However, he finished the game and told the local FOX affiliate that he’ll play next Sunday.

“It was a tough one,” Stafford said of the hit, which led to an interception. “He got me good, kind of right on the triceps, elbow area, but I’ll be good to go. I started feeling better toward the end of the game, and I’ll be good to go. I’m not too worried about it.”

–Right guard Larry Warford said this is the first time he’s missed a season opener and had to watch the game at the team facility Sunday as he continues to recover from a high ankle sprain.

“It’s not fun,” he said Monday. “You want to be out there helping your team and contributing. You don’t want to just be sitting on your butt and watching.”

–The Lions would not use star linebacker DeAndre Levy’s absence as an excuse in the loss to San Diego.

“He’s been a double-digit tackler the great majority of the time that he’s in any ball game that he’s played for us and that being the case, I don’t want to at any point in time make you feel like we’re coming up with any kind of excuse,” head coach Jim Caldwell said. “Guys that are in the ball game are expected to do a job and do a job well and we’re all responsible for that, and we had plenty of manpower to get it done. We just didn’t get it done.”

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

–QB Matthew Stafford suffered an elbow injury in the third quarter, but finished the game and plans to play Week 2.

–TE Brandon Pettigrew suffered an apparent hamstring injury on the Lions’ final extra point, but the team has not disclosed how significant his ailment is.

–CB Darius Slay suffered an ankle injury in the fourth quarter and did not return, and his status for Week 2 is unknown.

–LB DeAndre Levy’s return date from a hip injury remains unknown.

–RG Larry Warford’s return date from a high ankle sprain remains unknown, but he hopes to practice this week.

–DT Caraun Reid is still dealing with a high ankle sprain, and his return date is unknown.

REPORT CARD VS. CHARGERS

PASSING OFFENSE: D — Matthew Stafford was 19 of 30 for 246 yards with two touchdown and two interceptions, but much of his production came in a desperation drive at the end of the game. He also targeted Calvin Johnson just four times, which is unacceptable.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B — Rookie Ameer Abdullah scored a 24-yard touchdown run on his first NFL carry and finished with 50 yards on seven attempts. Overall, the Lions averaged 4.3 yards per carry, but had just 17 handoffs and failed to gain yardage at inopportune times.

PASS DEFENSE: D — The Lions had no answer for the short passing attack the Chargers employed in the second half. Receiver Keenan Allen exploited the Lions’ cushion for 15 catches and 166 yards, and receiver Stevie Johnson added six catches for 82 yards while tight end Ladarius Green had 74 yards on five catches as the Lions struggled to tackle in space.

RUSH DEFENSE: B — The Lions held San Diego to 3.2 yards per carry, but struggled with draw plays in the red zone, allowing two touchdowns to running back Danny Woodhead. The Chargers’ longest run was just 14 yards, and with better tackling, this unit could remain strong for the Lions.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus — Using two of their top offensive playmakers in the return game was a boon for the Lions. Running back Ameer Abdullah averaged 35 yards on his three kickoff returns, including a 48-yarder, and wide receiver Golden Tate averaged 17 yards on his two punt returns. The Lions also limited Chargers return man Jacoby Jones.

COACHING: F — After grabbing a 21-3 first-half lead, the Lions appeared to lose their aggression, which allowed the Chargers to score 30 straight points. The defense failed to make adjustments as San Diego gained 483 yards, and the offense didn’t utilize its best players nearly enough.


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