The Lions’ defense was stingy and quarterback Jared Goff tossed some nice aerial strikes. The Lions improved to 2-1, while the Falcons dropped to 2-1. The Falcons were 1-7 on the road last season.
“Too many negative plays on early downs,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “Put you behind the count a lot on the road. Certainly made life on third down a little tougher. We’ve got to do a better job, all of us.”
Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson led the charge with two sacks as they amassed seven against the Falcons.
“They are a great front,” Falcons right guard Chris Lindstrom said. “We knew that going in. They are very talented. They’ve got multiple rushers. Great pressure packages. We just have to do better.”
The Lions also had eight quarterback hits, but Ridder absolved the offensive line for poor blocking.
“I’m not worried about those guys up front,” Ridder said. “Those guys did a great job. I’ve got to get the ball out of my hands quicker. Got to make better reads. Things have got to happen fast out there. All five of those guys, I love those guys. They are the grit out there. I’m not going to put it on them. It was more so myself.”
Running backs Jahmyr Gibbs and Bijan Robinson were a part of the story line, but Detroit’s defense and Goff stole the show. Robinson was taken eighth overall in the draft and Gibbs, who’s from Dalton and played at Georgia Tech and Alabama, went four picks later.
The Lions kept the Falcons out of the endzone. The Lions held Robinson to 33 yards on 10 carries. He also caught four passes for 27 yards.
Gibbs rushed 17 times for 80 yards and caught a pass for 2 yards. Gibbs had a nice 21-yard run that set up Goff’s 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Goff was 22 of 33 for 243 yards and one touchdown pass. Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown caught nine passes for 102 yards and rookie tight end Sam LaPorta had eight catches for 84 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown. He had 10 catches for 102 yards in the Lions previous two games.
With Goff having time to scan the field, the Lions shredded the Falcons secondary for 188 yards in the first half as they built a 13-3 lead.
Goff completed 15 of 18 passes in the first half.
“He made us pay on a couple of plays,” Falcons safety Richie Grant said. “They’ve got good receivers. A good receiving corps. They just took advantage of what we gave them.”
The Falcons’ offense couldn’t get into gear over six first-half possessions. The Falcons had three drives where they didn’t pick up a first down and went three-and-out. The Falcons picked up a first down before punting on another drive. They netted a field goal on their third possession and ended their sixth possession getting sacked as time expired in the second quarter.
The Lions had only one sack entering the game.
“I have not watched the film yet, but obviously that’s not a number that you’re proud…..seven sacks that’s not a proud number for the offensive linemen,” Falcons left guard Matthew Bergeron said. “But you know, good games or bad games, you have to figure out how to move on.”
The game opened with an exchange of punts before the Lions opened the scoring. Lions kicker Riley Patterson made a 37-yard field goal to make it 3-0. Koo made a 48-yard field goal to tie the game with 11:32 left in the second quarter.
On Detroit’s next possession, Goff connected with LaPorta for the touchdown and while the Falcons’ offense was sputtering about, Patterson added a 24-yard field goal for the halftime margin.
“Yeah, just a little mis-communication,” Grant said of LaPorta’s TD catch. “At the end of the day, we have to make those type of plays. No matter how it happened, we have to shake it off and make those type of plays.”
Koo missed a 47-yard field attempt on the Falcons first possession of the third quarter.
Goff scored on a 3-yard run in the fourth quarter and Koo added a 24-yard field goal for the Falcons.
Both teams are hoping to end long playoff droughts this season. The Falcons have not been to the playoffs since the 2017 season and Lions haven’t reached the postseason since 2016. Their droughts rank among the longest streaks behind the New York Jets’ 12-year drought.
It would have been instructive if the Falcons had reached 3-0.
Three-fourths of the teams that start 3-0 have advanced to the playoffs since they were expanded to 12 teams in 1990.
The Falcons outscored the Panthers and Packers 27-0 in the fourth quarter, holding those opponents to a combined 55 yards while they completed just 5 of 20 passes.
The Lions outscored the Falcons 7-3 in the fourth quarter.
Jeff Okudah returned to play against his former team. The Lions drafted the former Ohio State star No. 3 overall in 2020 but traded him to the Falcons over the offseason for a fifth-round pick.
Next up for the Falcons is a game against the Jaguars at 9:30 a.m. Sunday in London.
The Bow Tie Chronicles