Detroit Lions tie Pittsburgh Steelers, 16-16, in comedy of errors: 'It's Twilight Zone'

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PITTSBURGH — At least they won’t go 0-17.

The Detroit Lions ran for a season-high 229 yards but squandered several chances to get their first victory of the season Sunday at Heinz Field, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers in an unsightly game, 16-16.

D’Andre Swift ran for a career-high 130 yards and Jermar Jefferson and Godwin Igwebuike scored on long touchdowns runs, but the Lions offense went dormant in the fourth quarter and overtime.

"It’s Twilight Zone," Lions coach Dan Campbell said. "I don’t know what this is really. And I’m sure I’ve been in a tie before as a player. For some reason I can’t remember that if I was."

Jared Goff threw for 114 yards, his lowest total since 2019, while playing through an oblique injury, and Ryan Santoso missed the potential game-winning 48-yard field goal short and to the right with 4:03 left in overtime.

Santoso also missed an extra point in the third quarter, which allowed Pittsburgh to tie the game with two Chris Boswell field goals.

FORWARD DOWN THE FIELD: Even a tie is progress for Lions, especially with a functional running game

PRACTICING POSITIVIT: Why Lions look much better after the bye in 16-16 tie with Steelers

After the game, Lions players took no solace in ensuring they won't become the first 0-17 team in NFL history. At 0-8-1, the Lions are the only winless team left in the NFL.

"It don’t count as a win for me, so we just got to find a way to win a game," Swift said. "It’s kind of like a loss, for real, for real."

The Lions got the ball first in an extra period that featured six change of possessions, two Steelers fumblers and one Goff interception that was nullified by penalty.

Goff completed a 30-yard pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown on the first play of overtime to get the Lions in Steelers territory, but took a 9-yard sack on third down three players later that kept them out of field goal range.

Mason Rudolph completed a long pass to Diontae Johnson on the Steelers’ second play of the ensuing possession, but Mark Gilbert punched a fumble loose giving the Lions the ball at their own 45.

Goff had an interception nullified by defensive holding on the next play, then drove the Lions inside the Steelers’ 30-yard line. T.J. Hockenson was called for holding on a short third-and-4 completion to the 25, and after Goff completed an 8-yard pass to Kalif Raymond on the next snap, Santoso came on for the winning field goal try.

In a steady rain, Santoso, filling in for the injured Austin Seibert, lined his kick short of the uprights.

"It just, it happened," Campbell said. "You'd like to think they're going to make that kick, but it's also - those conditions were rough. That's why if anything I put that on us offensively. We didn't get down there further. We put ourselves in a bind."

Jalen Elliott dropped a would-be interception for the Lions on the next series, on a bad overthrow by Rudolph, and Goff took a sack to start the ensuing three-and-out series by the Lions.

BIRKETT: As Lions forge new identity, Steelers remain best template for success

The Steelers (5-3-1) had a chance to win on their final possession, but Will Harris forced a Pat Freiermuth fumble at the Lions’ 38-yard line with 8 seconds left, leaving Pittsburgh without a go-ahead field goal attempt.

The Lions, in left tackle Taylor Decker's season debut after September finger surgery, controlled play most of Sunday's first three quarters with their running game. They played Matt Nelson frequently as a sixth lineman, and their 229 yards was their most since a 248-yard performance Oct. 21, 2018, against the Miami Dolphins.

Goff, who hurt his side on an incomplete pass late in the first quarter, had one of the worst games of his career. He had minus-1 yard pass in the first half, completed 11 of 20 passes for 54 yards in regulation, and the Lions were unable to move the ball through the air.

Rudolph, making his 10th career start with Ben Roethlisberger in COVID-19 protocols, finished 30 of 50 for 242 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift runs the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter at Heinz Field, Nov. 14, 2021.
Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift runs the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter at Heinz Field, Nov. 14, 2021.

The Lions have not won since Dec. 6 of last year, when they rallied to defeat the Chicago Bears in Darrell Bevell’s first game as interim head coach, 34-30.

"I don’t know how to feel," Goff said. "I think it’s my first tie if I’m remembering correctly. It feels better than a loss, but still not where we need to be. It’s a step in the right direction and it’s encouraging the way we fought and some of the plays that we were able to make on offense."

The Li visit the Cleveland Browns (5-5) next Sunday. Cleveland lost 45-7 at New England.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions tie Pittsburgh Steelers at 16 in comedy of errors