Gritty Lions show improvement but fall short in shootout with Eagles

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There were quite a few silver linings on the stormy clouds that flew over, and often inside, Ford Field in Sunday’s 38-35 season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. When viewed through the prism of last year’s 44-6 drubbing on Halloween in the same matchup, it’s impossible to not see the growth in Dan Campbell’s Detroit Lions.

Detroit did a lot of very good things. They ran for 181 yards on 28 carries, with D’Andre Swift going off for 144 yards on 15 carries. The Lions kept the chains moving with nine conversions on 14 third-down attempts. When the Eagles scored in the second half, Detroit answered each time with a touchdown of its own.

The defense even adjusted late and forced two quick punts to give Jared Goff and the offense a fighting chance. All four red zone possessions resulted in offensive touchdowns, one of the keys to the game. Detroit really did check a lot of boxes in this loss.

Alas, the Eagles were just a little better. Jalen Hurts was fantastic with both his arm and his legs. The Lions figured some things out but not fast enough. A terrible penalty by Tracy Walker, who threw a punch and was ejected, and a highly debatable pass interference call against Jeff Okudah, helped the Eagles rain down just enough points to outscore the game Lions.

Compared to Week 8 last year, it was a night-and-day difference for Detroit. Campbell’s team has significantly improved. Against lesser foes than the Eagles, Sunday’s gritty effort might be enough. But there is still some needed growth and polish before the Lions can win games like this against good opponents.

Story originally appeared on Lions Wire