New-look Lions make familiar mistakes in 41-33 loss to 49ers

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If the Dan Campbell era is anything like his first game as Detroit Lions coach Sunday, the organization is in for quite the ride.

The Lions scored two touchdowns in a 46-second span in the fourth quarter, but could not complete a rally from 28 points down and lost to the San Francisco 49ers, 41-33.

Jamaal WIlliams and Quintez Cephus accounted for the late touchdowns, the second coming after the Lions recovered an onside kick.

The 49ers had a chance to clinch the victory, but Trey Flowers forced a fumble on a short pass to Deebo Samuel that Ifeatu Melifonwu recovered for the Lions at their own 30-yard line with 52 seconds left.

Jared Goff led the Lions into 49ers territory, but threw incomplete on his final three passes at the 24-yard-line.

Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff is hit by San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dee Ford causing him to throw an interception returned for a touchdown Sunday, September 12, 2021 at Ford Field.
Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff is hit by San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dee Ford causing him to throw an interception returned for a touchdown Sunday, September 12, 2021 at Ford Field.

Campbell joins Matt Patricia, Jim Schwartz and Marty Mornhinweg as Lions coaches to lose their debut games with the franchise in the past 20 years, and the Lions struggled mightily on defense early.

The 49ers averaged nearly 9 yards per play Sunday, passing and running at will the first three quarters against a defense that allowed the most points and yards in the NFL last season.

The Lions squandered scoring chances on their first two possessions. Williams was stopped for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-1 at the San Francisco 35 on the game’s opening drive, and Austin Seibert missed a 51-yard field goal seven plays later, after Jimmy Garoppolo fumbled the opening snap for the 49ers.

Garoppolo completed eight straight passes after his fumble as the 49ers built a comfortable 31-10 lead at halftime.

The 49ers scored touchdowns on three straight possessions in the first half and added a fourth score on a 39-yard interception return by Dre Greenlaw.

Rookie Trey Lance, the No. 3 pick of the draft, opened the scoring with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Trent Sherfield, and backup running backs Elijah Mitchell and JaMycal Hasty ran for touchdowns of 38 and 3 yards in the first half after starter Raheem Mostert left with a knee injury.

The 49ers rolled up 232 yards of offense on 25 plays in the first half, and added to their lead early in the third quarter when Okudah got beat for a 79-yard touchdown pass by Samuel.

Okudah, who struggled as the No. 3 overall pick last season, had good coverage on Samuel, but failed to adjust to an underthrown ball and tripped after Samuel made the catch.

Okudah suffered a foot injury in the fourth quarter and went to the locker room.

As helpless as the Lions looked on defense, they weren’t much better on offense.

Williams keyed an effective rushing attack with 53 yards on eight carries, D’Andre Swift scored on a 43-yard screen pass from Goff and T.J. Hockenson had seven catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.

But Goff, acquired in the offseason trade of longtime Lions starter Matthew Stafford, was ineffective in his Lions debut. He tried forcing a pass to Hockenson into triple coverage on his interception, and misfired several passes to his overmatched receiving corps.

Goff completed three passes to Lions receivers in the first three quarters, two to Tyrell Williams and one to Amon-Ra St. Brown, and finished 38-for-57 passing for 338 yards, 5.9 yards per completion, with three touchdowns and the pick-six.

Garoppolo was 17-of-25 passing for 314 yards, Samuel had nine catches for 189 yards and a touchdown, and Mitchell ran for 104 yards on 19 carries.

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

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Lions make familiar mistakes in 41-33 loss to 49ers