Plucky, undermanned Lions fall to Falcons despite a strong effort

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  • Atlanta Falcons
    Atlanta Falcons
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  • Detroit Lions
    Detroit Lions
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Sometimes when the Detroit Lions lose a game in the way they dropped Sunday’s 20-16 bummer in Atlanta, it can be infuriating. Tim Boyle’s maddeningly awful decision that snuffed out the chance to secure the comeback win might see some projectiles launched and obscenities screamed.

Not today. Not with the injury-depleted, wildly inexperienced roster the Lions trotted out against the Falcons and how close they came to pulling off the improbable upset on the road.

Yes, the loss stings. It was, despite the dilapidated roster on both sides of the ball, a winnable game. And Detroit nearly pulled it off with Tim Boyle throwing to Tom Kennedy and Craig Reynolds toting the rock on the final drive to try and win the game. None of those guys ever sniff the field if the Lions are healthy, not even the underwhelming roster in Detroit this year. But they were on the spot in Atlanta and darn near pulled it off.

Coach Dan Campbell had what’s left of his team ready to play and dialed up a game plan that worked, by and large. They were aggressive when they needed to be, including a brilliant fake punt and smart choices on two other fourth-down conversions. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn brought pressure to help greenhorn corners Ifeatu Melifownu and Will Harris in coverage. They made life difficult for Falcons QB Matt Ryan and superb rookie TE/WR Kyle Pitts.

Asking the set of practice squad refugees and undrafted free agents littering the Lions roster to stay close in this game was tough. But they did just that. Detroit had a chance to win the game without:

QB Jared Goff, RB D’Andre Swift, TE T.J. Hockenson, the top 4 projected CBs, top LB Alex Anzalone, starting pass rushers Romeo Okwara and Trey Flowers, and still too many others to list. During the game they lost fullback Jason Cabinda and tight end Shane Zylstra, who is a great example of the depths of the roster. Zylstra is an undrafted rookie signed from the practice squad. Oh a healthy Lions roster, he’s no higher than sixth on the depth chart at a position where the team typically plays just two. But there he was getting significant reps and acquitting himself nicely.

Did they make dumb mistakes and get exposed at times for just not being that talented? Of course they did. They also made a lot of plays, more than the scant crowd in Atlanta expected. More than a lot of Lions fans expected. It’s cliche to be proud of the underdog in a good effort that falls short, but it’s hard to summon any other emotion than pride in what the Lions did in the loss in Atlanta.

Teams of lesser character would have been blown away (see: Carolina Panthers or New York Giants). Not these Lions. In a game nobody expected them to win, they came within 10 yards and one bad play from pulling it off.