Quick takeaways from the Lions loss to the Bills on Thanksgiving

The Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills treated a sellout crowd in Ford Field and a national television audience to an entertaining and highly competitive game to kick off Thanksgiving. The Lions took the heavily favored Bills down to the wire but ultimately fell short in a 28-25 loss.

The undermanned Lions had their chances. Dan Campbell’s team largely punched above its weight class, but they weren’t quite sharp enough to score the upset knockout. It’s both a very frustrating end to the three-game win streak but also an indication that the Lions are quickly improving into a team that should be taken seriously.

Here are a few quick takeaways from watching the game in real-time.

 

Too many mistakes

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The Lions pulled off the rare feat of both playing well enough to beat a really good team but also bad enough that a good opponent not playing its best football was able to escape with a win.

Detroit took a lot of shots in this game. Many were effective, but too many pointed straight down into the Lions’ own paws. Among the most impactful self-inflicted wounds:

  • Jamaal Williams fumbling when hit from behind by Bills DT Ed Oliver

  • D’Andre Swift missing a potential TD pass from Jared Goff

  • Michael Badgley missing a FG, his first miss all season

  • Goff going down for a safety instead of trying to throw the ball away

  • Austin Bryant committing a very dumb roughing-the-passer penalty

The clock management at the end of the first half was suboptimal as well.

The Lions are not a talented enough team to win against a good opponent when they make so many key mistakes. But dang, they’re close!

James Houston has an impressive debut

James Houston had spent his entire rookie season on the Lions’ practice squad. He made his NFL debut on Thanksgiving and proved that maybe he should get more chances in the near future.

Houston, a sixth-round rookie defensive end from Jackson State, made a huge impact on his very first NFL play. He recovered a Kalif Raymond fumble on a punt return after the Bills’ first offensive possession.

Houston was only getting started. The swift rookie sacked Bills QB Josh Allen not once but twice, including a critical sack just before halftime to force a field goal attempt instead of a potential touchdown drive by Buffalo.

It was great to see Houston rise up to the occasion. Playing only because Josh Paschal and Charles Harris were out with injuries, Houston showed considerable improvement over his preseason and training camp performances.

The mini-bye is sorely as the injuries continue to mount

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The Lions played this game without both regular starting guards, Evan Brown and Jonah Jackson. Top cornerback Jeff Okudah and the two-man DE rotation of Josh Paschal and Charles Harris that plays opposite Aidan Hutchinson were also out.

Unfortunately, the Lions suffered a few more injuries in the game. DE Julian Okwara left with an elbow injury that did not look good. CB Jerry Jacobs, who played very well against top Bills WR Stefon Diggs, departed late in the game with an apparent head injury and was sent straight to the locker room.

Wideouts Kalif Raymond and Amon-Ra St. Brown were both shaken up during the game but stayed in the action. It was a physically brutal game on a short week. The Lions can definitely use the extra three days of rest before hosting the Jaguars in Week 13.

The final Lions drive

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Detroit’s final offensive drive was mired in controversy for the decisions and calls. Here’s my take:

I applauded the idea to drain the clock. Josh Allen does not need much time to lead the Bills down the field, something he proved very quickly. I liked the strategy for the clock to hit :00 on the Lions’ final play, and that sure appeared to be what the plan was…until it wasn’t.

The Lions had plenty of time and timeouts at their disposal. The third-down call to take a deep shot to WR DJ Chark was a terrible choice. That’s just not a throw Goff has proven he can make. Quite the opposite, actually; Goff badly missed Chark in almost exactly the same situation and call in Week 3. He overshot Kalif Raymond by a good five yards on this exact route earlier in this game.

The play design and aggressive shot wasn’t a bad idea in and of itself, but when the quarterback has proven he cannot hit that play, it makes it a poor decision. Get the first down and more shots, with the added benefit of regulation ending on your own last play. There’s just too much that can go wrong on that play to try it, and that played out.

Quick hits

(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

–Goff did not have a strong game but he remains very effective in the red zone. The TD throw to Chark, where the pay was designed to go to Raymond on the other side, is a play Goff doesn’t make in Detroit in 2021 or early in 2022. He’s had a few of those lately and that’s very real progress.

–Brock Wright continues to grow quickly as a blocker at tight end. His down-blocking (crashing inside) has become very good in a hurry.

–Jerry Jacobs played very well in coverage on Stefon Diggs. He’s great at limiting yards after the catch and that is a very underappreciated trait for a cornerback.

–Holding was clearly not something the officiating crew was interested in calling on either team.

–D’Andre Swift continues to be so incredibly frustrating. He made a couple of fantastic plays in this game, but also twice as many where he showed why he’s not getting on the field as much.

–This week’s film review spotlight will be on the replacement guards, Kayode Awosika and Dan Skipper. The early impression was not great for either, especially in pass pro for Awosika.

–Detroit has such a rich musical history and the NFL gives us a head-scratching, boo-worthy performance at halftime. That’s shameful. Nothing against Bebe Rexha, but that was not a smart choice for that crowd.

Story originally appeared on Lions Wire