Detroit Lions earn respect of NFL elite like Thanksgiving opponent, Buffalo Bills
DETROIT — The Detroit Lions may have earned more acclaim nationally in a loss than they did during their three-game winning streak this month.
They stood toe-to-toe with one of the NFL’s elite teams, the Buffalo Bills, during their annual Thanksgiving Day game before succumbing 28-25 on Tyler Bass’ 45-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining.
Offensive tackle Taylor Decker said this isn’t the same old Lions, perennial laughingstocks that haven’t won a playoff game since 1991.
“We’re going to go out there and we’re going to get our respect, and we’re going to earn that respect,” Decker said.
The Lions (4-7) certainly didn’t look overmatched. They held a three-point lead for most of the fourth quarter, then drove for a tying field goal with 23 seconds remaining after Buffalo scored a go-ahead touchdown.
“We belong and they should know that and they do know that,” coach Dan Campbell said. “They knew they had an opportunity, which they earned that opportunity, and we just didn’t close it out. And those guys made the plays and it’s a credit to them over there. But I do feel growth from our team and I feel us getting better.”
The Lions have a reputation of self-destructing with penalties, turnovers and mental mistakes. For the most part, they minimized those issues on Thursday.
They committed three penalties and have been whistled for just 10 infractions over the last three games. They had a pair of turnovers, but one came on the final desperation play.
During the winning streak, they gave away the ball just once.
The Lions still need to run the table to have any realistic hope for a wild-card playoff berth, but no one’s laughing at them now.
“I think over the last four weeks, we just are such a different team, it’s such a different feel,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “We know we can beat anybody. We know we can play with anybody. We know we can really dominate anybody, and that was a really good team out there, but we did a lot of good things.”
The combination of Goff and second-year receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown has been clicking during the last three games. St. Brown has 26 receptions for 317 yards during that span, including a nine-catch, 122-yard outing against Buffalo. St. Brown also scored his first TD since the second week of the season.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Campbell may be a fiery orator but the messages he’s giving to his team at halftime aren’t producing results. The Lions have been shut out in the third quarter in six of the last seven games. The only exception was a touchdown against the New York Giants last Sunday.
The Lions have received major contributions from rookies this season and linebacker James Houston made his presence felt on Thursday. The sixth-round pick out of Jackson State came off the practice squad and became the first player in team history to record multiple sacks in his NFL debut. The last player with two sacks in his debut was Cleveland star Myles Garrett in 2017.
Austin Bryant doesn’t have a sack this season after finishing with 4 1/2 last year. The fourth-year linebacker made a major impact in Thursday’s game in a negative way. He committed a roughing the passer penalty against Josh Allen in the fourth quarter. Buffalo scored a touchdown two plays later. “They should know better,” Campbell said.
Cornerback Jerry Jacobs departed in the second half after feeling light-headed and could be placed in the concussion protocol. … LG Jonah Jackson (concussion), RG Evan Brown (ankle), DEs Josh Paschal (knee) and Charles Harris (groin) and CB Jeff Okudah (concussion) were inactive.
13: Jamaal Williams scored his league-leading 13th touchdown during the first half. That ties him with Barry Sanders (1990) and Billy Sims (1980, 1981) for the third-most single-season TDs in franchise history. All of Williams’ TDs have come on the ground. The sixth-year player’s previous season high in rushing TDs was four.
Receiver Jameson Williams could make his NFL debut against Jacksonville on Dec. 4. Williams, a first-round draft pick from Alabama, has been rehabbing a torn ACL suffered in the national championship game. He returned to practice this week and could quickly become a big-play source.
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