The Detroit Lions entered the second week of the 2016 NFL season with an opportunity to parlay an exciting first-week victory into a 2-0 start.
They responded with a sloppy performance bursting with blunders. 17 penalties, several dropped passes and a game-ending interception added up to a 16-15 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
With so many different players contributing to the mountain of mistakes there is no shortage of blame to spread around.
“It’s on everybody, you know. Everybody had their hand in it,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford. “Receivers, running backs, tight ends, O-line, me, for the offensive side of the ball. I’m speaking for us, it wasn’t good enough and we’ll work to correct it.”
That seemed to be the resonating message coming from the lock room - the team shot itself in the foot and are going to regroup and work to right their wrongs as the season progresses.
There will be no shortage of mistakes to dissect and correct. Perhaps the most egregious being the 17 accepted penalties for 138 yards.
“We’ve just got to do a better job. 17 penalties is ridiculous,” said head coach Jim Caldwell.
It wasn’t just the amount of penalties that was ridiculous but when they occurred.
On the Titans third drive of the game, the Lions surrendered two first downs via penalty – including a defensive holding call against Darius Slay that turned a sure-punting situation – fourth and six – into a first down.
The Lions also had three of their own touchdowns – including two on back-to-back plays – taken off the board due to penalties.
“It’s just penalties, it’s tough to get over that in this league,” said Tate. “We put 18 points that were called back.”
If it wasn’t penalties it was dropped passes. The Lions had several in this game, including a crucial drop by Tate for a would-be first down in the fourth quarter. The Lions punted on the next play – the Titans turned that drive into the winning points.
“I’ll look back and speak for myself, there are some balls that I just should have caught,” said Tate. “I should have caught ‘em. That’s one thing we’ll address tomorrow, one place I know I can better.
“Knowing the personality that we have in our locker room we’re going to come back and work our tails off. The turnovers, the penalties, the drops, the missed assignments, whatever it may be we can all be a little bit better. That’s the one thing that’s unique about this team, we don’t really point fingers. Every man in here is going to show up to work and be accountable.”
The Lions got off to a rocky start last year – falling to 1-7 before closing the season 7-9. The offense was the focal point of much of the outward blame.
It’s far too early to compare this year’s start to last year’s but the Lions can’t afford to dig themselves a whole again – especially when so many of the errors are controllable.
“The difference between last year and this year, we moved the ball. These last two games we’ve moved the ball and gotten first downs,” said Tate. “We’ve converted on third down, put up points… We’ll make a big play and then we’ll go back 10-15 yards. If you go back and watch the film of this year and last year, I think it’s pretty clear. There is no doubt, we moved the ball, I don’t even know the numbers but we made plays.”
Although 2016 is a new year, the Lions will be destined to repeat history if they cannot learn from the past in order to do better in the future.