Fri, 22 Oct 2021

O'HARA: What we learned from Week 1

Detroit Lions
15 Sep 2021, 20:25 GMT+10

Mike OHara

For one game, head coach Dan Campbell's statement in training camp that the Detroit Lions will have a one-two punch in the running game is on target.

That's what we learned in Sunday's 41-33 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field.

The way D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams shared the load at running back was one of the Lions' highlights. What we also learned is that the Lions have to ride the running game and tight end T.J. Hockenson until they develop anything at wide receiver.

Among the other things we learned include the following: The Lions have a significant problem that must be corrected; GM Brad Holmes absolutely got it right in drafting offensive tackle Penei Sewell seventh overall; and outside linebacker Trey Flowers made a play late in the game that shows his commitment to playing the game the right way is real.

We start with the run game, and what it means to the Lions as they move on to their game at Green Bay Monday night:

Campbell talked early in training camp on the plan to lean on Swift and Williams to carry the load.

"It's a one-two punch," Campbell said. "We're going to use both of those guys and they know that."

The stats for Williams and Swift showed that the plan was in place Sunday.

For Williams: Eight carries for 54 yards and a TD, and eight catches for 56 yards.

For Swift: 11 carries for 39 yards, and eight catches for 65 yards and a TD on a 43-yard catch and run with a screen pass.

That's 110 yards from scrimmage for Williams, 104 for Swift.

Throw in Hockenson's eight catches for 97 yards and a TD -- and a catch for a two-point conversion -- and you have the bulk of the Lions' offense from three players.

The Lions had three wide receivers with three catches each -- a total of nine catches for 81 yards.

They had 17 carries for 88 yards in the first half and seven for 28 in the second. That includes three scrambles for 14 yards for quarterback Jared Goff.

With the game out of hand -- a 31-10 lead for the 49ers at halftime -- the Lions had to cut back on the running game.

"Our margin for error is so small," Campbell said after the game. "We have to play the game a certain way."

Throwing the ball 57 times -- as Goff did Sunday -- is not the way.

KEY QUESTIONS: Will Sewell move back to right tackle when Decker returns? Campbell confirms season-ending Achilles injury for Okudah TWENTYMAN: Week 1 observations

Problem area: Sunday's game was a repeat of what we saw far too often in recent seasons. Once the opponent got on a run, the Lions were unable to stop it.

After a field goal cut the lead to 14-10, the 49ers went on a 24-point binge to make it 38-10. Contributing to that were receivers running open and poor tackling.

Obviously that changed the game, and how the Lions wanted to play it.

Sewell: It was seamless how Sewell moved from right tackle to left tackle -- his college position at Oregon -- with five days notice because of the injury to Taylor Decker.

Sewell had worked at right tackle since being drafted. Sewell and the other four starters on the offensive line played all 92 snaps, about 30 more than for an average NFL game.

In itself, that's an amazing accomplishment.

Flowers: He occasionally speaks about his personal commitment to playing the game the right way, regardless of circumstances. They aren't empty words.

Flowers showed that by forcing a fumble with less than a minute left to give the Lions a chance to tie the game.

On third down at the Lions' 46, wide receiver Deebo Samuel caught a pass and was heading upfield for a game-clinching first down.

From behind, Flowers leaped and raked the ball from Samuel's grasp. The Lions recovered with 52 seconds left.

The Lions failed to score, but that takes nothing away from Flowers' effort. An amazing play.

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