Red-zone failures doom Lions in 20-15 loss to Steelers
DETROIT (AP) — No matter what the Detroit Lions did near the goal line, it turned out badly.
Detroit’s 20-15 loss Sunday night included three crucial second-half possessions by the Lions inside the Pittsburgh 10-yard line. On two of them, Detroit failed to score at all, and on one, the Lions settled for a field goal.
“They wanted to stop us more than we wanted to get in,” Lions receiver Golden Tate said.
Detroit’s night began going sour in the third quarter. Down 13-12, the Lions were poised to take the lead in some fashion when they had first-and-goal from the 4. Dwayne Washington ran for 3 yards, then Matthew Stafford threw incomplete. A third-down run by Washington was stopped for no gain, and after taking a shotgun snap, Stafford was stopped while trying to run up the middle.
“We had a pass play called, and they dropped a lot of guys,” Stafford said. “It opened up, and I thought I had a chance to make a play, but they rallied to the ball. Just as I thought I could do something, I got hit.”
That missed opportunity might not have been so bad, but the Lions then allowed a 97-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to JuJu Smith-Schuster that made it 20-12.
Detroit immediately drove back down the field and again faced first-and-goal from the 4. The next three plays were similar to the Lions’ previous trip to the red zone, but in a different order. This time the incompletion came on first down and was followed by Washington’s run to the 2. Then Washington was stopped on third down.
Detroit settled for a 19-yard field goal by Matt Prater.
“Every situation is different,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “We tried to be aggressive the first time, and then it was later in the game, so we kicked it. We gave ourselves a chance to win the game.”
The Lions indeed had another chance toward the very end, but this time they never got closer than the 6. On third down, a run by Theo Riddick went for a loss of 2, and Stafford threw incomplete to turn the ball over on downs.
“This game was so tight, it wasn’t like you could hang your hat on the previous red zone stop or pat yourself on the back. We had one waiting on us,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “It just felt like that. We knew it was going to be all the way until the end.”
Detroit had 482 yards of offense, the third-most by a team that didn’t score a touchdown, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com data that dates back to 1940.