5. The game was close, but it was not really that close
Lions fans might find solace in the fact that they were able to come just a few inches away from a victory over the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons, hinting that they are inching closer to really becoming championship contenders. But the reality of the situation is the game really was not very close. Atlanta out-gained the Lions by over 100 yards, lost the turnover margin by three including a pick-six, fell victim to a phantom holding call on 2nd and 30 on an interception that would have ended the Lions final drive, and Detroit still came about six inches short of beating Atlanta on their home turf. This was a game that was tailor-made for the Lions to win, and they still fell short, which has me questioning if they have really taken that leap towards a Super Bowl threat.
4. Falcons show again they can win with defense
Atlanta has been desperately trying to improve their defense ever since Dan Quinn arrived three seasons ago. He has done a terrific job adding youth, speed, and physicality and it is beginning to really pay off. This Falcons defense should only get better as the year continues and it already looks pretty good. For the second time in three games, the defense was able to come up with a goal-line stop to preserve the victory. Outside of the points off of turnovers, the Falcons only allowed 16 points against a very solid Lions offense at home. This is a sign of things to come and should become even more noticeable as the season goes on, providing they can stay healthy.
3. Kudos offensive line
With Ryan Schraeder missing the game due to a concussion, there were questions about whether Atlanta would be able to handle Detroit’s stout defensive front. The Lions had only allowed 53.5 rushing yards per game coming into their matchup with the Falcons, but were torched by the Atlanta offense for 151 yards rushing on just 28 carries. Devonta Freeman is an absolute beast, but some of these rushing lanes were so big trucks could have driven through them. They also kept Matt Ryan clean for the most part, allowing just two sacks, and played a huge role on Taylor Gabriel’s 40-yard touchdown that came on a wide receiver screen pass.
2. Takkarist McKinley is going to have a major impact on this season
McKinley saw a lot of snaps in week two, especially after Vic Beasley Jr. exited the game with a hamstring issue. He had multiple pressures on Aaron Rodgers and came up with two bone-crushing hits on the quarterback. With Beasley absent again in week 3, the Falcons needed a greater effort from McKinley, and he came through with his first career sack that stalled a Detroit drive. McKinley is coming off a significant shoulder injury that required him to miss basically the entire offseason and preseason. He is just getting his feet wet with NFL competition and has looked outstanding thus far. Pass rushers do not always have major impacts in their rookie seasons, but Tak is showing he has the ability to play a major role on this defense and perhaps be the piece that puts this team over the top.
1. Hypothetically, could the Lions gotten off another play?
Much has been made about how the game ended yesterday. It was crazy, but at the end of the day, the refs and the rules got it right. Purely focusing on the final play, Golden Tate was conclusively down prior to crossing the plane of the goal line. A couple years ago, the Lions would have been able to snap the ball after the review. Obviously now with the ten second runoff rule, that is not the case, and that is for good reason. If there was no question about whether Tate was in the end zone, it would have been nearly impossible for the refs to spot the ball, the Lions to get to the line and snap the ball in less than eight seconds. Even if they somehow were able to, it would not have been a very good one. It’s a tough loss to swallow for Detroit, but the final seconds of yesterday’s game could have not been called more perfectly.