The Lions were once again ineffective in the first half of the game, but they managed to score 14 points in the final 18 seconds of the game to send it into an improbable overtime situation.
And they somehow still managed to fall short.
The Titans had their fair share of big plays, and quarterback Jake Locker looked as good as I’ve ever seen him. But the Lions beat themselves—again. They did manage to shut down running back Chris Johnson, who finished the game with just 24 yards on 14 carries, but they got beat in the air.
Ill-timed penalties, a lot dropped passes—namely from tight end Brandon Pettigrew—and poor play on special teams all added to the Lions' second loss of the season
Here are some things we learned in the process:
1. Special Teams Still Isn’t Very Good
I’m generally not one for placing blame on a singular unit for a team’s loss, but it’s hard to ignore the poor performance of the Lions' special teams. They gave up two touchdowns to the Titans' return unit—a 65-yard punt return from cornerback Tommie Campbell and a 105-yard kickoff return from Darius Reynaud.
2. Mikel Leshoure Is Legit
In his first professional football game, Mike Leshoure showed the Detroit Lions what they’ve been missing in the backfield. Leshoure finished the game with 100 yards on 26 carries and showed how effective a powerful back can be.
Obviously, one game is a very small sample size, but there is certainly reason to be encouraged about his performance and what it might mean for the future of the Detroit Lions running game. Leshoure didn't have any tremendously long plays, but he averaged 3.8 yards per carry and at times seemed to get a few yards when there didn't seem to be any more yardage to get.
That's exactly what the Lions need in the backfield.
3. The Lions Play Better under Pressure
I think Detroit Lions fans hope every week that this will be the week they play four quarters of football. It seems every week we are disappointed. The Lions seemed to move the ball well in the first half of the game but couldn’t get deep enough in Titans territory in order to threaten to score a touchdown. Instead, the Lions settled for three field goals and just nine points in the first half.
The second half was a different story. The Lions scored 32 points in the second half, 14 in the final 18 seconds. I think this is largely because they went back to what they know best—passing.
4. Brandon Pettigrew Is Not Very Brandon Pettigrew-Like
The Detroit Lions tight end is having a hard time holding onto the ball this season. That’s not to say he hasn’t made big, timely plays when needed. But he seems to drop 40 percent of the passes that are thrown his way.
Pettigrew also got stripped late in the fourth quarter by Tennessee's Alterraun Verner, who subsequently returned it 72 yards for a touchdown.
5. The Lions Still Have Problems with Penalties
After two fairly mild games to open the 2012 season, the Lions proved again this afternoon that they still have problems with the little yellow flag. The Lions had 91 yards on 10 penalties, many of which came at very critical times during the game.
The most frustrating thing about the Lions' penalties is that they are generally the most boneheaded penalties. The personal fouls, facemasks and roughing the passer calls are showcasing just how much this team still has to grow.