T.J. Hockenson, with his tortilla-colored beard and long, flowing locks, looks like he could be playing the lute at the Renaissance Festival. And since that annual event was closing this weekend, maybe Sunday was destined to be his shining armor moment.
Alas (as they said during the Renaissance), the Detroit Lions have been known to mess up many an expected moment, and Sunday they were true to form. They blew a home game they should have won. They made a lousy offensive team look like the Harlem Globetrotters. And they shrunk Hockenson’s stellar day — eight catches, two touchdowns, 179 yards, and a huff and puff breakaway that went so long it was almost an Olympic event — into a mere footnote, thanks to the ridiculous yards, points and big plays allowed in losing to Seattle.
Just so I got this straight, it was the Lions offensive stars who were injured for this game, right? Their best receiver and running back were out, yeah?
The defense, on the other hand, was largely intact (minus Tracy Walker, the starting safety.) But if that performance Sunday was the defense “intact,” don’t let the wind blow anywhere near these guys.
“What went wrong?” a frustrated Dan Campbell was asked after the 48-45 loss, in which the Lions surrendered 555 yards of offense — 555 yards? — to the supposedly “rebuilding” Seahawks.
“We’re gonna look at it all,” Campbell fumed. “Top to bottom. I know this: we lack confidence. We lack a lot of confidence.”
Along with a lot of tackles.
Of course, it’s hard to be confident when the opposing team goes touchdown, touchdown, field goal, touchdown in the first half, and Geno Smith is ripping you to shreds at quarterback.
We said Geno Smith.
If you asked, “Is he still in the league?” you wouldn’t be alone. Smith, 31, and on his fourth team, is what Seattle had left after Russell Wilson took off to Denver. But on Sunday, he might as well have been a No. 1 draft pick. The Lions made him look so good, he’s likely asking for a new deal.
This is the guy who, after his first win of this year, said, “They wrote me off. I ain’t write back, though.” On Sunday, he ran his pen through the Lions to the tune of 320 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, another 49 yards rushing, a rushing touchdown and NO SACKS.
Does anyone on this team want to play defense?
“I’m gonna look at everything,” Campbell repeated, saying he needed to see the film.
I wouldn’t want to be sitting next to him.
Where was the revamped pass rush? Where was the skilled touch of defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn? Sunday was such an awful display of non-stopping, out-of-position, badly-called defense, that at one point, Seattle’s star receiver, DK Metcalf (seven catches, 149 yards) left the game to go to the bathroom, presumably so no one could hear him laughing.
A Penny for your thoughts?
It would take more space than it’s worth to list the numerous first downs, easy passes and gashing runs the Lions surrendered. Or the fact that they never forced a single punt. Let’s just sum it up with three third downs, all in the final 16 minutes.
Third-and-16: The Lions come after Smith, who, like a bullfighter anticipating the charge, deftly hands off to Rashaad Penny; he runs 36 yards to the end zone. The end zone? On third-and-16?
Third-and-5: Lions show blitz again. Again, Smith tucks the ball into Penny’s gut, and he gallops 41 yards for, you guessed it, another touchdown.
Third-and-5: Less than a minute left. If the Lions get a stop, they could actually get the ball back for one last try at a win. Instead, the Seahawks hand off once more to Penny — Detroit had to know he was getting it! — and he bulls through them for 7 yards, the first down, and the game.
Penny had such a good day (17 carries, 151 yards) that they revalued him to Dollar. He averaged nearly 9 yards a carry. Seattle averaged nearly nine yards per play.
And this is a Seahawks team that was ranked near the bottom in offense coming in. They were averaging 15.7 points a game.
They more than tripled that against Detroit. Pete Carroll, Seattle’s 71-year-old coach, was having so much fun Sunday, his hair turned dark again.
The more things change, the more the Lions stay the same
Lions fans, on the other hand, had seen enough. There is a moment in every recent Detroit season where the sheen of a new autumn rubs away, and the boos begin to rain down from the seats.
That moment was Sunday — once, then twice, then over and over. BOOOO! Send out the carrier pigeons: 2022 is officially a Lions season now.
“Listen, I get it,” Campbell said of the jeering. “And no, its not discouraging to me. I understand what this is. If you don’t win, you get run out of town.”
Most likely through the defensive line. There’s always a hole there.
But hey, look on the bright side. The Lions scored 45 points. They are, on paper, one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses right now. Of course, they’re 1-3 and likely on their way to missing the playoffs. But stats are stats!
Which brings us back to Hockenson. We should not let the day die without acknowledging what this guy did. In a game when the opponent knew the Lions would be looking to him (due to the various wide receiver injuries), Hockenson caught damn near everything that was thrown his way, the high ones, the wide ones, the perfect ones, and he took a Jared Goff shallow pass over the middle and beat one defender, straight-armed another, and went 81 yards to the shadow of the goal line.
You might see a comet before you see a tight end run 81 yards again.
“That was a fun one for sure,” Hockenson said.
Too bad the Seahawks were saying the same thing across the hall — only they were talking about the result.
The Lions have now finished a quarter of the season. They have lost two of three home games, and, by my preseason estimation, dropped three of the games they should have won on the schedule.
They now hit the road for New England and Dallas, then return for Miami. Only the health of those teams’ starting quarterbacks keeps you from predicting a 1-6 start to this season, which certainly wasn’t the way it felt when those “Hard Knocks” cameras were around.
“The worst thing we can do now,” Campbell warned, “is start pointing fingers.”
Don’t worry, Dan. Plenty of fans are doing that already.