If preseason was any indication of how this year is going to go for the Detroit Lions, then last night’s 19-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns would mean three things:
- We’d be 0-1,
- Shaun Hill would be more valuable than Matthew Stafford, and
- Our running backs more productive than our receivers.
Hello, parallel universe.
Luckily for everyone, preseason — in the grand scheme of things — means nothing. Sure, it’s important. But it in no way is it proof of what will happen for the 16 games of the 2012 regular season. The 2008 Lions are proof positive of that.
I saw positives in last night’s game. Jim Schwartz did not. Fortunately, it’s his job to be overly critical. Also, that’s just the way Schwartz is.
“Let’s be clear: Preseason games, we don’t use them as a barometer,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. “But you want to play well and I don’t think we played well on offense, defense or special teams from the beginning to the very end.”
Stafford couldn’t get the offense rolling in any of his three series, despite a nine-yard, 12-yard, and three-yard gain on the first down of each of the first three drives from Kevin Smith. Stafford finished with 51 yards and an interception.
“We learn something from the good stuff and bad stuff,” Stafford said. “Just got to make sure we come next week with a little more urgency and a little better execution.”
Despite the sloppy start, the Lions still managed to take the early lead on a 5-yard touchdown run from Keiland Williams. Backup quarterback Shaun Hill led the drive and set up the TD run with a 21-yard pass to Will Heller thanks to an interception from rookie cornerback Bill Bentley in the Browns previous drive.
Cleveland got on the board early in the second quarter, but Detroit responded immediately with a 6-play, 48-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Stefan Logan.
Cleveland added a touchdown in the third quarter, and the Lions added a field goal early in the fourth to go up 17-10. But the defense couldn’t protect the lead. The Browns got within three after a touchdown and failed two-point conversion, but secured the win with a 45-yard field goal from Jeff Wolfert with less than a minute left in the game.
The game ended in the same sloppy fashion it began with third-string QB hopeful Kellen Moore throwing a interception at the Cleveland 36 with 34 seconds left.
Still, there were bright spots. Bentley, despite getting beat on a 34-yard pass from rookie QB Brandon Weedon to Travis Benjamin, showed tremendous promise in the defensive backfield — even if Schwartz didn’t feel that way.
“It’s too inconsistent play for a cornerback,” Schwartz said. “Gave up a deep ball, that’s something that we shouldn’t allow to happen, and we were 50% on making interceptions. I don’t think that’s a good day at all for what he can do. He has a chance if he knocks the deep ball away and makes two interceptions in this game to have done something for himself. But 50-50 isn’t going to get it done.”
The run game — consisting of Smith, Logan, Williams, and Joique Bell — finished with 198 yards to the Browns 128, and rookie offensive tackle Riley Reiff looked solid. And aside from Bentley, defensive ends Willie Young and Everette Brown both walked away with a sack and sack and half, respectively, and Young also had a forced fumble.
Hill went 8 for 12 with 83 yards and touchdown and Moore went 4 for 14 with 40 yards.
The Lions will face the Baltimore Ravens in the second preseason game next Friday at 8 p.m.