4 takeaways from sporadic Lions season opening loss vs. 49ers

Goff throws for 3 TDs in Lions debut

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - SEPTEMBER 12: Jared Goff #16 of the Detroit Lions plays against the San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field on September 12, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - SEPTEMBER 12: Jared Goff #16 of the Detroit Lions plays against the San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field on September 12, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) (2021 Getty Images)

This first appeared in our Lions Newsletter, which you can sign up for here, or by using the form at the bottom of the article.


Good Monday morning, Lions fans! I hope your first football Sunday was enjoyable, despite the Lions loss. There was some good -- a lot of bad -- but we’ll get into that shortly.

First, I just want to say, wow was it strange to see Matthew Stafford in a Rams uniform last night. It just felt wrong. He played really well in his Rams debut, beating the Bears handedly. It looks like he’s in a good situation over there, and I’ll be rooting for him.

But back to Detroit, where we have a new quarterback, coach, front office and rebuild. The Lions lost to the 49ers in Week 1, but somehow, miraculously, they covered the +8.5 spread, finishing at 41-33. Here are some of my takeaways from the first game.

🏈 Week 1 takeaways

Maybe we can run the ball?

I know what you’re thinking, it was only one week, but the rushing game actually looked pretty good for the Lions in Week 1.

In 2020, the Lions were 27th in rushing yards per game, with 93.7. They had 116 yards on Sunday, and finished with the 5th best yards per carry of the week, with 4.8 yards.

Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift split the 20 total carries, with Williams leading the way with 54 yards, 6.0 yards per carry, and a touchdown, along with eight catches for 56 yards. Swift had 39 yards on the ground, but added eight catches and a touchdown. The running backs were quite productive for the Lions.

“There were some good things, and I think it’s tough on defenses when we can rotate in and out on long drives,” said Swift. “But we knew what was at stake today, so we can’t give them a lead like we did.”

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - SEPTEMBER 12: Jamaal Williams #30 of the Detroit Lions celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field on September 12, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) (2021 Getty Images)

The defense needs work (understatement, I know)

The first half of the game was quite possibly some of the worst defensive football I’ve ever seen the Lions play, and that’s saying something. Blown coverage, missed tackles, or just straight up getting beat on the ball. It was brutal to watch. They gave up 31 points, a 49ers record under Kyle Shanahan. One of those was a pick-six off Jared Goff.

The Lions did make some good adjustments in the second half and played much better, only allowing an additional 10 points. The Lions were able to get some pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo in the second half, but he still finished with an excellent stat line; 314 yards through the air and a touchdown, with a 124 rating. That’s not going to work.

We already knew the defense would be a work in progress, and I’ll give them some credit for adjusting -- something the Matt Patricia era refused to do. But woof, it could be more work than we thought.

Related: Report: Lions CB Jeff Okudah suffered ruptured Achilles, out for season

Jared Goff is Jared Goff

The new Lions QB showed some flashes of being really good -- but also some of being really bad. That’s pretty much what NFL fans have come to expect from Goff.

The late-game rally really padded his stats, finishing with 38 completions for 338 yards and three touchdowns, a 92.6 rating. He had one interception, which was returned for a touchdown. He had a lot of accuracy issues to start the game, missing on several throws. He was also dealing with several drops from receivers and backs.

The two-touchdown rally that brought the Lions to within one score was the best part of Goff’s performance. He was letting the ball fly, and was hitting receivers perfectly, timely, and was running the offense with ease. But it was too late. All in all, and up and down debut for Goff.

“We can’t play like we did in the first half and expect to win many games,” Goff said. “That’s especially true for me. I can’t throw an interception at that point, and specifically I can’t throw a pick-six. That gave them all the momentum going into halftime.”

“I think we found out a little about who we really are at the end of the game, but we can’t let ourselves be proud of that,” Goff said. “We can’t put ourselves in another position where we have to try to do something like that again.”

And as a side note, Lions rookie Penei Sewell had a great debut against 49ers star Nick Bosa. Sewell moved over the left tackle after Taylor Decker was ruled out with a broken finger. Sewell was able to keep Bosa in check for most of the game. A very positive sign for the future.

Dan Campbell is fun

I loved Dan Campbell’s debut as Lions coach. Mostly because he was playing to win.

On multiple calls, Campbell showed this team was going to be aggressive, going for it on five 4th downs in the game. In one instance, near the red zone, the Lions were stuffed on a 3rd and short, and you could see Campbell on the sideline screaming at the team to stay on the field -- they were going for it. I think that’s something fans will really appreciate, as long as the riskiness doesn’t turn into recklessness. He also didn’t make any excuses after the game.

“We didn’t do enough to win,” he said after the game. “It was truly a team effort. We talked about everything we needed to do to beat them, and we really didn’t do any of it. We let it get away, and even though we gave ourselves a chance at the end, we’ve got a lot to fix.”

👇 Bottom line

I think the biggest takeaway from the Week 1 loss is -- the rebuild is going to take some time. We already knew this, but it’s worth reminding ourselves.

⏭️ Next up

The Lions have the Green Bay Packers coming up this week on Monday Night Football. The Packers are coming off a dismal Week 1 loss against the Saints, where they mustered just three points. I’m sure Aaron Rodgers is licking his chops.

📢 Share your thoughts

I built a little fan forum here, so if you want to join in and talk some Lions with me and some other fans, I’ll be here!


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About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital special projects manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013.