The Detroit Lions dropped the first exhibition game of the 2022 season, falling to the visiting Atlanta Falcons, 27-23, in Ford Field on Friday night.
Repeat after me: The score doesn’t matter. The score doesn’t matter.
However, the manner in which the Falcons secured the win after the Lions had roared ahead in the second half is more than a little discouraging. Detroit was efforting to run out the clock when third-string QB David Blough bobbled a shotgun snap with two minutes remaining and a 3-point lead.
The Falcons recovered, then surged ahead when rookie QB Desmond Ridder found undrafted rookie WR Jared Bernhardt in front of undrafted rookie CB Cedric Benson for the go-ahead touchdown. The conversion, which barely squeaked inside the right upright, made the score 27-23. Atlanta’s defense held up their lead; time expired as Blough’s last-ditch Hail Mary to wideout Tom Kennedy fell to the end zone untouched as time expired.
The Lions ended their last practice on Wednesday working on those very end-of-game situations, but neither the offense nor defense transferred those practice lessons to the field on Friday. It was a disappointing way to end an otherwise exciting game.
There were some definite standouts for the Lions. The starting offense was a hot knife through the buttery Falcons defense, with QB Jared Goff flawless behind a dominant offensive line to lead the Lions to a 7-0 lead. Rookie DE Aidan Hutchinson made his mark right away, too. Kennedy had a monster game (8 catches, 104 yards) as the Detroit offense racked up 26 first downs to 18 for Atlanta.
The only notable injury came when CB Will Harris left after the very first snap and did not return. That’s a real positive for the Lions on a night where two other teams (Jets and Browns) lost critical starters to what appear to be serious injuries.
There’s ample film to pore over and break down. The first impression is the game tape will not be kind to the linebackers, cornerbacks or reserve offensive linemen. But the 40,521 in attendance got to see an entertaining matchup that had the feel of a real game, at least in the first half.