Detroit Lions and Tim Boyle Play Incomplete Game, Lose 16-20

Tim Boyle
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The Detroit Lions have become artists in losing games in boring yet embarrassing ways. Their style of play is conducive to their team structure: incomplete; thus, they finish games incomplete. Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons, however, was a bit different. They played rather well over the course of 58 minutes and should have been able to close out the win. Then a Tim Boyle interception into the hands of Foye Oluokun ended the game 20-16 in favour of the Falcons and gave the Lions another bucket of “what ifs” to ponder this off-season.

Detroit Lions and Tim Boyle Make Tragic Error in Final Minutes to Atlanta Falcons

A Very ‘Okay’ Game

In addition to the Lions now 12 losses and one tie, the larger indictment is that they lose games based on little mistakes in the most critical of moments. Yet, they do not lose in spectacular, heart-ripping ways – they just watch passively as games go by.

Much like last week, the Lions played differently than the normal script this season. The Lions carried spectacularly normal football into the match against the Falcons, controlling time of possession by an impressive margin of 38:50 to 21:55. The team managed to control four drives for over five minutes, an effect of controlling the clock in such dominating fashion. As highlighted by LWOS colleague Saivion Mixson, the Lions also garnered 130 yards with the ground game, something they have not done against Atlanta since 1994.

Until the final moments of the game, backup quarterback Tim Boyle aided the Lions in the absence of Jared Goff (COVID-19). Boyle was not stunning and, critically, failed to carry the Lions into the endzone. He was not, however, fatal for the Lions until the last-minute interception. He connected with Amon-Ra St. Brown nine times, and managed to get the ball to eight different receivers. As last week showed, they have the ground work for something more in the coming season.

Amon-Ra St. Brown

One of the most special parts of the game was Amon-Ra St. Brown, a fourth-round rookie who is quickly becoming a centrepiece for Detroit on Sundays. Statistically, he will finish less the season with less than 1,000 yards; earlier in the season he was still navigating the NFL. Now he is putting big plays together for big games, finishing the Christmas weekend with nine receptions for 91-yards, a touchdown, and two rushes for 19 yards.

St. Brown is the versatile star the Lions need to be excited for their future. With little else to be definitively excited about, he can easily take the spotlight in Detroit and be touted as a potential star for the offense. Dan Campbell and Goff need him to be their multi-dimensional offensive star; the type of player that garners so much attention, others are given more room to work.

And so, What Happened?  

Aside from the positives of this game, a loss is a loss. The blame for the loss might easily fall on Boyle for throwing the death-giving interception. The game, like the 11 other losses, ultimately, however, comes down to the front office’s aims at a slow-rebuild. The Lions are incomplete and their record and scores indicate as such. Instead of finding stars last off-season and attempting to patch the team with age and money, Campbell opted to put players together and see who might be salvaged for next season. Such outcomes are entirely expected, especially without the starting quarterback.

As evidence the rebuild is working on one side of the ball, Campbell implicitly trusted his defense to get the ball back and win the game, when opting to kick a field goal at the Falcons eight-yard line. Boyle’s late game interception has not resulted in the team kicking each other while they are down, and instead he indicated players tried lifting him up. Cliché and well-stated for a backup, yes; but also indicative of a culture overtly self-aware of their own purpose and shortcomings in the season.

Unlike certain other teams, this two-win team has not thrown its culture into a trash bin. All other indicators are the Lions are growing amidst losing. There are two games left, including next week against a reeling Seattle Seahawks team, in which the Lions defense can reveal a lot about who they are.

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