Lions fail to cap­i­tal­ize on op­por­tu­ni­ties

Packer Plus - - Next Opponent: Lions - NOAH TRISTER AP SPORTS WRITER

De­troit — For much of the sec­ond half, it felt like the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers were just hold­ing on, try­ing to make it to their bye week be­fore the De­troit Lions could reach the end zone.

Af­ter­ward, Ben Roeth­lis­berger and his team­mates could re­lax a bit. This wasn’t their best per­for­mance, but it was a win.

The Steel­ers made one big play of­fen­sively — a 97-yard touch­down pass from Roeth­lis­berger to JuJu Smith-Schus­ter in the third quar­ter — and that was enough for a 20-15 vic­tory Sun­day night. Now Pitts­burgh heads into its open date with its two-game lead in the AFC North still in­tact.

“We find ways to bounce back even when guys aren’t nec­es­sar­ily do­ing every­thing right,” Roeth­lis­berger said.

Three times in the sec­ond half, the Lions (3-4) had the ball in­side the Pitts­burgh 10-yard line, but they came away with only three points to­tal from those drives.

“We’ve got to max­i­mize our op­por­tu­ni­ties when we’re down there. Just very poor, very poor,” De­troit run­ning back Ameer Abdullah said. “Got to find a way to score.”

The Lions were down 13-12 in the third when they were stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Then Roeth­lis­berger found Smith-Schus­ter deep over the middle for the 97-yard touch­down.

De­troit later had to set­tle for a 19-yard field goal af­ter again fail­ing near the goal line, and at the end, the Lions turned the ball over on downs when Matthew Stafford threw in­com­plete from the Pitts­burgh 8.

“When you can keep them out of the end zone and just give up field goals, that’s huge,” Steel­ers de­fen­sive end Cameron Hey­ward said.

The Steel­ers (6-2) have won three in a row, and De­troit has lost three straight.

Here are a few things we learned from Pitts­burgh’s vic- tory:

WR depth: Smith-Schus­ter is a ca­pa­ble deep threat if the op­po­nent con­tains An­to­nio Brown. De­troit held Brown to five catches for 70 yards, and Pitts­burgh re­ceiver Mar­tavis Bryant was in­ac­tive af­ter his so­cial me­dia out­burst fol­low­ing a vic­tory over Cincin­nati the pre­vi­ous week­end. SmithSchus­ter, how­ever, fin­ished with seven catches for 193 yards, in­clud­ing the long TD in the third quar­ter.

“The rea­son I kept look­ing back, be­cause of ‘Mad­den’ my speed is like 82, 83. So I was like, ‘Nah, I think they’re go­ing to catch me, they’re go­ing to catch me,’” he said. “And then next, you know, I pulled away and I swerved to the right and I was able to get the touch­down.”

Run­ning woes: Part of the rea­son the Lions strug­gled near the goal line was be­cause their run­ning game isn’t enough of a threat. De­troit fin­ished with 71 yards on 22 car­ries, and it was hard for the Lions to move the ball near the end zone in sit­u­a­tions when the de­fense could ex­pect a run. Split crowd: It prob­a­bly wasn’t the best day for the Lions to try for a “blue out” at Ford Field. De­troit en­cour­aged fans to show up wear­ing blue, but the ef­fect was largely negated be­cause there were so many Steel­ers fans on hand wear­ing black and gold.

Bet­ter pro­tec­tion: One sil­ver lin­ing for De­troit was the job an in­jury-plagued of­fen­sive line did pro­tect­ing Stafford. He was sacked only twice.

In­juries: Pitts­burgh safety Mike Mitchell hurt his right an­kle, and of­fen­sive line­man Chris Hub­bard was eval­u­ated for a con­cus­sion. De­troit run­ning back Dwayne Washington left with a con­cus­sion. Lions wide re­ceiver Golden Tate played de­spite a shoul­der is­sue.

GETTY IMAGES

Steel­ers line­backer Ryan Shazier stops Dwayne Washington of the De­troit Lions on the one-yard line in the fourth quar­ter to help pre­serve Pitts­burgh’s vic­tory on Sun­day night.

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