Jared Goff didn’t have the debut he desired on Sunday.
For starters, the 49ers “put their paws” on his nine times, with three of those resulting in a sack. Along with that, he threw a pick-six during a two-minute drill––something he acknowledged can’t happen. And then lastly, the Lions lost their season (and home) opener 41-33.
It was a game he, his teammates, and coaches wish they could’ve done things differently. Despite that, something happened within the team on Sunday afternoon––which could be a positive down the road.
Jared Goff proved to his teammates and coaches that he’s a leader.
With 5:44 left in the game, the Lions were down 41-17. Dan Campbell’s debut as the Lions coach was on the verge of mirroring Matt Patricia’s in 2018 when the Lions lost 48-17 to the Jets. The Lions could’ve easily mailed it in at that point. With that deficit combined with the time remaining, Campbell could’ve rested his starters. And no one would’ve blamed them.
But he didn’t.
Campbell decided to coach to win. Goff’s play down the stretch was proof of it. In the game’s final minutes, he showed a command of the offense that he didn’t in the first three quarters. He went 8-for-11 on the first of his last three drives, which set up Jamaal Williams to bring the game within two scores. Following that, the Lions successfully recovered an onside kick.
And then Goff went to work again.
He went 5-for-5 on a six-play, 59-yard drive that ended with him connecting with Quinztez Cephus for a touchdown and two-point conversion. Now within one score, it still appeared the Lions faced insurmountable odds. However, the Lions’ defense forced a fumble, giving Goff a chance to complete a historic comeback.
Unfortunately for the Lions, that didn’t happen. The 49ers’ defense flipped the switch back “on” and shut it down to seal the 41-33 win.
Despite the result, Lions coach Dan Campbell felt Jared Goff did his best to get the W.
“When you put 57 passes on a guy relative to the way the game was going, he gave us a chance to come back. I’ll say that,” said Campbell. “And I do believe, all the way to the end, man, he gave us a chance at the end of the game. You’d like to believe that we if we could keep ourselves out of that situation, your odds of winning are even better.”
And Campbell is right. Asking a quarterback to drop back and throw it 57 times is a lot.
However, Goff wasn’t complaining. For him, it was a moment of revelation of who his teammates were. After the game, he described the vibe of the huddle during the comeback.
“It was great. It was really good,” said Goff. “Again, I think you found out who we are, and it’s not a moral victory, and it’s not something that we’re necessarily proud of, but it is something that is good to know. It’s not going to be the last time that we’re down in a game. It’s not going to be the last time that we have to come back. And on the flip side, we’re going to be up in some games where we have to stay the course and know that each play is its own individual play.”
“It’s encouraging to know who we are, but at the same time, we have a lot of stuff to get fixed, and I’m excited to get it fixed starting tomorrow.”
Goff isn’t alone in feeling encouraged. Another Lions player left Sunday’s game feeling the same sentiment, partly due to Goff’s play.
That was D’Andre Swift.
Swift didn’t mince his words when asked about Goff’s demeanor in the huddle during the comeback. He described what he saw with a serious tone.
“Confidence. Amazing. Natural born leader. The type of guy you love playing next to,” Swift told reporters. “In times like that, I like to look in guy’s eyes and see like, who I’m standing next to, who I’m going to war with.”
Dan Campbell said the Lions have things to clean up as they prepare for the Packers next week. They’ll do that as they review the film vs. the 49ers. One thing they won’t have to address is the leadership under center. Even with the loss, Jared Goff proved he’s a man teammates can follow. Now he has to add some W’s to his Lions resume.
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.