NOAH TRISTER, AP Sports Writer
DETROIT (AP) — All the Detroit Lions needed to do was beat Tennessee at home, and they would have achieved exactly the start they needed in a season when so many of the franchise’s key figures are facing doubters.
Instead, a double-digit lead slipped away in the fourth quarter — a glaring reminder of why Detroit fans always seem so skeptical about the Lions.
Favored by about a touchdown Sunday, the Lions lost 16-15 to a Tennessee team that won only three games a season ago. Detroit committed 17 of the game’s 29 penalties and allowed the Titans to score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t stop the run as well as we’d like, we didn’t finish drives, too many penalties, that’s obvious,” coach Jim Caldwell said Monday. “There’s a number of things like that. There’s many, and usually in the second game of the year you’re going to have a lot of stuff.”
After an encouraging offensive performance in a season-opening win at Indianapolis, the Lions had an opportunity to add a second victory before a tough game at Green Bay next weekend. Although the first three quarters were disjointed because of all the penalties, Detroit led the Titans 15-3.
Then Marcus Mariota threw a pair of touchdown passes, putting Tennessee ahead. The winning TD came with 1:13 remaining.
The Lions have allowed 30 points in the fourth quarter over their first two games.
“We know what the things are in terms of our breakdowns, and there have been many, runs and pass,” Caldwell said. “We certainly haven’t blown the doors off from a scoring standpoint either, but those are the kind of things you work on the first couple games.”
The game was lost in the fourth quarter, but Detroit missed chances earlier. Near the end of the second, the Lions had touchdowns called back for penalties on back-to-back plays. They ended up settling for a field goal.
Eric Ebron was flagged for offensive pass interference to negate one of those TDs.
“We all saw the same picture, and it is what it is,” Ebron said. “Refs made a call that they believed what it was, and we have to live with and deal with it.”
The Lions were without linebacker DeAndre Levy against the Titans, and they lost defensive end Ziggy Ansah (ankle) and running back Ameer Abdullah (foot) during the game. Caldwell wouldn’t go into detail about injuries Monday.
In fact, Caldwell wasn’t even interested in discussing one of the most significant wins of his tenure in Detroit, when the Lions beat Green Bay last season and snapped a 24-game road losing streak against the Packers.
“Last year is last year. This game is important because it’s the next game. It’s the most important game of the year for us,” Caldwell said. “This game coming up is the one that gets our whole focus, the one that gets our concentration.”
Caldwell led the Lions to the playoffs in 2014 in his first season at the helm. They went 7-9 last season and hired Bob Quinn as their new general manager after the season. Quinn kept Caldwell in charge, but the pressure is on this season — for both Caldwell and quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is in his eighth season in Detroit.
The loss to the Titans brought back a lot of familiar criticism.
“Two ballgames, 1-1, we’re not 1-15,” Caldwell said. “We’ve got to look at it that way and make certain that we continue to improve, but we’ve also got to address our issues, and we’ve got some issues now. Let’s not kid ourselves.”
NOTES: Caldwell held his news conference hours before the Lions announced they had released TE Andrew Quarless , so the coach was not available to comment on the move. … Detroit’s attendance Sunday was announced at 58,466, its lowest for a home opener since 2010.
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