CHICAGO — Theo Riddick had nowhere to run, all day long. Marvin Jones Jr. was bottled up for most of the afternoon. Golden Tate had a costly mistake.
The Detroit Lions have seen what their offense can do when it’s clicking. They also have struggled with inconsistency, like Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
Detroit had just 66 yards rushing, and quarterback Matthew Stafford had the longest run of the day with a 15-yard scramble in the third quarter. Jones was held to 74 yards on five catches after beginning the week with an NFL-best 408 yards receiving. Tate missed a signal late in the first half, leading to an interception that cost the Lions three points.
“Yeah, we just did not play well,” Stafford said after Detroit’s 17-14 loss at Soldier Field . “Too many mistakes, myself included — we got to get it right.”
Detroit began the season with a wild 39-35 victory at Indianapolis, with Stafford throwing for three touchdowns while directing the Lions to 448 yards on offense. But it has been mostly downhill since the successful opener.
The Lions scored three points in the second half of a 16-15 loss to Tennessee in their home debut Sept. 18. They managed just 50 yards rushing in a 34-27 loss at Green Bay last weekend, and then came the lackluster effort at Chicago.
“We have to be a better team running the football,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “We had our spurts, a couple of games we did very well, and our last two were poor. We have to get better there.”
Detroit gained 33 yards on the ground on its first drive of the third quarter against the Bears, but that was pretty much the extent of its rushing attack. And that drive ended with a field goal when Zach Zenner was stuffed for a 2-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 1.
It’s not as if the Lions were facing a stout rushing defense, either. The Bears allowed 199 yards rushing in a 31-17 loss at Dallas last weekend and were ranked 30th against the run.
“We just got to come out and execute in the beginning and we’ll be all right,” said Riddick, who finished with a team-high 31 yards on 11 carries.
The Lions lost running back Dwayne Washington to an ankle injury in the first half, but Caldwell brushed off the impact on the rushing attack.
“I would probably say it was more so that we were just ineffective, regardless of who we had back there,” Caldwell said.
The Lions also hurt themselves in the passing game. They looked as if they were driving for another score late in the first half when Tate headed upfield and Stafford threw as if he expected the veteran receiver to break off his route, leading to an easy interception for Jacoby Glenn.
“Just a silly mistake on my part,” Tate said. “I’ll own up to that. Just missed a signal. That cost us three points. It’s tough. It’s tough. That can’t happen in this offense and this team expects more out of me, so I got to be on point. But I just, I missed a signal.”
Stafford threw another interception deep in Chicago territory in the second half.
The good news for the Lions is they begin a three-game homestand next Sunday against Philadelphia, and five of their next seven games are at Ford Field. But Tate said they have to cut down on the mistakes to get back on track offensively.
“One mistake here by one guy and another there is too many,” Tate said. “We aren’t in sync right now. But we know we’re good. We know we’re good and we just got to all click at the same time every single play.”
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap