Pat Caputo: Lions won’t win until defense fixed

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If Lions’ fans have learned anything, it’s that moral victories equal a mirage.

Yes, the Lions' late rally Sunday vs. the 49ers was exciting, especially for those who suddenly got a payday because they bet the home team would would cover the spread.

But the 41-33 loss was mostly proof how far the Lions have fallen.

The Lions’ defense is not improved. If anything, it is worse.

There were some good moments in the running game offensively, and tight end T.J. Hockenson is an excellent player. But many defects overrode the Lions’ few bright spots.

I hesitate to point a finger of blame at the Lions’ new coaching staff and general manager Brad Holmes. They inherited an utter mess. That’s not meant as an excuse, just reality.

Start with the secondary. The Lions’ is awful. Jeff Okudah’s poor adjustment to the ball in the air on the long touchdown reception by the 49ers’ Deebo Samuel sums up the issue. Amani Oruwariye, the other corner, also got scorched, and the Lions’ safety play is decidedly subpar.

The front seven has some talent, but does not necessarily fit the scheme.

Rookie first-round pick Penei Sewell, at his college position of left tackle with Taylor Decker out, showed well in his NFL debut. Center Frank Ragnow and guard Jonah Jackson, at least run blocking, played well. Back Jamaal Williams ran hard and we got a glimpse of D’Andre Swift’s explosiveness in the second half on a long catch-and-run TD.

It was a welcome change how the Lions dominated time of possession early in the game and averaged five yards per carry.