The Detroit Lions may have lost a narrow Week 1 contest to the San Francisco 49ers, but the lessons that can be taken out of the game are much bigger than the final score might indicate for the home team.
While the game goes in the books as a defeat, it was a great learning experience for fans, and that was something that tight end T.J. Hockenson saw as well by the time the game was over. Early on, it looked as if the team was heading for one of their usual blowout losses, but the players stepped up and turned what seemed like a lost game into a street fight that lasted all four quarters.
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Speaking with the media on September 12 in an interview posted to DetroitLions.com, Hockenson said he believed it spoke to the character of the team to see them rally in such a way with their backs against the wall and not give in on the field.
“I think you kind of found out who our team is, and that we’re not willing to back down in certain situations,” Hockenson explained. “I think we got to come out a lot faster, we got to be better as an offense, better as a defense, better as a team at first, in the first half. But I was really pleased with the guys and how we came out in that second half. It just wasn’t enough. That’s how the game of football is.”
While the effort wasn’t enough this week, it might be during other games in the future. If that is to be the case, it will only be due to the culture that the Lions have built and established. With that in mind, this Week 1 effort could be important, and a potential turning point for the franchise in due time.
Watch T.J. Hockenson’s Touchdown vs. 49ers
As part of a Lions drive following a San Francisco score early in the game, Hockenson managed to get the ball in the end zone for the team as part of a nice drive which soaked plenty of time off the game clock. He set the tone by getting into the act early on offense.
Here’s a look at the play:
The touchdown squared the game at 7-7 briefly, but the Lions would give up a quick score after to make it 14-7 49ers. A field goal by Detroit later made it 14-10. The rest of the day, Hockenson would stay dangerous and manage to finish with a solid 97 yards receiving and 1 touchdown. Statistically speaking, he outplayed counterpart George Kittle, who had 78 yards receiving with no scores.
This is a good start to the season for both the Lions and Hockenson, and good to see him on the score sheet right away.
Hockenson Enjoys Solid Early Connection With Jared Goff
One of the biggest stories of the offseason was quarterback Jared Goff coming into the mix and working hard with Hockenson to form chemistry. That happened fairly quickly given the circumstances.
“I think we spent a lot of time in the offseason trying to get that development with Jared (Goff) and continuing that relationship. We’re going to continue to show that on the field on Sundays, and when we’re playing, it shows the connection that everybody has. There’s a lot of excitement out there,” Hockenson said.
Goff targeted Hockenson 10 total times on the day with 8 catches. He looked like a potential security blanket in the making, and that’s something the tight end appreciates since the hard work has been happening in practice and behind the scenes. That work must keep continuing for the connection to work.
“I love that. I’m just excited to be in that position and continue to be in that position. But I got to come in day in and day out and continue to improve and gain that trust,” Hockenson explained. “That’s not just one game. For you guys, it kind of shows on Sundays what we do, but I think there’s a lot that behind the scenes that we do in order to build it. I just need to continue to do that and continue to improve.”
To say Hockenson will break out in 2021 might be doing a disservice to what he has already shown as a player considering he cracked a Pro Bowl last season. That being said, this season will be the one that Hockenson looks truly elite and turns himself into one of the top players at tight end week in and week out. That qualifies as a breakout for the Lions, who don’t typically have the cream of any crop positionally in the league.
Having Goff have a good relationship with Hockenson is a big plus, and Detroit’s resurgent attitude could be a big reason the team lays the groundwork for some bigger wins.