D’Andre Swift’s first NFL game turned into a nightmare that could haunt the rookie.
With 11 seconds left, and the Detroit Lions having squandered a 17-point fourth quarter lead trailing 27-23, Matthew Stafford took the snap from the Chicago Bears’ 16-yard-line. Swift sprinted from his spot alongside the QB in the backfield and burned veteran linebacker Danny Trevathan, streaking to the end zone.
Swift was wide open near the pylon when Stafford’s soft toss hit the running back in the hands. It should have been a celebration with the rookie being swarmed in his first professional game, saving the Lions from a disastrous collapse.
Instead, the ball slipped through Swift’s fingers. Drop. Lions lose.
Despite the flub, Stafford said it would not change how he views the dual-threat rookie running back, and he wouldn’t hesitate to go Swift’s way again in a key spot.
“No, not at all,” Stafford said Wednesday, via the Detroit Free Press. “I’m throwing it to him a hundred times out of a hundred. Trust that kid. He’ll make a play.”
Stafford has praised Swift all offseason, noting in an August appearance on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football he was “excited” about the rookie’s potential.
Swift caught 73 passes in three years at Georgia for 666 yards and five TDs. Pro Football Focus charted just three drops over his college career on 76 catchable balls.
In his rookie debut, Swift carried three times for eight yards and a touchdown while catching three-of-five targets for 15 yards. It was the one drop, however, that soiled the debut.
Head coach Matt Patricia rightfully didn’t pin the blame on the young back after the loss.
“I put my arm around him as soon as we got to the tunnel, walked up the tunnel with him and told him, you know, he’s a great player,” Patricia said Sunday. “The game is not on him. It’s on me, it’s on the entire bad execution and bad plays that we had toward the end of the game and the bad coaching. We all had opportunities to do a better job and we know that we’ve got to do that going forward. But he’s a great young player, he’s going to be a good player for a long time, he’s going to make a lot of plays and we’ll just push forward.”
Swift’s redemption starts Sunday in Green Bay. If Aaron Rodgers and the Packers put up points like they did in Minnesota in Week 1, the Lions would be in shootout-mode. That potential game-script portends to a sizable role for the rookie to get the bad Week 1 taste out of his mouth.
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