Daisuke Aoki kicked a 19-yard field goal with 1:02 remaining as the Lixil Deers came from a two-touchdown deficit to beat the All Mitsubishi Lions 31-28 on Monday night in the X League’s season opener.
The Deers, formerly owned by Kajima Corp. but now a club team sponsored by Lixil Corp., struggled to stop the Lions’ run offense in the first half, then had a hard time against their passing attack in the second half.
“Our defense, especially defensive line tried to do too much early in the game,” Lixil head coach Kiyoyuki Mori said. “Our coverage or pass rush didn’t work well.”
Playing before 4,331 fans at Tokyo Dome, The Deers took a 7-0 lead when Shohei Kato hit Kento Suzuki with a 49-yard scoring pass 6:40 into the opening quarter, but the Lions quickly tied the game with Yasuhiro Suzuki’s 93-yard touchdown rush three minutes later.
The Lions’ option plays were effective at confusing the Deers’ defense and establish a 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter as Shoma Taniguchi threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Kosuke Yoshida.
The Deers managed to tie the game on Kato’s scoring pass to Yuto Fujimori 38 seconds before halftime.
The run-happy Lions turned to passing in the third quarter. Taniguchi used his mobility to buy time for the receivers to get open, and delivered the ball to the receiving corps led by Makoto Tanaka and Shunsuke Sofue, who combined for eight catches for 142 yards and a score. Taniguchi completed 16 of 26 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns.
The Lions scored two straight touchdowns on Taniguchi’s 16-yard pass to Tanaka and Suzuki’s 1-yard run for a 28-14 advantage to move a quarter away from the biggest upset in team history.
The Deers’ defense, however, finally found a way to stop the Lions’ passing in the final quarter, forcing punts on their first two possessions of the period.
Meanwhile, Kato threw a touchdown pass on back-to-back possessions — a 1-yarder to Yasushi Nakagawa and a 12-yarder to Fujimori — to tie the score before leading the Deers to the Lions’ 11 to set up Aoki’s game winner.
Jets suspend Patterson
Florham Park, New Jersey — Dimitri Patterson ended his puzzling absence after 48 hours — but his future with the New York Jets is now uncertain.
The Jets “indefinitely” suspended the veteran cornerback on Monday after he left the team Friday without contacting the organization. General manager John Idzik said Patterson spoke to him and coach Rex Ryan on Sunday night, but Idzik would not discuss the reason for the absence.
“Obviously, Dimitri felt he acted appropriately, but until we discussed it last night, you don’t understand.” Idzik said.
Idzik added that the “indefinite” suspension will be “brief,” but the 31-year-old Patterson will face more discipline once the team has gathered all the facts.