Despite quarterback Matthew Stafford having one of his worst career games, the Detroit Lions were able to escape week one with a 27-23 victory.
St. Louis kicked the go-ahead field goal just inside the two-minute warning, but Stafford and the Lions drove down the field and regained the lead when Kevin Smith took a Stafford pass to pay dirt with just 10 seconds left.
After throwing three first half interceptions, Stafford was able to compose himself and lead Detroit down the field to score in the final seconds.
Stafford completed two 20-yard passes on the drive before capping it off with a five yard touchdown toss to a wide open Smith. A visibly pumped up Stafford then stormed
aimlessly around the field looking for someone to celebrate with while I cued up the Jimmy Valvano video and noticed the eerie similarity.
While the stage may have been more dramatic in Jimmy V’s case, this was a much-needed win for the Lions. Stafford’s late heroics got Detroit’s season started on a winning note, but more importantly avoided a disastrous upset.
Starting the season with a loss to the lowly Rams would have crippled Detroit’s playoff hopes instantly.
Yes, I’ll admit, I’m worried about Stafford. His three picks in the first half were all bad decisions, and he made another terrible throw that should have been a fourth interception.
But the fact that the defense kept the Lions in the game long enough for Stafford to hit his stride late in the second half shows hope.
Wide receiver Calvin Johnson tallied six catches for 111 yards, and helped the Lions late rally with two catches for 38 yards in the final drive.
Detroit’s defense was solid throughout the game, and the defensive unit only allowed 16 points. Seven of St. Louis’s 23 points were a result of CB Cortland Finnegan’s 31 yard interception return that came late in the second quarter.
Linebacker Justin Durant had a nice game, recording 12 tackles. Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams both had a sack, and Williams stripped quarterback Sam Bradford of the ball in the process.
Defensive tackle Nick Fairley also recorded a sack, a welcome sight for Lions fans after his troubling offseason.
The patched-together secondary performed pretty well for Detroit, holding Bradford to just 198 yards despite missing starters Chris Houston and Louis Delmas.
The combined defensive effort was a good one for Detroit, as they were able to bend without breaking. St. Louis’s only offensive touchdown was a result of both great starting field position and an outstanding catch by wideout Brandon Gibson.
Other than Gibson’s great touchdown grab, Detroit forced the Rams to settle for three field goals.
Some parts of this game were concerning, but in the first game of the season, a win is a win. Jim Schwartz will not be happy with his quarterback’s decision making, but Stafford played considerably better in the second half and was able to win the game.
The stat sheet may not look pretty, but the Lions will take wins over stats any day.
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