(NFL) The atmosphere at Ford Field this afternoon was one of excitement and major enthusiasm. Just before player introductions today, the Lions unveiled new banners at Ford Field, honoring the NFL champions from 1935, ’53, ’53 and ’57. They also recognized division champions, and playoff appearances with separate banners. The crowd was extremely wild and loud for the entire game today against the St. Louis Rams. You can just tell that Detroit is a football city and fans really get behind their team, especially since now the Lions are back to being a playoff contender.
There has been much hype about the Detroit Lions coming into this season. QB Matthew Stafford threw for 5,000 yards last year, a feat that had only been reached one time before the 2011 season, and the offense is full of talent and explosive athletes. Not only am I talking about All-Pro WR and Madden cover athlete, Calvin Johnson, but a couple talented RBs in Kevin Smith, Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure (when healthy.) The offensive line has a lot of size and experience, while Brandon Pettigrew is considered a top 10 Tight End in the NFL. The rest of the WR core is very productive and talented featuring Nate Burleson and Titus Young.
Defensively, the Lions D-Line is considered one of the elite fronts in the league anchored by Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and the seasoned veterans Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril. The Linebackers are solid with captain Stephen Tulloch and tackling machine Justin Durant. The secondary has questions but certainly seems to be athletic and solid when all are healthy.
With all this talent, you would think that the Lions would’ve walked all over the 2-14 St. Louis Rams today. Well…they actually did, but the final score of 27-24 simply doesn’t reflect that at all. The Lions came out on the first drive and drove right down the field at ease, up until Matthew Stafford threw an interception on the 3yd line. Stafford had an uncharacteristic first half, throwing 3 interceptions, 2 of which were in the red zone, and the other was returned for a St. Louis Touchdown. Stafford just looked out of sync, it seemed to be some sort of first game jitters, combined with the impressive defense that Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher always seems to put together. He’s the third winningest active Head Coach in the NFL. Nonetheless, the Lions were still only down by three points, 13-10, at halftime.
There was never really a sense of concern by the fans, though. Maybe because they are used to watching the Lions comeback and win, just like last year when Detroit set an NFL record for coming back and winning from 17+ point deficits three times last season. This being said, the game was tied at 13pts going into the fourth quarter. St. Louis put together an impressive drive, ending with Brandon Gibson catching a 23 Yd Pass From Sam Bradford with 9:45 to play, giving the Rams a 20-13 lead. Stafford and the Lions answered right back with a 5 play, 80 yard drive ending with a Kevin Smith 5yd touchdown run. St. Louis got the ball back, drove 52yds in 15 plays and Greg Zuerlein kicked a 46yd field goal, giving the Rams a 23-20 lead with 1:55 to play.
Matthew Stafford now had the chance to redeem himself and lead a game winning drive, and he did just that! The Lions drove 80yds in 9 plays, and Stafford threw the game winning TD pass to Kevin Smith with 10 seconds left in the game.
The whole stat book today was controlled by Detroit, besides the turnovers. The time of possession was almost dead even as well. If it weren’t for Stafford’s 3 first half Interceptions, the Lions surely would have won this game more handedly. Tight End Brandon Pettigrew also had a couple of key drops as well that should have resulted in extended drives and more points. Matthew Stafford still managed to throw for 355yds, while Calvin Johnson caught 8 passes for 111yds. Kevin Smith finished with 62yds rushing, 29yds receiving and 2 TDs.
Detroit’s defense looked very solid today, besides a few coverage mishaps. They only allowed one Touchdown today, and also sacked Sam Bradford 3 times. LB Justin Durant had 12 tackles today, leading the Lions Defense.
Today’s game was also a historic game for the NFL. It was the first regular season game to feature a female referee. The replacement officials did a very solid job today and there were not any problems, complaints, or noticeable missed calls. While it wasn’t the prettiest game for either team today, the Lions still managed to come out with the 27-23 win and start the season off 1-0.
Written by Mike Sullivan. Follow on Twitter @MikeSullivan