After a tie in Week 1, a supercharge is what the Lions needed to help them through a long season. They got it in their home opener at Ford Field. Not a ton of points were scored by the Darrell Bevell offense, but a win is a win, and the Lions got just that in a 13-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Here are three takeaways for the Lions from this first victory of the season.
And there were a lot of them. A missed field goal and extra point by Matt Prater (When does that ever happen?), eight penalties for 71 yards and two picks by Matthew Stafford could have costed them dearly. Great teams like the Chargers take advantage of them, and veteran leaders like Philip Rivers take advantage of any extra possessions they shall receive. The Chargers also had more yards and a better time of possession during the game, outdueling the Lions 424-339 in total yards, 137-94 on the ground and 31:19-28:41 in total time of possession.
Once again, most normally, subtle differences like these can cost teams crucial games. Four points could mean this game would’ve ended 17-10, and would’ve looked more comfortable to players and fans each. But, another point that will be broken down later will explain how the Lions were able to avenge these mistakes. For now, let’s hit a point that was emphasized last week.
2. Trust Stafford, Even When the Going Gets Rough
We learned this from last week, didn’t we? Lions fans that criticized him before will still do so, but Bevell learned his lesson last week in Arizona (despite him claiming that Matt Patricia called the timeout in Tuesday’s presser), and Stafford earns another fourth-quarter comeback victory. This time, it came against a playoff team from last season. Only time will tell if the Chargers will get back there.
Early, they tried to establish the running game with Kerryon Johnson, but the Chargers defense was all over it, limiting Johnson to 41 yards. Stafford then took it upon himself to air it out, and it worked. There were two picks. Both didn’t look pretty. But at the end of the day, Stafford finished 22/30 with 245 yards and two TDs. One to Johnson, with some creativity from Stafford and Bevell, and one to Kenny Golladay that proved to be the game-winner. He was also the leading receiver on the day with 117. Hard to believe that, with Keenan Allen on the other side. Nonetheless, Stafford helped this team earn a hard victory, but it wasn’t just that. The third takeaway will help break things down even more.
3. Hang Around
Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said to his Sun Devils, “Just hang around for three quarters and get a big play!”. Spartan fans reading this will roll their eyes, but it became a reality. It became that in Detroit on Sunday as well as in East Lansing on Saturday. Despite a missed extra point and field goal, the Lions only trailed 10-6 in the fourth. The defense kept them in it.
Three big plays mattered. A forced fumble near the goal line by Jahlani Tavai on Austin Ekeler, a pick by Darius Slay despite an earlier penalty, and a 31-yard touchdown pass to Golladay proved to be the difference. If Ekeler scores before Tavai knocked the ball out, the score is 17-6. If Allen catches the pass that Slay picked, the score is 24-6 (assuming Ekeler scored, too). Momentum is huge in the game of football, and the Lions proved that to be the case.
Yes, as explained earlier, four points could have made this 17-10, but imagine had the two TDs that were taken away by takeaways by the Lions defense would’ve happened. We’d have a 24-17 game and a Lions loss. Mistakes matter, but making timely plays matter more, and can help you avenge these mistakes. The Lions did that, and are now 1-0-1.
The Lions go from facing one 2018 playoff team at home to visiting another one. Carson Wentz and the Eagles return from Atlanta to await a test from Stafford and the Lions. Despite being one year removed from the Super Bowl, Philly still has Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and a defense that can be tricky, despite giving up points. The road to the playoffs is not easy, and the Lions have their work cut out for them, facing two playoff teams in two weeks. But, to achieve the ultimate prize, the Lombardi Trophy, a team will have to face up to four playoff teams in five weeks.
Buckle up, Lions fans, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. An interesting one, but a bumpy one nonetheless.
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