I proposed five things to watch ahead of the season opening game between the Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With the game behind us I now take a look at those five things in hindsight.
1. Bucs Running Game
I wanted to comment on the Buccaneers running game but I could find it. Yuk, yuk, yuk, I crack myself up.
Josh Freeman handed the ball off just 16 times all day and Tampa running backs combined for just 56 yards. The Lions run defense was stout all day including on key third and short situations. In fact, the Bucs gained just one first down as a result of their running game.
2. Maurice Morris/Jerome Harrison
jahvid Best was more of a primary ball carrier than I guessed going into the game but Jerome Harrison and Maurice Morris each had some positive moments for the Lions. The numbers aren’t eye popping, Harrison ran for 27 yards on eight carries while Maurice Morris ran twice for four yards and caught two passes for 25 yards, but the yards came in important positions. Morris caught passes for first downs while Harrison contributed in the running game when the Lions needed to chew up some time.
3. The Tampa Crowd
I never got the sense that the Bucs fans in attendance had any impact on the game whatsoever. Maybe it was the combination of the Lions coming out strong on offense and the Bucs offense struggling early or the number of empty seats but the Lions didn’t have to deal with a hostile environment. Kudos to the Lions fans in attendance that got the “Let’s Go Lions” chant going.
4. Lions Defensive Line
They were prepared to deal with the heat based on their ability to rotate personnel. They didn’t pressure the quarterback like we saw last season and the team’s only sack came courtesy of a linebacker (Stephen Tulloch) but the line held their own and played responsible assignment football. The defensive line is capable of a lot more but they were more than adequate (see point 1) and the Lions got the win.
5. The outcome
The win doesn’t mean the Lions are headed to the playoffs or that the Bucs won’t play in the post-season but it does mean that the Lions have an edge on the Bucs. The Lions left little doubt that they are the better team, now they need to validate that over the course of the coming weeks.