Sep 9, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions linebackers DeAndre Levy (54) and Justin Durant (52) tackle St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson (39) during first quarter the at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-US PRESSWIRE

What We Learned From Lions’ Week 1 Victory Over the Rams

  • The Lions still have late-game heroics

If notable comeback victories over the Vikings, Cowboys and Panthers from last season weren’t enough for you, the Lions delivered another teeth-grinding performance against the Rams. The defense’s performance was very strong and kept the Lions in the game as they struggled early on the offensive end. The fourth quarter belonged to Detroit as their last two drives of the game produced 14 points, covered 160 yards and took off only 4:11 of clock time on 14 plays. It’d be nice to have this kind of production early and throughout the game, but for it only being Week 1, a win is a win.

  • Run defense has improved; secondary played well but  injuries more of an issue

Steven Jackson is probably a bit past his prime, but he’s still one of the most dangerous backs in the league. The Lions held him to 53 yards on 21 carries (2.5 YPC). He had a long run of nine yards. The defensive line was consistently able to get up underneath the Ram blockers’ shoulder pads and get good push into the backfield. Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch filled the gaps well and there were few missed tackles.

Pass defense was also impressive. Granted, Sam Bradford has yet to really amaze anyone with his limited options at wide receiver, but the Lions’ secondary did well to keep the Rams out of the end zone for most of the day. Bradford only threw for 198 yards and wasn’t able to bust out any big plays. His longest throw was that incredible 23 yard touchdown toss to Brandon Gibson. With reports that Bill Bentley has a concussion, the task to continue their success becomes more difficult next week. Until Chris Houston returns, Drayton Florence would likely take Bentley’s spot as a starter opposite of Jacob Lacey with Kevin Barnes moving to the nickel.

  • The offense advanced the ball well

Especially in the first half, the Lions had no problem picking apart the Rams’ defense to get down in the red zone. They executed well by throwing several five to eight yard passes and getting solid runs of four or five yards. It was a little bit of a different approach as we’re used to seeing big-gain throws down the field, but it was efficient and clock consuming. Obviously those great drives were trumped by Stafford’s errant throws to the other team, but the ease of getting first downs was encouraging.

  • The old guys can still get it done

Jason Hanson made history when he took the field Sunday by being longest tenured NFL player for a single team in history (21 years). Hanson was perfect on the day, going 3/3 on extra points and hitting both field goals of 41 and 45 yards. Kyle Vanden Bosch looked like a twenty-something year old as a part of that powerful front four. He had four tackles, got great push and was able to get in the backfield at times. The aging offensive line played very well, only giving up one sack on the day and providing lots of time for Stafford to throw.

  • Kevin Smith made a case to keep starting role

Sep 9, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions running back Kevin Smith (30) stiff arms St. Louis Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan (31) during first quarter the at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-US PRESSWIRE

There wasn’t anything flashing about the running game Sunday aside from Smith’s long run of 19 yards. Beyond that, it was simple and efficient when needed. Joique Bell got the goal line touchdown early and Keiland Williams saw the field briefly, but the job was Smith’s from the start. His timely two touchdowns and good pass protection for Stafford should put Lions fans’ minds at ease about the availability of a solid, healthy running back. Mikel Leshoure still has another week of the regular season to sit out due to his suspension and Jahvid Best is out until at least week 7. Smith took advantage of the opportunity and was an enormous factor in the fourth quarter comeback. He’s set up to keep getting touches and being the starter even when Week 3 arrives.

  • NFC North lived up to the hype

In July, NFL.com picked the NFC North as the second best division in the league, second only to the NFC South. I know it’s only the first week, but when you’ve got two big comebacks like the Vikings and Lions had in addition to an easy win for the Bears, it’s something to take note of. This division has also been regarded by several other outlets as the one with the best quarterbacks. Today was a good indicator that we’re in for some exciting intra-divisional games as the season progresses.

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