I have followed the Detroit Lions for a quarter century. There have been some horrible games that I have witnessed, but the first half on Sunday may have been my most agonizing moment as a Lions’ fan.
Let’s rehash the list, shall we? A long drive, a botched field goal, a huge run from Adrian Peterson, a TD called back on the ol’ process rule, a defensive touchdown wiped out on yet another stupid penalty from Ndamukong Suh, which was immediately followed by a tipped pass interception, and a 14-6 Minnesota lead.
I am not sure any of us, in our wildest nightmares, expected the Lions to start that way. Each of those gut-wrenching scenarios has happen on a number of occasions in the Jim Schwartz era, usually spelling doom for the rest of that game, but rarely do those things happen in the same game, let alone within the first half.
But a funny thing happened–they snapped out of it. All the adversity they faced, they were able to side-step, and end up rolling to a 10-point victory with a great second half (and with some help from a rather hapless Christian Ponder).
So with no further delay, let’s take a look at some of the odds and ends from Sunday’s 34-24 Lions’ victory.
Since the Lions started ugly on Sunday, let’s stick with the ugly for the moment–Brandon Pettigrew. I may have a short memory, but I can’t remember the last time Pettigrew did something positive for this team. Certainly he is a good blocker and blocks almost always go unnoticed, yet when his name is called–its almost always for something negative.
The fifth-year tight end is in a contract year and he committed the no-no trifecta: a dropped pass, a fumble, and a holding call on a 4th down conversion. Joseph Fauria had a great debut, catching all three passes thrown his way for 27 yards and a touchdown. It is really early to be talking about an undrafted rookie replacing a former first round draft pick as starter, but when will the Lions have enough?
It has gotten to the point that when the Lions do something good, I wait for the yellow flag icon to come up on the TV screen. This happened after DeAndre Levy‘s pick-six. Suh once again got nailed on what the sports media has been nubbing another “dirty play.” I have defended Suh in the past, but this penalty was a killer! In today’s NFL, players have to be more aware of what you can and can’t do–especially Suh who is closely watched each play because of his track record.
Despite this bonehead play, I still contend Suh is not dirty–he just lacks basic common sense and unless he wises up, his career will always be maligned.
Now let’s get to some good things, since the Lions are 1-0, ya know?
For all that was made of Matthew Stafford struggling, Calvin Johnson not getting many reps, and the first-team offense’s problems this preseason, things certainly turned out pretty good. Stafford spread the ball around to eight different players on Sunday, including four wide receivers–which was another bit of concern in the preseason.
CJ was held in check (4 catches for 37 yards–but had one touchdown wiped out on the process call and another taken back by stepping out of bounds by perhaps an inch), but, as many believed, once Calvin was in the lineup and was getting double-teamed, it opened up room for others. Nate Burleson had a very good game for someone many feared may have lost a step after last year’s broken leg.
Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!
Lions’ fan have been waiting to embrace an explosive running back since 1999. Reggie Bush gave them that. His career long, 77-yard gallop gave the Lions a two-score lead and helped erase some of the ugly memories from the early part of the game. Bush also showed a lot of toughness when he shook off a dislocated thumb to have a terrific game. If Bush can continue to give this team a spark, there is no question the offense can be just as productive as it was in 2011.
Hats off to the defense–I know some will smear the effort as being against Ponder–but they had to stop Adrian Peterson. Make no mistake, Peterson will get his in each and every game he plays, but the fact that Detroit held him under 100 yards rushing after his first play, 78-yard jaunt is quite laudable. They were also able to relegate Minnesota’s much ballyhooed free agent acquisition, Greg Jennings, to non-factor status (three catches for 33 yards).
- As we have said on so many occasions during the Schwartz era, the Lions need to be more disciplined. Because they have committed so many penalties over the last few years, the referees likely watch them a little more closely than other teams and always throw the flag on ticky-tack calls.
- I am hoping Schwartz will understand there is plenty to be concerned about and not gloss over the early part of this game because the team won by 10.
- I never have been a huge fan of over the top touchdown celebrations, but Joique Bell is a colorful character and I loved his celebration: pushing past security guards at Ford Field (a job he once held) and celebrating with the fans doing an original “Hip Hop Hooray” arm wave.
Icing on the cake.