Starting off the 2014 season, the Detroit Lions got things going the right way, hammering the New York Giants 35-14 in the first hunt of the season behind a fast strike offense and some very aggressive defense.
Calvin Johnson got things going in a big way immediately, hauling in a 67 yard touchdown pass nearly moments after the game began. Johnson then found the end zone again, and Detroit was off and running. Some stagnancy set in, but the Lions’ defense contributed two takeaways, helping turn things in the
A few short field goals by Nate Freese, a scramble score by Matthew Stafford and a punishing, seven minute drive capped off by a score by Joique Bell helped put the Giants away for good. Detroit won going away in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the 21 point spread looked.
What helped make this first hunt of the season successful? Here’s some thoughts from the aftermath of the initial battle of the year.
Shifty Stafford. It was a big night for Detroit’s quarterback throwing the ball efficiently (22/32 for 346 yards), but the biggest reason behind Stafford’s impressive night? His confidence in the pocket and sudden bevy of elusive moves. Both Stafford touchdowns came as a result of the quarterback extending the play and ducking and diving around. Later, Stafford would show impressive mobility running for a score. Detroit’s offense, led by Joe Lombardi, showed signs of being elite.
Defense Dominant. Teryl Austin had reason to feel excited following his first game as a coordinator, too. The Lions’ defensive front and backfield had a nice evening. Detroit collected two sacks, got pressure on Eli Manning and also contributed two interceptions, both of which helped the offense put points on the board. Detroit’s coverage in the secondary wasn’t bad either, considering they lost a starter and still only gave up 144 passing yards. All told, it was a solid opening note for the group to strike.
Penalties Persist. What likely could have been a bigger blowout earlier stalled thanks to plenty of Detroit penalties, specifically eight for 88 yards. As written earlier, it seems that habit is going to die hardest for the Lions. The good news? In the second half, the Lions seemed to take note and adjust, as they played a much cleaner half. Perhaps chalk the early mistakes up to an excess of excitement or first game jitters.
Lions? Golden Tate looked like the ideal complement to Calvin Johnson in hauling in 93 yards receiving. Ziggy Ansah made an impact off the edge rushing the passer, Darius Slay held up well in coverage in his first game as a feature man, and Tahir Whitehead had a beautiful special teams play partially blocking a punt.
Lambs? Nate Freese rebounded to make two shorter field goals, but did miss a 43 yard attempt badly early in the game. Jerome Couplin may have been blocked into Giants’ punter Steve Weatherford and he may have embellished contact, but the youngster still made a bad mistake.
Significant Battle Wounds: Tackle LaAdrian Waddle (calf) and cornerback Bill Bentley (knee) were injured before halftime. Both did not return to action.
Number To Note: 0, the number of turnovers the Lions’ offense sustained. As part of Detroit’s new attack, there was a definite look of confidence and better coaching as well as organization. Players knew where to go, what cuts to make and Stafford had much better presence, getting rid of the ball safely and making intelligent throws. When compared with New York’s offensive progression, Detroit looked to be light years ahead of the curve.
He Said It: “There’s room for improvement. We didn’t punch the ball in a few times when we needed to.” —Matthew Stafford. Afterwards, when talking to ESPN’s Lisa Salters, Detroit’s quarterback wasn’t ready to celebrate despite the big night of his new look offense. The signal caller was right. There’s a few things that need cleaning up, seeing as Detroit could have scored a pair of touchdowns when handed shorter fields. Particularly, the Lions’ running game was lacking.