St. Louis Rams vs. Detroit Lions: Live Score, Highlights & Analysis
It's finally here.
After over eight months of offseason and preseason hype full of analysis, re-analysis and over-analysis (but no action), we are finally, finally back to real football.
The St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions are underway, and will soon be winless and undefeated in some arrangement, and we can all start basing our projections and analysis on things that actually happened, not guesses based last season plus draft and free agent moves.
Of course, based on those observations that I just disparaged, the Lions should have a commanding advantage in this game.
Though the Rams get Sam Bradford back for a fresh season, his offensive line protection and receiving corps are shaky at best. Even against the Lions' battered secondary, the Rams may not be as effective in the air as Matthew Stafford and his full complement of receivers (including the best one in football).
The caveat here is that the Lions' secondary may be even weaker than advertised, with starting S Louis Delmas and starting CB Chris Houston both listed as doubtful for the game (inactive lists to come shortly).
Both these teams are going to lean heavily on the pass rush to keep the scoring down, but with Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson on one side, and Steven Jackson/Bradford against four new starters in the Lions secondary on the other side, there's a very good chance this one doesn't end 6-3.
We're at halftime, and the story so far is the Rams' secondary dominating Matthew Stafford, who can't seem to read coverages and has thrown three interceptions in the first quarter. Despite a weak showing by the Rams' offense, the defense has kept them in the game, to the point that they lead by three.
The Rams had a couple of opportunities to pull away, as they took the lead on two separate occasions in the second half. The last of those go-ahead scores put the Rams up by a field goal with less than two minutes to go.
But you give the ball to Matthew Stafford with time and a deficit to make up, and things tend to happen. Stafford needed about 100 seconds to take the Lions 80 yards and toss the game-winning touchdown, for a tougher-than-expected victory in Week 1.
Final Score: Rams 23, Lions 27
The Lions pull out their first (and most likely not their last) comeback victory of the season, after driving 80 yards in under two minutes to clinch a 27-23 victory on a five-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Smith (his second on the day).
It was a hard-fought game for the Rams, who frustrated Stafford and the Lions offense for much of the game. But like he did so many times last season, he came up in clutch time, and drove for a touchdown in about 100 seconds when the Lions only needed a field goal to tie.
It was a redeeming moment for Stafford, who was putting together one of the worse games in his career up to that point, to come back and drive the Lions to victory. For the Rams, it was a frustrating moment in an otherwise hard-fought game.
If the Rams are in a position to accept moral victories, this might qualify. But regardless, the Lions are 1-0 and the Rams 0-1 after week one, and both teams have plenty to talk about when preparing for next Sunday.
At the two-minute warning, it's Rams ball in Lions territory. On fourth down, the Rams take the field goal and put the Rams on top.
With just under two minutes left, it's up to Stafford and the Lions offense to drive the offensive in the two-minute drill. They have one timeout and 80 yards to go for the win, or a field goal to tie it.
Fasten your seatbelts.
Rams LT Roger Saffold has been down on the field for several minutes, and they are now carting him off the field with his neck secured.
There is very little concrete information of Saffold's injury, but the way he went down blocking John Wendling, it looks like he may have tweaked something in his neck.
More on that as information comes available. In the meantime, the Rams scored their first touchdown of the game on that play Saffold was injured, on a fantastic diving touchdown catch by Brandon Gibson. That puts the Rams on top 20-13.
But before I could even publish that update, the Lions answered back with a lightning-quick drive that featured lots of TE Brandon Pettigrew and concluded with a Kevin Smith touchdown run.
INJURY UPDATE: Per Dave Birkett on Twitter, updates on the two injuries of the game.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center"><p>Saffold did suffer a neck injury.</p>— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) <a href="https://twitter.com/davebirkett/status/244884778141249536" data-datetime="2012-09-09T19:47:35+00:00">September 9, 2012</a></blockquote><script src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center"><p>Bill Bentley back on the sideline for the Lions. No helmet, just watching.</p>— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) <a href="https://twitter.com/davebirkett/status/244885226952732672" data-datetime="2012-09-09T19:49:22+00:00">September 9, 2012</a></blockquote><script src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
At the end of the third quarter, the Lions and Rams remain tied, as both offenses have stagnated in the second half.
At this point in the game, both teams should feel like they're lucky to be in it. Neither team has been particularly sharp in this one. The Lions are playing the better overall game, but are being dominated in the turnover battle.
The result is a stalemate with some clunky offense that has combined for three total points in the second half.
We could attribute that to excellent defensive halftime adjustments by Jim Schwartz and Jeff Fisher, but it looks a lot more like poor quarterback play than anything.
INJURY ALERT: Lions CB Bill Bentley has been removed from the game. Initial reports are not saying what the injury is just yet. That could be severe or not, depending on who you ask.
I don't know whether it's that the Rams' offense is worse than expected, or the Lions' defense is better, but the Rams have been unable to get anything going in this game.
The Rams have only six offensive points to go along with the Cortland Finnegan pick-six, which means the defense has scored more than the offense at this point.
Steven Jackson has been effective, but remains bottled up for the most part, and Sam Bradford has been under far too much pressure to get into any kind of a rhythm (though he has done a better job of taking care of the ball than Stafford)
But Stafford has come out and played much more conservatively in the second half, and while that equates to no turnovers in the second half, it also means the Lions have scored only three points in the second half so far, and the score remains tied.
Current Score: Lions 13, Rams 13
The good news for the Lions is they pretty much could not have had a more disastrous first half, and yet they've worked the score back to a tie.
Stafford has come out much more conservative in the second half, obviously affected by his first-half struggles, but still gets the Lions into field goal range for Jason Hanson to knock through a 45-yarder.
The Rams' offense has been stagnant for most of the game, and they will need to step up with a strong drive if they are to maintain their first-half momentum.
Current Score: Rams 13, Lions 13
Bad gets worse for the Lions, as Matthew Stafford throws his third interception in four possessions, and Titus Young takes a personal foul on the play.
The interception by Cortland Finnegan was returned for a touchdown, putting the Lions ahead 13-7.
In the ensuing drive, Stafford drove the ball downfield only to nearly throw a fourth interception in the end zone. The would-be pick was dropped by Bradley Fletcher, and the Lions were, at least, able to salvage a field goal on the board before the half.
The award for most dominant unit at halftime is the Rams' secondary, which has pretty much made Stafford's life miserable so far in this game. On five possessions, Stafford has led two scoring drives and thrown three picks.
If the Rams' offense were more effective, this game wouldn't be nearly as close.
Current Score: Lions 10, Rams 13 (Halftime)
Another Lions drive results in an interception with a long return, this time from Stafford to Jo-Lonn Dunbar, furthering the notion that the Lions' offense can only be stopped with turnovers.
Of course, the Lions' score now is one touchdown and two interceptions in three possessions, and the Rams will take that all day.
The Rams have given just about every offensive touch to Steven Jackson, which has worked okay for them so far, but they haven't been able to touch the end zone.
After two trips deep into Lions territory, the Rams have only six points to show for it, and the Lions still lead as the second quarter winds down.
Current Score: Lions 7, Rams 6 (2Q two-minute warning)
After two drives, it appears the only way the Rams are going to stop the Lions' offense is with turnovers.
The Lions' second drive looked a whole lot like the first one, only this one ended with the Lions scoring instead of an interception in the end zone.
Joique Bell (of all people) took the ball on second-and-goal and pounded it into the end zone, after another methodical drive down the field. For an offense noted for the passing game, and particularly Calvin Johnson, the Lions are showing a very balanced attack, in terms of run/pass ratio and receiver distribution.
The Rams' fail to answer in their ensuing possession, and it's Lions ball again.
The Rams, on the foot of rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein, strike first with a 48-yard field goal to go up 3-0.
But head coach Jeff Fisher may not be very happy about it. WR Brandon Gibson took an awful post-play personal foul when he shoved Lions CB Bill Bentley clean off his feet on the opposite side of the field from where the play was happening.
That penalty turned a manageable 3rd-and-9 into an impossible, drive-killing 3rd-and-24 near midfield. The Rams got enough yards back to get into manageable field goal range, but that drive could have become far more than it did.
Still, the underdog Rams are on top 3-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Current Score: Rams 3, Lions 0
Oh, boy. After a methodical drive that led to a 1st-and-goal situation for the Lions, Matthew Stafford throws an ugly, stare-down interception to none other than Janoris Jenkins.
Yes, the same Janoris Jenkins for whom draft rumors swirled for months and months. A number of Lions fans are still bitter about the Lions not taking the best available cornerback in the draft, and the interception in the end zone is not going to help matters.
Jenkins returned the pick about 30 yards, where the Rams will take over for their first drive of the season. It looks like the Rams' attack will consist of a steady diet of Steven Jackson.
Here we go all. Rams vs. Lions is underway. Jim Schwartz vs. his former boss at Tennessee, Jeff Fisher,
Rams won the toss and deferred, so the Lions start with the ball at the 20-yard line after a touchback.
Get hype. Football is back.
Via the Oakland Press, here is the list of Lions' inactives in this game:
QB Kellen Moore
WR Ryan Broyles
LB Tahir Whitehead
OT Jason Fox
OT Corey Hilliard
CB Chris Houston
S Louis Delmas
The biggest news is the Lions starting four new players in the secondary for this game. CB Bill Bentley and S Erik Coleman replace CB Eric Wright (left in free agency) and S Amari Spievey (regressed and lost his starting job). Houston and Delmas are the returning starters, but both are injured, so Jacob Lacey and John Wendling will take their starting spots, respectively.
Lions fans will be disappointed to see Broyles inactive, as many were likely anxious to see what he was capable of, but he wasn't likely to get many targets, anyway.
Meanwhile, rookie Riley Reiff gets a huge vote of confidence by being the only reserve offensive tackle dressing for this game with Fox and Hilliard sitting out.
The Rams have released their list of inactive players for this game. Via NFL.com:
DT Michael Brockers
DT Matt Conrath
RB Terrance Ganaway
T Ty Nsekhe
DT Darell Scott
G Shelley Smith
SS Darian Stewart
Brockers, the Rams' top pick in 2012, is perhaps the most notable individual player on that list, but equally notable is the fact that the Rams are going into this game short three defensive tackles.
That could be good news for a Lions team that will look to impose the run as part of a balanced attack.
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