Detroit Lions: Heroes and Zeros vs. St. Louis Rams
It wasn’t always pretty. And it certainly wasn’t the kind of win you expected the Detroit Lions to secure prior to Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams. But none of that really matters so long as there’s a “one" in the win column, right?
For this week, sure. But the Lions had plenty of missed opportunities and sloppy execution in those four quarters of football. And you can be sure that they won’t get away with it as they get deeper into their 2012 schedule.
Overall, however, the Lions impressed. Aside from a lousy first half from Stafford and some dropped balls by Brandon Pettigrew and Co., the Lions played as good of football as I’ve seen in while.
And the best part?
The Lions had just 27 yards on three penalties.
They were, for lack of a better phrase, working on all cylinders yesterday. They had moments of weakness and Stafford certainly has some kinks to work through, but I was encouraged by how they played and I am fairly confident week two will look a lot different.
So with that, let’s look at some of the heroes and zeros of yesterday’s win over the St. Louis Rams.
Hero: Detroit Lions' Defense
The Detroit Lions' defense—from the linebackers to the defensive line to the secondary—looked sharp. They held Steven Jackson to just 53 yards on 21 carries, thanks in large part to Justin Durant and his 12 tackles and Ndamukong Suh’s one-armed take down.
The line consistently added pressure to the middle, and Durant, Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy combined for nearly 30 tackles.
In the defensive backfield, the secondary looked encouraging. Especially when you compare them to the disaster that was last season.
Despite leaving the game with concussion-like symptoms late in the game, rookie Bill Bentley showed why he was named a starter. He had just one tackle, but proved that he’s a great cover corner in an already thin secondary.
Zero: Matthew Stafford
When you look at the grand scheme of things, Stafford was most certainly a hero. He led the Lions in back-to-back drives, first setting up a Kevin Smith five-yard touchdown run to tie the game, and then capping a nine-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a Smith five-yard pass, and ultimately the win.
But before that, it wasn't so easy. In the first half and for much of the second, Stafford looked out of sync. He wasn’t reading the defense well and looked uncomfortable in the pocket, forcing passes that ultimately resulted in three interceptions. Those three INTs are what kept the Rams in the game, as they resulted in 13 points for St. Louis.
That’s the bad news. The good news is this: the Lions won despite that. And Stafford will be just fine. I wouldn’t expect him to have another game like this anytime soon.
Hero: Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith proved yesterday—barring any injury that is—that he can handle the starting running back job with efficiency. He carried the ball just 13 times, but finished with 62 yards rushing, 29 yards in the air and two touchdowns.
Oh, and those two touchdowns just happened to be the most important scores of the game. Smith did drop a couple passes early, but he still managed to make an impact where not much impact was expected this season.
If he can keep this up—especially when Mikel Leshoure returns—the Lions might be a more versatile team than we expected.
Zero: Stefan Logan
Forgive me for this one, as my opinion here might be a little clouded. Logan, overall, had a pretty good game. He averaged 10.6 yards on his punt returns and looked like he improved from his performances last season.
But in the fourth quarter, he reminded us all that he’s just not that good. And despite his positive numbers in the first three quarters, I’m still left thinking that the remaining 15 games of the season will prove it. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t really think I will be.
What are your thoughts on this one? Am I being too hard on him? Or do the Lions need to reconsider their special teams return man?
Hero: The Receivers
Calvin Johnson might not have gotten into the end zone at all yesterday, but he certainly made his presence felt. He finished with 111 yards on six catches, including a monster 51-yard catch in the first half, and two timely catches on the final drive of the game.
And he did it all in double coverage. Not that that’s really anything new for Johnson.
Nate Burleson also proved why he’s the number two receiver on the team, something Lions' fans haven’t always been confident in themselves. He was clutch all game and stepped up when Stafford needed a target. He finished with six catches for 69 yards and looked as comfortable in that role as he's ever been.
Zero: Dropped Passes
Even with Stafford’s inefficiencies, the blame can’t solely be rested on his shoulders. There were several dropped passes throughout the game that simply shouldn’t have been.
The biggest culprit is Brandon Pettigrew. Pettigrew had a monster fourth quarter. He finished with 77 yards on five catches, 44 of which happened in the final quarter. But before that, he was sloppy. He dropped several sure catches, one which would have given the Lions six points.
Pettigrew has had trouble in the past with hanging on to balls. He’s going to have to find a way to be more consistent throughout the game. He's too good and he's too big of a target for Stafford to make mistakes like he did yesterday.
Tony Scheffler and Kevin Smith also had drops on passes that otherwise should have been easy catches.
Honorable Mention: Titus Young
Titus Young is getting an honorable mention for the "zero" category. While he didn't have many chances to be productive, he also didn't look very good when he did.
He had just one reception for 14 yards in the entire game. And he showed the same immaturity he did last season when the Lions got docked 15 yards for an unnecessary roughness call.
If he's going to have the breakout season that everyone has expected, he needs to make sure to have his head planted firmly in place first.