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Detroit Lions Win Preseason Opener: What Can We Learn from This Game

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 15: Quarterback Daunte Culpepper #11 of the Detroit Lions drops back to pass the football against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field on August 15, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
Oliver VanDervoortCorrespondent IAugust 16, 2009

As fellow Bleacher Reporter Patrick Bohac rightly points out, the Detroit Lions were the only team to go 4-0 in the 2008 preseason last year, and still went 0-16 once the regular season kicked off (Detroit is the only team in the history of the NFL to go undefeated in the preseason and winless once the games counted).

So should we get excited that the Lions opened this exhibition season with a victory?  We can be happy, but don't get your hopes up yet.  Detroit scored 24 of its 27 points in the second half; meaning they beat up on players who will probably not be sniffing a roster spot once September rolls around.

Still, there were positives.

Isn't it funny how much drama there was leading up to this game as far as who would be named the starter, when the starter in these games usually sees less playing time than anyone else?  Daunte Culpepper got the nod as the starting QB against Atlanta, and had nice outing, when he actually played. 

The former Viking superstar did lead Detroit to a field goal in their first possession, and showed the old versatility that could win him the starting job in the regular season as well. 

Culpepper used both his arm, completing two passes to Kevin Smith; and rushing, carrying twice for 10 yards.  Culpepper finished his outing 5-6 for 41 yards, and carried a total of three times for 12 yards.

Much Heralded rookie Matt Stafford relieved Culpepper and had his "welcome to the NFL" moment early in the third quarter, when he had a pass picked off by Falcons' linebacker Tony Gilbert and returned for a touchdown.  He bounced back nicely later in the frame with a 25 yard touchdown pass to Derrick Williams.

Quarterbacks weren't the only players that deserve a long look this preseason.  Starting running back Kevin Smith saw very little action, carrying three times for 12 yards, and also caught two passes for 27 yards. 

Aaron Brown looks like he could be a decent running back, if you can base that on one preseason game.  The rookie out of TCU carried the ball six times for 47 yards and a touchdown, and also caught two passes for 51 yards and a TD.

Saturday was a bad day for evaluating the wide receivers, as neither Calvin Johnson, nor Dennis Northcutt caught a single pass.  Fourth stringer Derrick Williams lead the receiving corps with two catches for 35 yards and Stafford's touchdown throw.

Detroit's defense looked solid, allowing only 10 points to the mostly first string Atlanta offense, although they did not record a sack or force a turnover.

So what can we take away from this game?  That the Lions didn't embarrass themselves, and that some youngsters they will most likely be counting on this year held their own. 

Detroit takes on Cleveland next Saturday, with Stafford most likely getting the starting nod for that game, with Culpepper coming off the bench.  Key players' improvements from one week to the next will be the most important component.

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