The City of Detroit was alive with both the promise of a new season and the excitement of a pennant race. The day began with a 1pm kick-off between the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts, the third preseason game for both teams.
All eyes were on the quarterback play as Daunte Culpepper and Matthew Stafford continue to their battle to become the Lions' starting quarterback. Not to be forgotten, Peyton Manning still leads one of the league's most prolific offenses.
Culpepper began this game and was able to move the first team offense before ultimately needing to punt. Peyton Manning quickly reminded everyone that he may be the best quarterback in the league, no matter what fantasy football draft boards might suggest. The Colts put together an 80-yard scoring drive in under three minutes.
Not to be outdone, and not to allow Stafford an opening to the starting job, Culpepper orchestrated a scoring drive of his own. The second quarter began with a three-yard touchdown pass from Daunte Culpepper to Bryant Johnson.
The touchdown pass completed Culpepper's day under center. His two possessions as quarterback consumed over 12 minutes of game time and found the offense moving the ball well in the air and the ground. Culpepper looked comfortable on the move as he was able to stay away from pressure long enough to find an open receiver.
Matthew Stafford took over after the Lions defense forced a punt with 11 minutes to go in the second quarter. The play-calling began conservatively with Maurice Morris carrying the ball twice. Forced with a passing situation, Stafford found Calvin Johnson over the middle for a 37-yard gain on third and nine.
Just three offensive possessions into the game and the Lions had a scoring drive from each of their starting candidates. A popular determining factor for ultimately deciding who is the Lions starting quarterback is based on which man gives the team the best chance to win.
After watching today's game, my conclusion is that neither player gives the team any appreciable difference in their ability to win football games. A bold statement about the most important position on the field. Offensively speaking, the unit that will make the difference between success and failure is the offensive line.
The Lions' ability to run the ball gave the offense the balance it will need to succeed. Peyton Manning's success has always been in part due to a running game featuring Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James or Joseph Addai. Kevin Smith looked lean and fast. Maurice Morris looked capable of keeping Smith's load from becoming too great. Rookie Aaron Brown brings the kind of speed the Lions have sought for years.
Offensive line coach George Yarno has the honolulu blue and silver playing smash mouth football. The much maligned group had the Colts defensive front moving backwards and created holes for their speedy backs to burst through unscathed.
The line is more than just a bruising group capable of only moving down field. So far this preseason, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has used the screen pass effectively. Nimble offensive lineman are key in the success of such plays and so far the Lions fivesome looks up to the task.
Kevin Smith paired his 6.3 yard per carry average with three receptions for 33 yards. Aaron Brown managed a 5.3 yard per carry average as a change of pace back. For all the fanfare surrounding the passing game, it looks like the running game may steal the show.
Across the street from Ford Field, the Detroit Tigers prepared for a nationally televised tilt with the Tampa Bay Rays. Fresh off a series opening win on Friday night, the Tigers looked to improve on their second best home record with another win over the Rays.
The Lions finished their business with an 18-17 win over the Colts. Could the Tigers make it a Detroit sweep?
The Rays sent Rookie and potential future ace David Price the the mound for his first career start against the Tigers.
The Tigers gave Nate Robertson his first start of the year in his return from the disabled list following elbow surgery. Robertson has five good rehab starts at AAA Toledo prior to rejoining the Tigers, posting a 1-1 record with a 1.89 ERA.
Nate looked comfortable playing long toss with Gerald Laird and smooth in his bullpen warm up with bullpen catcher Scott Pickens. The good feelings carried over to the game as only 10 pitches were required to retire the first three Rays in order.
Adam Everett committed his 13th error of the season to allow Pat Burrell to reach base to lead off the second inning. A one-out single from Evan Longoria put runners at the corners. A clutch strike out of former Tiger Gabe Kapler eased some of the tension. The remaining tension was relieved with Dioner Navarro's weak liner to Everett.
The Rays used a single, walk and a couple productive outs to push across the game's first run in the third inning. Robertson rebounded to strike out Pat Burrell which should have ended the inning but Gerald Laird was unable to hold on to the third strike, allowing Burrell to reach base. The error proved costly as Carlos Pena followed with an RBI single, putting the Rays up 2-0.
While Nate Robertson was effective in his four innings of work, David Price was spectacular in his seven and a third. The Tigers could only muster a single run against the hard throwing lefty, an RBI single from Magglio Ordonez to score Adam Everett.
The Tigers gave the run back to the Rays in the top of the ninth as sloppy play got the best of the Tigers defense yet again. Following a walk to Akinori Iwamura, Jason Bartlett hit into what should have been an easy double play. An errant throw from Everett to Placido Polanco allowed Iwamura to reach third and put Bartlett on first. A Carl Crawford sacrifice fly allowed the Rays to regain their two run lead, 3-1.
The lead held as J.P. Howell pitched a perfect ninth for his 16th save of the year.
The Tigers remain 4.5 games up in the Central because of losses by the White Sox
; their magic number now sits at 30.