The Detroit Lions now have a five game winning streak. Furthermore, the Lions have now won three straight on the road. Those stats speak volumes about the maturity of the team and a new culture. A culture of winning.
There were some standout performances by Lions players in the 27-20 Week 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There were also some squeaky wheels that will require some corrective maintenance.
Let’s award some game balls to those players and coaches who are deserving, and get the “C’mon, man!” out on some others.
QB Matthew Stafford — Game Ball
Stafford got off to a rough start, to say the least. He didn’t “sail” passes; he was overthrowing them. On his first series, Stafford missed TE Brandon Pettigrew for an easy TD, and Pettigrew chipped in by dropping another.
On Stafford’s second series, he overcooked a sideline pass to TE Will Heller, who tipped the rocket into the waiting hands of Bucs CB Aqib Talib for a pick-six.
Once the jitters and adrenaline subsided, Stafford was lights out. Stafford was 24-of-33 for 305 yards, three TDs, and one INT.
Stafford’s quarterback rating was a very nice 118.9
RB Jahvid Best — Game Ball
Best had a very good performance in Week 1. Best had 114 yards of total offense, and went for 72 yards on 21 carries.
Best was spelled by Jerome Harrison and Maurice Morris. Best’s 21 carries is probably more work than the coaching staff would prefer, especially in the debilitating subtropical Florida heat and humidity.
Instead of wearing down, Best wore out the Bucs defense with hard work.
WR Calvin Johnson — Game Ball
Megatron scored two TDs on plays that we have become accustomed to as nothing more than standard Calvin Johnson superhuman plays.
In the most anticipated matchup of the game, Johnson thoroughly dominated CB Aqib Talib to the tune of six catches for 88 yards and two TDs.
WR Nate Burleson — Game Ball
Burleson did his part, gaining 60 yards on five catches. He padded Detroit’s rushing stats with a nice 20 yard gain on an end-around.
Steady and solid, Burleson will have a career season in 2011.
TE Tony Scheffler — Game Ball
Scheffler gets a game ball for dumping that stupid end zone dance celebration for the more traditional “air” swordsmanship display. En Garde!
Stafford to Scheffler on those seam routes is going to be a “money” play staple for the foreseeable future.
MLB Stephen Tulloch — Game Ball
The opening of the regular season brought out the caged beast that is Tulloch. DE Kyle Vanden Bosch called him “a thumper.” Tulloch was all that, and then some.
Tulloch notched four solo tackles, sacked Josh Freeman, and spent more time in the Bucs backfield than LeGarrette Blount.
CB Eric Wright — Game Ball
You heard Wright’s name called only once during the Bucs game when he defended a pass intended for Bucs WR Mike Williams.
Wright neutralized receivers on the right side of the field, forcing Josh Freeman to look for other options.
In run support, Wright made an amazing six tackles.
When Wright left the game with leg cramps, it was as if someone had hung the “Open for Business” sign on the door.
CB Chris Houston — Game Ball
Houston deftly defended a pass and recorded an interception in his 2011 debut. Houston stuck like glue to his assigned receivers and consistently turned to find the ball.
DE Kyle Vanden Bosch — Game Ball
KVB’s high motor paid dividends with a strip-sack of Freeman, forcing a turnover to thwart a late Bucs rally.
Vanden Bosch was a more disruptive force than the Lions vaunted defensive tackles.
S Amari Spievey — Game Ball
The Lions safety recorded seven solo tackles to lead the defense, and kept the back door locked against intruders.
RG Stephen Peterman — C’mon, Man!
Like the rest of the offensive line, Peterman’s performance was pretty pedestrian. That is, until he decided to take a cheap shot at CB Aqib Talib after the whistle blew.
Peterman got flagged for a 15 yard personal foul and a “C’mon, man!” from me.
RT Gosder Cherilus — C’mon, Man!
The most egregious penalty of the day came late in the fourth quarter. The Bucs were out of time outs with 1:35 left in the game. The Lions didn’t need a first down on 3rd-and-5. Just let that clock do the Bucs in.
But, Nooooo. Gosder decided to clean up the pile and launched himself at a Bucs defender after the whistle. That personal foul stopped the clock and gave the Bucs a 15 yard kick start on their final TD drive.
Head coach Jim Schwartz went off on Cherilus like a bomb on the sideline. You can expect to see some punitive action by the NFL and Schwartz in days to come.
Lions Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan Goes Turtle — C’mon, Man!
The Lions offense was in blowout mode after the Stafford TD pass to Calvin Johnson early in the third quarter. Linehan decided to go into his shell and run the clock out with a 27-13 lead.
Stafford threw only eight passes in the second half, connecting on six. In the fourth quarter, the Lions gained only 14 yards in the air.
With the Bucs reeling, Linehan’s decision to run the ball was as strange as it was ineffective.
Lions DC Cunningham Installs the Prevent Defense — C’mon, Man!
This one is a doozie. Especially on the heels of Scott Linehan’s brain cramp. The Lions defense had stifled the Bucs until the mid-third quarter. Bucs RB LeGarrette Blount was steaming on the bench with only 15 yards on five carries and Josh Freeman was in full passing catch-up mode.
Gunther Cunningham decided to play “prevent” defense. You know, the defense that prevents you from winning?
Gunny kicked CB Eric Wright inside and sent Aaron Berry in to play RCB in the Lions version of the nickel defense. The blitz was taken off the menu and the safeties played deeper than deep.
Wright promptly left the game with leg cramps, and this was not lost on Josh Freeman, who lit up the Lions for 200 yards and a TD after seeing Brandon McDonald playing the slot against TE Kellin Winslow.