What We Learned About the Detriot Lions After Sunday's 26-23 Win

Matt Sheehan@@MattSheehan333Analyst ISeptember 26, 2011

What We Learned About the Detriot Lions After Sunday's 26-23 Win

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    The world hasn't ended, hell didn't freeze over and pigs still haven't been seen in the air with the birds. Something crazier, however, is happening in the Motor City.

    Fans are celebrating the Lions first 3-0 season since 1980.

    Sorry if that made you spit out your drink.

    After a dramatic win against the Vikings in Week 3, fans learned more about their team this game than any other this season. They were exposed, they battled and they flexed their muscles all in the same game.

    In this week's list we break down the good, the bad and the  ugly awesome that Detroit saw in the overtime thriller.

Pettigrew Is Worthy of Attention

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    In the first two games, Brandon Pettigrew had himself five catches for 64 yards.

    Not a threat, right?


    Pettigrew was the x-factor as he reeled in the most catches (11) and receiving yards (112) for the victorious Lions. Defenses not only have to contain the targets that Matt Stafford has to throw to already, but now they have to worry about the 6'5", 265-pound tight end.

    The Lions offense just got scarier.

Stafford Can Take a Hit

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    China doll no more?

    Sunday's game seemed to prove that.

    Stafford had himself a face full of Jared Allen and Brian Robison throughout the game, forcing him in to quick decision making and being sacked five times.

    I can only imagine taking hits from Allen and Robison would be like sitting through a series of car accidents, and seeing Stafford pop up without his shoulder popping out was a great sight.

    While we're on the topic, lets talk about how they got to Stafford five times...

The Offensive Line Can Use Some Work

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    The whole game Jared Allen burned offensive tackle Jeff Backus like a marshmallow. Smoked him like a trout. Made him look foolish. Any way you put it, you could see the glaring weakness on the O-line.

    Now, granted Allen is a great player, no doubting that, but to have Stafford to be blasted by him the whole game is unacceptable.

    Backus isn't the only offensive lineman being thrown under the bus—it's the rest of them, too.

    The running game only netted 20 rushing yards. That's a pathetic stat for one half, let alone a whole game. Running between the tackles seemed to be "mission impossible" for Jahvid Best as he had to bounce to the outside on nearly every run play. Running lanes were hard to come by—that is, if there even was a lane to begin with.

    Somehow the passing game picked up the slack for the ground game, and if that poor production continues the Lions will find winning games against good defenses a lot harder.

Ball Protection Is Not an Issue

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    The Lions are tied for first in the NFL in turnover margin with an exceptional plus-two per game.

    Sunday's contest against the Vikings reinforced just how good Detroit is when it comes to securing the ball as they gave up zero turnovers.

    That game kept the season total at only two turnovers, coming from one interception in each of the first two games.

    Not bad for a team that led the league in giveaways just two seasons ago.

They Can Tighten Up on the Penalties

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    The Lions increased their penalty average to 6.3 flags per game after Week 3. That puts them tied for 15th in the league. Not bad, but it can definitely be improved.

    Three of the seven flags on Sunday were due to false start triggered by the overwhelming crowd noise in the Metrodome. The Lions need to tighten up on that before they walk into loud stadiums in cities like Green Bay, Chicago, Dallas and New Orleans if they want to have a good chance at a win.

    Lions fans can't be too disappointed, however, since their team had the league's second-worst turnover average of 8.5 just last year.

The Lions Can and Will Stop You on Third Down

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    Silver Crush, Dis-assembly Line, Motown Maulers, whatever you call them, they will stop you.

    A huge downfall for the Vikings was going 4-of-14 on third downs, a stat that seems to be expected from the Lions' potent defense.That stat cements the Lions' third-best third-down conversion average (four) in the NFL.

    Teams that don't take advantage early of mistakes will pay for it if they see themselves calling a play on third down, and that just makes the Lions "D" more feared.

Stafford Has More Targets Than a Firing Range

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    Nate Burleson walked in to this game as the Lions' leading receiver, so it was no question he would be getting attention from the Vikings defense.

    The only problem for Minnesota was that the Lions have more targets than Burleson. Seven more, to be exact.

    Its always a given that Calvin Johnson will be thrown to a good amount during the game, so a defense can at least try to contain him. The problem is how is it supposed to lock down players like Titus Young and Brandon Pettigrew, too?

    The answer is this: They can't stop it.

    Stafford's comfort to spread the ball out keeps the defense more than on their toes and sets up Megatron for a breakout play when the defense least expects it.

Jason Hanson Is and Will Always Be "The Man" in Detroit

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    And really, who could argue that?

    The guy has been with the Lions through thick and thin, and even at the age of 41 he is still a game-changer.

    Hanson played a vital role in the Lions' third win of the season by burying field goals from 28, 32, 40 and 50 yards away. Three of those kicks came in the clutch, with the 50-yarder tying the game, the 40-yarder taking the lead at the moment and the 32-yarder sealing the game for the Lions.

    Will someone make this guy the mayor already?

It Ain't over 'Til It's over

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    Walking into the locker room at the half, down 20-0, may have been enough for most teams to mail it in, but not this year's Lions.

    The Lions came out of the locker room controlling the air with Stafford's prolific passing game and stopping the Vikings offense with their stifling defense. It was almost as if they were just kidding the first half.

    The Lions scored 23 points in the second half, sending the game into overtime, where the Lions kicked themselves to a 3-0 start, the first since the Kennedy administration.

    Hey, it doesn't matter how you do the first half. It's how you handle the struggles and challenge in the second half that make teams great.