The hype, the crowd noise, the anticipation to the Detroit Lions 2012 season opener all diminished by halftime against the St. Louis Rams. The lethal passing attack stymied by the Rams pesky defense was almost enough to put the game away. Matthew Stafford threw three first half interceptions, the first one on the goal line as the Lions were near their first score of the game.
After some back-and-forth, the Rams struck first, kicking a field goal with 2:02 left in the first quarter. The Lions countered by marching right down the field on a 14 play, 80 yard scoring drive, capped by Joique Bell’s 1-yard touchdown run.
Stafford would go on to throw two more interceptions–one being a pick-six–and the Lions would trail the Rams 13-10 going into halftime. Lions’ fans were questioning what was before their eyes. Chalking it up to preseason jitters, they held their breath hoping for a better second half. Though they didn’t know it, it’s exactly what they’d get.
After a Lions field goal, the score was 13-13. After that, each team exchanged punts three times, for a total of six uneventful possessions. No disrespect to the Rams–who played a hell of a game under new Head Coach Jeff Fisher–but who would’ve thought the Lions would be tied with only thirteen points through three quarters?
Not me. Not the fans. And no one that follows the NFL. “Where’s the fire power? What’s wrong with Stafford, is he hurt?” I still hear the fans frustratingly probe, searching for answers as to why the Lions have not lit up the scoreboard yet. And why hasn’t Calvin Johnson had a second half catch?!
Well, fast forward to the fourth quarter and things start to get interesting. The Lions and Rams each alternate touchdown drives, bringing the score to even, at 20 apiece. The Rams took possession with 7 minutes left, an awkward amount of time. In a combination of attempting to score and playing keep away, the Rams settled for a field goal with just two minutes left to play.
I have my respect for Jeff Fisher, but in all honesty, whether Stafford appears on his game or not, the last thing I want to do is give the ball back to one of the most potent offenses in the league to test their two minute drill, while only leading by three. I guess if it worked, he’d be a genius and if it didn’t, well, then they’d lose. Stafford, with 0 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, decided it would be the latter.
His first pass in the 9 play, 80 yard drive was a 20 yard strike to Johnson, his first catch of the second half. Bang! After an incomplete pass to Brandon Pettigrew, the Lions tight end, was another 20 yard strike, this time to Nate Burleson. After a few more short passes and their last timeout, Stafford slung another pass across the middle to Johnson yet again, good for 18 yards, bringing the Lions down to the 5 yard line.
With 15 seconds to go and no timeouts, you’ve got to take at least one shot at the end zone to try and win, right? Well that they do, as Stafford hits Kevin Smith out of the backfield for a 5 yard touchdown pass.
And just like that, the Lions save themselves from an upset at home and gain a vital victory early in the season. Wins will be hard to come by in the NFC North, a division featuring the reloaded Chicago Bears and NFL juggernaut Green Bay Packers. A win was nice, but one thing is for sure, the Lions are going to need to play better next week if they want to beat the San Francisco 49ers.
Game notes: Stafford was 32/48 for 355 yards with 1 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Kevin Smith ran for 62 yards on 13 carries and 1 touchdown and had an additional receiving touchdown on 4 catches for 29 yards. Calvin Johnson hauled in 6 receptions for 111 yards, while Pettigrew had 77 yards receiving on 5 receptions. Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh each recorded 2 tackles and 1 sack apiece, while Justin Durant led the Lions with 12 total tackles.
Sam Bradford completed 17/25 passing for 198 yards and 1 touchdown and Steven Jackson carried 21 times for 53 yards. Danny Amendola caught 5 passes for 70 yards, while Brandon Gibson contributed 51 yards on 4 receptions. Cortland Finnegan led the team with 10 tackles while returning a Stafford interception for a touchdown.