After throwing three interceptions before halftime for the first time in his career, Matthew Stafford responded with the mental fortitude of an NFL veteran.
Stafford tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to running back Kevin Smith with only 10 seconds remaining in the contest. The late score helped push Staffords’ Detroit Lions over the St. Louis Rams by a score of 27-23 at Ford Field.
Looking to continue their momentum brought on by last season’s 10-6 regular season record and wild card berth, the Lions were heavy favorites heading into Sunday’s game against a Rams squad that netted just 2 wins in 2011. However, these Rams have looked to have made significant strides during the offseason.
Former Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher, in his first regular season game with St. Louis, helped put together a conservative game plan that nearly throttled the Lions to start the season. Rams’ quarterback Sam Bradford threw for just 198 yards with one touchdownon 18 for 25 passing. The defense of the St. Louis Rams almost forced the upset against the Lions on opening weekend.
One of Stafford’s three interceptions was returned for a touchdown by Cortland Finnegan with just over a minute remaining in the first half. At that point, the Rams led 13-7 and eventually took a 13-10 lead into the break.
Down 20-13 after Bradford’s touchdown pass, Kevin Smith forced a tie with a 5-yard scamper midway through the fourth quarter. After a field goal by Greg Zuerlein put the Rams back up by a score of 23-20, Stafford then led the Lions down the field on a nine-play, 80-yard drive that concluded with the winning pass to Smith.
Although the Lions only won by a slim margin, the team in can take some solace in the fact that they outgained the Rams in total yardage, with 429 compared to just 251 for St. Louis. Also, despite the fact that the Rams did not turn the ball over once compared to the Lions three, Detroit still won the game. Losing the turnover battle is usually a solid indicator of which way the game went. Very rarely does a team have three more turnovers than a team and still win the game, as the Lions did on Sunday.
Detroit also managed to, as mentioned, hold the Rams’ improved passing attack to just 173 net yards along with just 78 yards rushing on 2.9 yards per carry. For a team, that, in 2011, allowed nearly 368 yards per game, this has to be viewed as a good way to start the season.
Although head coach Jim Schwartz can take relief in his team pulling out the victory to start the season 1-0, he has to know that his team cannot lose the turnover battle by three if they wish to upend next week’s opponent: the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers made defending Aaron Rodgers look easy in week 1, as they defeated NFC North rival Green Bay 30-22. Detroit will square off at San Francisco on Sunday night at 8:20 for their week 2 contest.
NFC North Standings
Detroit Lions (1-0)
Chicago Bears (1-0)
Minnesota Vikings (1-0)
Green Bay Packers (0-1)
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Written by Matt Austin