In spite of an ugly start that was incredibly Detroit Lions-like, somehow the team was able to confidently rebound on the way to a solid, convincing looking 34-24 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
The first half, though rife with countless Detroit mistakes, foolish penalties, errors in the red zone and a 78-yard touchdown on the opening play of the season, managed to end on a positive enough note for the Lions. Joique Bell found the end zone despite an explosive hit, pulling the Lions within one at halftime. During the second half, enough adjustments were made, and Minnesota was held to just 10 points. At the same time, Detroit turned on the afterburners with Reggie Bush, both running and passing, pulling away for the win.
Conventional wisdom says that had Detroit simply gotten out of their own way early, given they were more impressive defensively, dominated the yardage battle and won the time of possession war by nearly 13 minutes, they would have likely won in a runaway. After watching the Lions assume dominance and then ice the game in the second half, it's hard to disagree with that assessment. The Hunt Report breaks down the first game of the year.
Red Zone Inefficiency Was Still A Problem. Detroit struggled early putting the ball in the end zone, settling for field goal chances instead of touchdowns. Some of this was due to bad luck (both of Calvin Johnson's near-misses), while the rest were due to the Lions' own doing (Brandon Pettigrew's silly holding penalty on a fourth down conversion). Either way, the Lions still have to do a better job converting touchdowns when they knock on the door. It will help both the offense and defense be much more consistent.
The Calvin Johnson Rule Stinks. What will it take for the NFL to fix the terrible "possession through the catch" rule? Once again, Calvin Johnson was robbed of a touchdown because the ball moved as he made an improbable catch in the end zone. Everyone understands what the NFL is thinking here, but unless a player physically drops the ball, why take away a catch? Poor Johnson had to feel disappointed. He couldn't do anything right today, from possessing through the catch to staying in bounds. This time, the Lions still won. Interesting.
Detroit Should Have Had Much More Focus Early. Despite the fact that the Lions did come back and win, starts like Sunday's should be the exception and not the rule in 2013. Simply put, this coaching staff and team cannot afford the botched snaps, whiffed assignments and untimely interceptions. Those are bad habits. On the road, it will cost them. At home against opponents with quarterbacks more competent that Christian Ponder, it will cost them as well. The Lions should have won by a bigger margin. The question is, why couldn't they? That's the type of excellence playoff teams show.
Penalties Were Pathetic, But At Least Dealt With. Where to begin? There was Brandon Pettigrew's hold negating a fourth down conversion, Louis Delmas's personal foul for taunting and Ndamukong Suh's low block negating DeAndre Levy's touchdown return. One of these-type mistakes is too many for the Lions, who cannot afford to let discipline be a familiar storyline in 2013. It has cost the team for years now. The good news? No such plays happened in the second half. Perhaps Jim Schwartz made his point in the locker room at halftime.
How About "Legatron" Reggie Bush? If Calvin Johnson is Megatron and Nate Burleson is Recepticon, let's just call Reggie Bush Legatron. The way Bush cut, moved, churned out yards and turned on the jets in the passing game during a 77 yard reception was very impressive. He's a workhorse, and proved he can be durable as well with 21 carries. Detroit signed Bush in the offseason for precisely this type of effort. Last season, if Calvin Johnson only collects 37 receiving yards, Detroit loses badly. Not this time around.
Lions? Other than Bush, Joique Bell ran well and Patrick Edwards had a few fantastic catches. Credit Joseph Fauria for having a good game, as well, and scoring his first NFL touchdown. Defensively, Nick Fairley was a run stopper and pocket threat, Ziggy Ansah was active and Stephen Tulloch tackled well while making an important interception in the first half.
Lambs? Rookie Darius Slay had a tough time tackling in his first game. Brandon Pettigrew managed to fumble and commit a silly penalty in one game. Yuck.
Stat Of The Day: 117, the amount of rushing yards the Lions collected to Minnesota's 105. 90 of them came as a result of Reggie Bush, but Detroit fans had to be doing a double take. After giving up the first touchdown of the day as a result of a 78 yard run to Adrian Peterson, who'd have thought the Lions would have actually out rushed the Vikings on the ground by the end of the day? Detroit rarely ran well last year. The second half showed how dangerous Detroit can be if they manage to get the running game going in addition to the pass. Perhaps this offensive balance is a sign of things to come.
What About The Five Things? Coming into this game, it was said Matthew Stafford's accuracy was important to watch. He was 28/43 for two touchdowns and only one interception, which were very respectable numbers. Minus Jerome Simpson, the Vikings' receivers didn't do much at all down the field. Ziggy Ansah played and played well, registering half a sack and a quarterback hit. Detroit's offensive line played fantastically, and other than Johnson, Fauria and Edwards stepped up for Stafford as secondary receivers.
Stalking The Next Prey: The Lions face their first road test of 2013 next week, as they head out of town to take on the Arizona Cardinals at 4:05 on Fox next Sunday.
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