Lions Show Growth in Opening Day Victory

9/9/13 in NFL   |   Andrew_Ericksen   |   230 respect

Sep 8, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) warms up before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY SportsLess than 5 minutes into the season opener at Ford Field, the Lions had already reminded their fans why 2012 was such a tough season to watch.  After a strong, well-balanced opening drive, the Lions brought out the field goal unit for what should have been an easy, routine 3 points.  Lo and behold, rookie Sam Martin mishandled a perfect snap, leaving the Lions without any points despite such an impressive opening drive.
 
And then things got even worse immediately after that.
 
On his first carry of the year, Vikings star Adrian Peterson shot down the middle of the Lions defense, and outran everyone on the field to give Minnesota an early 7-0 lead.
 
The Lions milked 4 minutes off the clock on their first drive for 67 yards without any points to show for it, while the Vikings went 78 yards in under 15 seconds with just one play, and they took control of the scoreboard just like that.
 
Most Lions teams in recent years would have just continued to stumble after that, but this weekend, a more determined, resilient and prepared team responded well to the tough, early obstacles.
 
Matthew Stafford had one of his most complete overall games as a pro, throwing for 357 yards and 2 touchdowns.  A few of his passes were tipped at the line, one of which ended up being intercepted, but apart from that, he was pretty much flawless.  Lions receivers even dropped a few passes they should have caught - Calvin Johnson included.
 
The addition of Reggie Bush became the extra motor that the team really needed.  The Vikings secondary was concentrating all its energy on stopping Calvin Johnson and while it proved successful in a sense, it opened up a lot of room in the middle of the field for Bush to operate.
 
All in all, it’s very encouraging to see the team able to score 34 points while racking up 469 total yards in one of the weakest games Calvin Johnson has ever played (4 catches, 37 yards and 2 drops - including one in the endzone).
 
The Lions really controlled the Vikings defensive line all game, a feat that was made significantly easier with the absence of Kevin Williams.  But with the yearly struggles to create space for the run game or to provide time for Stafford to throw, the play from the line overall was inspiring.
 
The Lions also controlled the trenches defensively, where Ndamukong Suh and company made things really difficult for the Vikings offense.  After Peterson’s 78-yard run, he only gained 15 yards on his next 17 carries.  Quarterback Christian Ponder was also sacked 3 times and threw for 3 interceptions, both results of heavy pressure from the Lions front seven.
 
The question now is whether the Lions can keep it going for 16 games.  Last season was a travesty that every Detroit fan is hoping to forget, and a return to the playoffs or maybe even an NFC North title would certainly help speed along that process.
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