“First Down, Fourth Down” takes a weekly look at the good (first down) and bad (fourth down) from the Detroit Lions’ game.
The Detroit Lions did not make it easy on themselves Sunday, needing two fourth-quarter marches — including one in the final two minutes — to knock off a rebuilding St. Louis Rams team that many expect to finish near the bottom of the NFC West.
But the important thing is that Detroit is 1-0 after Week 1, thanks to its dramatic 27-23 victory. Here’s what we took away from the game:
First Down: Matthew Stafford in the fourth quarter.
The Lions’ superstar quarterback bounced back from a miserable first three quarters to orchestrate a pair of clutch TD drives in the final minutes. The first came after St. Louis had taken a 20-13 lead; the second gave Detroit the win when Stafford found Kevin Smith wide open for a score. Stafford wound up completing 32 passes for 355 yards and, more importantly, picked up the win.
Fourth Down: Matthew Stafford in the first three quarters.
Even more specifically, Stafford in the first half. He came out looking sharp, marching Detroit deep into St. Louis’ end on the first possession of the game. But that drive ended with an awful interception — Stafford tried to zip one to Tony Scheffler at the goal line, but Janoris Jenkins jumped the route. Stafford threw two more picks in the first half, including one that was returned for a touchdown, and nearly fired a fourth right before halftime. He continued struggling through the third quarter too, with several passes misfiring badly.
First Down: Kevin Smith.
Smith said during the preseason that he does some of his best work in games where he has limited touches. That was the case Sunday, as he scored twice and picked up 91 yards on just 17 touches (13 carries, 4 receptions). But he ran well when the Lions gave him a chance, including a nice burst on Detroit’s first fourth-quarter scoring drive. And he, of course, made the key catch for the game-winner.
Fourth Down: Jonte Greene.
In an ideal world, Greene would be relegated to about fourth or fifth cornerback duties. But with Chris Houston missing Sunday’s game and Bill Bentley suffering a concussion, Greene had to step up and fill one of the top two spots. He didn’t do very well in that role, allowing a TD catch by Brandon Gibson, then getting beaten again later in the fourth quarter to help the Rams set up a go-ahead field goal.
First Down: Ndamukong Suh and the defensive line.
Suh was only credited with one sack and one tackle on Sunday, but he constantly generated pressure up front on Sam Bradford. The Lions wound up with three sacks — one by Nick Fairley and one by Corey Williams that nearly resulted in a huge turnover — and they were able to get into Bradford’s kitchen, aside from on the late TD drive.
Fourth Down: Titus Young.
Young had an early 11-yard run and added a 14-yard catch, but he also wound up on the bench to start the second half after taking a stupid personal foul late in the second quarter. Remember, Young was called out by Jim Schwartz after committing a costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the playoffs against New Orleans, and he had an offseason issue within the locker room. Young remains immensely talented but Detroit still needs him to grow up.
First Down: Calvin Johnson.
Ho hum. Even with the Rams paying so much attention to him that they were willing to commit two defenders to him on just about every play, Johnson still made six grabs for 111 yards. He also had a big 20-yard catch to open the Lions’ final drive, then made a terrific leaping reception to put Detroit on the St. Louis 5, just prior to Smith’s touchdown grab.