I wish I could come out and say "You know, I could get used to this." But the truth is, I can't. The Lions will be the death of me. Yet, it's what we have all come to expect from this team. Infuriatingly slow starts, followed by amazing comebacks. Of course, it is much better than the alternative. As long as the Lions come out on top, I guess it doesn't matter, but my developing ulcers are starting to think differently.
The Lions offense was particularly maddening. Matthew Stafford and company started off hot tallying over 150 yards in their first two drives. Yet they were down 13-10 at the break. They played a pretty awful second half, managing only 43 yards in their first four drives, yet finished with two near-perfect drives and got the win. Their inconsistencies are nothing new, as this was a common motif last year, but it's frustrating nonetheless.
The only difference from last year is most of the Lions' inconsistencies were the fault of Stafford on Sunday. Though Stafford was the victim of a couple of bad drops, the Lions completely avoided any harmful penalties (Titus Young's penalty, while extremely idiotic, was completely harmless). According to Jim Schwartz, most of Stafford's interceptions were the result of Matt trying to fit the ball in too tight of a window. And while Stafford has certainly been guilty of this in the past, I can't agree with Schwartz on this one. I'm going to break down some of these play more thoroughly later in the week, but I'm almost positive on one particular interception, Stafford read man-to-man when the Rams were actually in zone.
But in the end, I'm not all that concerned about Stafford. He's got a certain amount of gun-slingerness in him, and it's going to result in interceptions fairly often. I don't really expect that to ever change, and it probably shouldn't. Stafford will likely always be a quarterback who takes chances, and more often than not, it'll pay off.
But what DOES concern me is the way he came out in the second half. Stafford, clearly a little rattled from three first-half picks, was too careful and too inaccurate. He was making sure that his passes were out of the defender's reach, but in the process, he put it out of the receiver's reach. For maybe the first time ever, Stafford was cautious, and that's when the Lions offense looked its worst.
But, of course, Stafford eventually got comfortable, dialed in, and finished the game with two beautiful 80 yard drives to win the game. So in the end, does all that ugly stuff matter?
Well, yes and no. Obviously, it is not a good sign that Stafford had some trouble, then took a quarter and a half to fully recover. But on a per-play basis, the Lions offense was just as dominant as it was last year. Stafford's 7.4 yards per attempt was 0.2 off his 2011 average, and his 355 yards was his 7th most of his career. The Lions offense outgained their 2011 average, and overall looked just as dominant.
Even with the Lions traveling to San Francisco next week, where the Niners look like they haven't lost a step defensively, I wouldn't expect Stafford to make the same mistakes. He will take a long, hard look at those throws he made, learn his lesson and move on.
Oh, and speaking of defense, I guess I should briefly talk about the other side of the ball. The defense was kind of bend-don't-breaky, but it worked to perfection. The Lions waited for the Sam Bradford and the Rams to stall, and they usually complied. The Lions tackled solidly, the front four was dominant again, and in the end, despite the Lions offense giving them no favors, the defense held the Rams to just 16 points (10 of which were on drives that started in Lions territory).
The biggest question surrounding the Lions defense was not addressed this game. The Lions' depleted secondary was not really tested on Sunday. The Rams had maybe two deep passes in the game. One resulted in a touchdown (though Jonte Green had decent coverage, it was just an amazing play by the receiver to hold on), the other was an underthrown bomb to a wide-open receiver that Dreyton Florence was able to catch up to and knock away. With Bill Bentley suffering a concussion, and Houston's and Delmas' availability still unknown, I'd expect to learn more about this unit next week against the improving Niners offense.
But for now, we're 1-0, we're the exact same team as last year, and I guess I'm okay with that.