DETROIT — Months and months of preparation physically and mentally, and then Matthew Stafford took the field in the opener on Sunday and his first pass of the season was intercepted and run back for a touchdown.
Not ideal, but no reason for panic.
All of a sudden the quarterback was chasing Justin Bethel, trying to make a tackle — probably the only thing Stafford didn’t work on in the offseason. Although, who knows.
The quarterback’s steel-cold demeanor on the field is a big reason why the Lions extended his contract for $135 million.
(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)
While Stafford is on the field the Lions are rarely out of it. Sunday’s 35-23 win over Arizona was the 29th time he’d led a comeback when the Lions were down or tied to start the fourth quarter. After that interception he threw four touchdown passes.
Stafford always credits his teammates and it’s clear that he respects them.
“I felt good, guys up front did a nice job. You know, that’s a good defensive front. There’s a lot of talent up there that we faced and our guys did a heck of a job. Could we be better in some spots? Absolutely,’’ Stafford said. “That’s everybody, myself included. We’ll look at this tape, you know, obviously happy to win this thing. But there’s a lot of errors.”
Coach Jim Caldwell said he couldn’t tell for sure that Stafford in quicker in his movements in the pocket than he had been last year.
“It wouldn’t be surprising to me because he’s been working at it. He’s been working on his footwork, working on his release, working on everything, trying to find an edge,’’ Caldwell said. “That’s the great thing I appreciate about him, he’s a guy that has talent and ability but he doesn’t take it for granted and he’s always on that quest to get better.”
Stafford doesn’t ever seem to get down on his receivers.
That interception came when Golden Tate got tangled with the middle linebacker and Stafford didn’t see it before his release.
He’d probably like that one back but the eventual win glossed over some problems.
That won’t last long.
The Lions know they have to improve before they face the New York Giants on Monday night, Sept. 18. (The Giants lost 19-3 to the Cowboys on Sunday night.)
“You know, we’ve got a lot of different players, but the guys that have been in the NFL, man, that’s the way the game goes. Very rarely do you just sit there and dominate a team for four quarters. That doesn’t happen,’’ Stafford said. “And, you know, we had our fair share of mistakes and got in our own way early, kind of got out of our own way and started playing some of the ball that we’re used to playing later in the game and, you know, played better. So, you know, we’ve just got to get out of our own way a little bit earlier, you know, and start a little bit faster.”
And like the fact that Stafford always has faith in his receivers, they trust him. Always.
”We all knew (the game) had to change at some point and we just, someone needed to go out there and make a play. We just needed to settle in because we got a bunch of great players, we got some great coaches, we got a fantastic quarterback, we just need to be us,’’ Golden Tate said. “Be us and do what we know how to do. It didn’t take anything extraordinary, we just need to do our jobs.”
Stafford won’t win every game. He’s going to throw interceptions. Count on it.
Still, his leadership and never-say-die attitude are infectious. The proof was in Sunday’s final score.