DETROIT — After three straight losses, the Detroit Lions absolutely needed to beat the N.Y. Giants to have a chance to turn the season around.
And so they did.
The Giants hung tough, but Detroit won 31-26 on Sunday at Ford Field. With the Bears’ loss to the Chargers, the Lions (3-3-1) moved up to third in the NFC North.
Detroit’s defense scored first when Devon Kennard returned a fumble for a touchdown. It turned out to be a good sign of things to come.
“It was a lot of fun. It was my first time scoring since high school, so touching the paint and getting in the end zone was a lot of fun for me,’’ Kennard said.
A flea-flicker play that resulted in a 41-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Kenny Golladay provided a little razzle-dazzle, but it was mostly grind-it-out football by both teams.
Five things to know about the win:
1. Stafford’s stellar season continues. He passed for 342 yards (25-32), three touchdowns and one interception. He has thrown for at least three touchdowns in three of the last four games. Stafford led the offense to convert 8-of-14 third-down chances and two of those were scores. Stafford, of course, shines the light on his teammates. “There’s a bunch of great players around me, just trying to get the ball to those guys, they make some great plays and we get in the end zone,’’ Stafford said. “It doesn’t matter to me if I’m throwing it in or we’re running it in I just want to score points, obviously left a few out there today but made enough plays to win the game.’’
2. Golladay’s half-dozen catches for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns were key. Just before the flea-flicker touchdown catch, he caught an 18-yard pass on second-and-9 with his arms totally outstretched and somehow on his way to the turf managed to hold on to the ball. The offense had practiced the flea-flicker — the handoff to J.D. McKissic, who tossed it back to Stafford, who found Golladay — in the past two weeks. It worked in practice so coordinator Darrell Bevell found the perfect time to put it in play. Golladay’s first touchdown reception came on third-and-2 at the Giants’ 9-yard line. “The defender tried to undercut it, so I pretty much just had to do just hands it and not really let it get too close to him. I just snatched it away, quick turn, and made sure both feet were in,’’ Golladay said.
3. Detroit’s defense had its hands full with running back Saquon Barkley who not only is a phenomenal runner but can also pick up yards after the catch. Barkley had 19 carries for 64 yards and eight catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. The Lions were able to contain the Giants enough for the win. It was tough late in the game when they lost safety Tracy Walker to a knee injury especially since Darius Slay (hamstring) was inactive and they traded Quandre Diggs earlier in the week.
4. Defensive end Trey Flowers who had one sack in the first six games had back-to-back sacks in the fourth quarter. The first one came on the Giants’ first-and-10 on Detroit’s 43. Flowers knocked the ball out of quarterback Daniel Jones’ grip but Jones was able to recover for a loss of 10 yards. On the next play Flowers sacked him again for a 6-yard loss. So Giants went from first and 10 to third-and-26 courtesy of Flowers. It was key because the Giants were down by 12 points but there were six-plus minutes left in the game. “(Credit) to the defense on those plays that allowed me to be able to get back there, and I just made the play when it came to me,’’ Flowers said. “There are a lot of guys on this defense that are capable of doing it, and we’re just going to continue to work.”
5. With Kerryon Johnson on injured reserve, running-back-by-committee looked to be the best option. And it was. But not many expected Tra Carson, who the Lions signed on Oct. 17, to be the starting back. He ran on three of the Lions first plays in their opening possession and gained 23 yards. He finished with a dozen carries for 34 yards. Ty Johnson (7 for 25), Paul Perkins (3 for 4 yards) and McKissic (one for minus-1) also got in on the action.