Detroit Lions’ aggressive play pays off with a 13-10 win over Chargers

Matthew Stafford explains no holding back approach

DETROIT — If you ask Matthew Stafford, the Lions were confident in themselves even through the ups and downs of Sunday’s game. 

The Detroit Lions made mistakes on offense, defense and it seems especially on special teams. After a tough tie a week ago, they hung in there on Sunday and beat the Los Angeles Chargers, 13-10 at Ford Field.

It was truly September football.

“We put a ton of work in, that’s what we think back on, that’s what we put our trust in, we put the work in,’’ Stafford said afterward.

“This is, Matty P likes to say all the time, it’s September football. There’s some ugly stuff out there, all sides of the ball — offense, defense, and special teams — you’ve got to keep fighting, keep pushing and be great in situational and our ‘D’ was great in situational getting a pick to end the game. And we were able to convert a third-down, a gotta have it third-down, to make sure we don’t have to punt it back.

“Very rarely in September is the game super clean and everybody is a well-oiled machine,’’ Stafford said. “Sometimes the games are a little ugly, but we’ll take a win.’’

The game-winning touchdown came midway through the fourth quarter on a 31-yard pass from Stafford to Kenny Golladay.

“We put a little double-post concept, kind of on a single-high safety, the safety took the inside one and Kenny did a good enough job to use his big body to wall the corner off and I tried to shoot one in there and it ended up in a good spot,” Stafford said.

Cornerback Darius Slay, matched up most of the day with wide receiver Keenan Allen, got beat often. But when it mattered the most he lived up to his name — Big Play Slay.

With 1:10 left and the Lions holding onto the 3-point lead, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers throws a 28-yard pass into the end zone for Allen, but Slay was able to nab the interception.

Then the Lions got the ball back with 1:03 left and on third down they needed to convert to keep the ball away from the Chargers.

Stafford threw a 7-yard pass to tight end Jesse James to convert. 

“It was sweet, I loved it,’’ Stafford said. “Broke the huddle quick, caught them sleeping. It was the last thing on my mind when (Darrell Bevell) called it, it came into my helmet and I was like, ‘This is going to be awesome.’ I was just happy Jesse did enough just to get the first down, it was tough running at the third, nothing better than not having to punt it back.’’

Bevell, the new offensive coordinator, had enough trust to call that pass play even though Stafford had thrown a pair of interceptions in the second half.

“Bev’s an aggressive guy, I’m an aggressive player. When I’m out there, we work so hard, go trust yourself out there, you think something is going to work, go do it,’’ Stafford said.

“The one pick I threw in the end zone I probably — I’d like to throw it a little better — but I’m throwing that ball probably 10 times out of 10. That’s Kenny (Golladay) one-on-one with a corner, that’s a great shot. It didn’t work out, it ended up as a turnover and bad play for our team, but I’m putting that up there I’m aggressive I’m going to keep giving our guys chances because they’re great players.

“The second one obviously I can’t turn that ball over. There’s a running back sitting in the flat for a 15-yard gain.I got a little too aggressive there, but I think just that rubs off, confidence,’’ Stafford said.

It was just Stafford’s second game with Bevell running the show and improvements could be seen from the previous week.

“I go into every game really comfortable, I know what he’s going to call, now I’m learning more and more when he’s going to call it,’’ Stafford said. “That just comes with experience, but I’ve had a lot of fun playing in this system for twp games. I have a lot to clean up, can obviously play better, but I’m enjoying it.’’

Spoken like a true NFL gunslinger with a confident coach making the calls

After challenging offseason, Lions’ Matthew Stafford gets up to speed

ALLEN PARK — It was a busy and challenging offseason for Matthew Stafford.

Here is all you need to know about the Lions quarterback entering his 11th season in Detroit.

“I still love this game, I still love preparing for it, I love competing,’’ Stafford said on Wednesday when the veterans reported for training camp which starts on Thursday.

It’s not just another new season, it’s the first under offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell who is changing up the offense.

In May, Stafford’s wife Kelly underwent 12 hours of brain surgery to remove an acoustic neuroma. 

(Photo from Instagram account of Kelly Stafford)

At the time, the Lions organization told him to take care of his wife, not to worry about the team. Still he missed little time at the practice facility.

“I try to think I do a decent job of separating the two,’’ Stafford said. “When I’m home, I’m home and when I’m not, I’m here obviously all in. I think Ii was able to kind of compartmentalize. Obviously it helped a lot with the way the Lions treated me through the whole process. It made it easy for me to kind of separate those two.’’

Along with the team he credited the support of family and friends for getting them through the tough days. That included helping with their three daughters ages 2 and under.

“Obviously Kelly was a stud, she was a trooper and is continuing to get better and better,’’ Stafford said.

For the most part, Stafford has turned his attention to football for the next few weeks. During the spring he got a running start on learning Bevell’s offense which is expected to be more balanced with an increased emphasis on the run game. The new coordinator said he told Stafford he was impressed with his offseason.

“He was really committed to us and he was here, he was putting his time in. He was working hard, he really led the way on learning the offense, in verbiage, getting to know the new language, sitting in the huddle being able to call it, helping guys when they needed help,’’ Bevell said. “I was impressed with the level of dedication and commitment that he had to us with the other things he had going on.’’

Bevell and Stafford both emphasized that the better their communication, the sharper the offense will be on Sundays.

“We’ve had some great conversations already. We’ve put a few things in that he feels comfortable with and other things we’re going to push him on, and I think by the time we get there we need to be able to have enough stuff offensively that we can challenge the defense but not too much where it’s overloading our stuff,’’ Bevell said. “That’s the balance we’re trying to get right now.’’

Bevell is Stafford’s fourth offensive coordinator after Scott Linehan, Joe Lombardi and Jim Bob Cooter.

“It’s definitely different, there are a lot of things I like about it, a lot of things I’m still getting used to, still learning,’’ Stafford said about the offense. “It’s my job to be a coach on the field. For me to do that I have to be as well versed as the guys that are teaching it, that’s a process and that takes time and experience something that this time of year is perfect for.’’

The Lions finished 6-10 last season but they are looking forward not back. Stafford didn’t have his best numbers in 2018 due to injuries to him (he finished the season with broken bones in his back), Kerryon Johnson and others.

However, he doesn’t look at this as a bounce-back year.

“I feel like every year I come in and try to prove myself. If you’re coming in here feeling like you’ve done everything you need to do and you’re sitting pretty, you’re in the wrong sport,’’ Stafford said. “It’s prove yourself every day out there and it’s prove yourself every week in the season. This year is no different.’’

(Paula Pasche has covered the Lions since Barry Sanders embarrassed defenses every Sunday. She has written two books on the team — “100 Things Lions Fans Should Know” and “Game of My Life Detroit Lions.” Both are available on Amazon.com)