Matthew Stafford played his best game early this season and he got big-time help from the Lions’ defense which intercepted Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray three times.
The 26-23 win came courtesy of Matt Prater’s 39-yard field goal with the clock running out on Sunday in Arizona. It snapped the Lions’ 11-game losing streak.
“A chance to end the game on offense is what I want, that’s what we all practice for is to go out there and control the game at the end of it and win it,’’ Stafford said. “Obviously a good operation by our special teams at the end to get the win.”
However, it was definitely a team effort. Mistakes? Sure. Penalties? A few killers. Missed opportunities? Oh yes.
Still the Lions overcame them and got the ball back with 1:52 left, the game tied at 23-23 and lousy field position at their own 9.
Stafford was four of five on that final drive. His 53-yard pass to Marvin Hall looked like a touchdown or at least a catch at the 1-yard line, but a holding call on Halapoulivaati Vaitai negated the play.
“We just had to move on to the next play. It is what it is, we’re all fighting tooth and nail,’’ Stafford said.
They could have folded or shrugged their shoulders, instead they marched down the field with some authority.
Five keys to the win:
1. Matthew Stafford had a good game, looked more like his old self. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 270 yards and a pair of touchdowns even though he was sacked four times. “I’ve been doing this a long time, I feel real comfortable in that situation, that’s the situation I want,’’ Stafford said. “I hate sitting on the bench and watching another phase trying to win the game for us. I love it. Had an opportunity in week 1 to get it done and got close, didn’t get it done. We had another opportunity today I wasn’t going to let that slip through my fingers.’’ It was his 29th fourth-quarter comeback, the most in the NFL since he joined the NFL in 2009. It was also his 35th game-winning drive, the second most in the NFL since 2009.
2. Kenny Golladay’s return, after missing the first two games with a hamstring, was huge. “Obviously a big weapon for us, made a great play in the red zone,’’ Stafford said. “Just an undersized safety (covering), I just tried to throw one up to a good spot for him, he went up and made a great play and got in which was awesome.’’ That touchdown gave the Lions a 17-13 lead with less than a minute left in the first half.
3. After zero takeaways in the first two games, this was a point of emphasis with the defense preparing for this week. Nice job. Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray had been intercepted just twice total in the first two games, but the Lions picked him off three times. Credit to rookie Jeff Okudah, Jamie Collins and Duron Harmon. Collins’ interception led to a Lions touchdown, while Okudah’s in the third quarter led to a Matt Prater field goal which gave Detroit a 20-16 lead. Win the turnover battle and often you win the game.
4. The defensive pressure up front which was lacking in the first two games is what helped with the interceptions. Murray was only sacked once (by Romeo Okwara) but he’s a mobile quarterback who is tough to get down. “You can see how dangerous he is when he gets in space. He’s got unbelievable quickness and acceleration,’’ Patricia said of Murray. Still much work to do on defense, but certainly the group looked better against the Cardinals who are now 2-1.
5. Running back Adrian Peterson got the workload in the running game. He finished with 22 carries for 75 yards and started with a 27-yard scamper on the Lions’ second play of the game from scrimmage. Not bad for a 35-year-old back. Kerryon Johnson had just three carries for 16 yards, but his work on pass protection was huge.
BY THE NUMBERS: Matt Prater kicked four field goals (37, 24, 35 and 39 yards). … Stafford completed passes to nine different guys. … Jason Fox averaged 55.5 yards on his four punts and had a long one of 65 yards. … The Lions were just 2 of 6 in the Red Zone while the Cardinals were 3 of 3. … Each team had seven penalties – Lions for 46 yards, Cardinals for 48. … Tracy Walker led the defense with 11 tackles. Collins and Okudah each had six.
NEXT SUNDAY: The Lions (1-2) play the New Orleans Saints at Ford Field at 1 p.m. e help from the Lions’ defense which picked off Cardinals quarterback Kyler
(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)