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