In past years, the Lions would be looking to pick up the pieces entering Week 2. This year, all they need to do is clean up some loose ends after a mostly impressive 27-20 opening week win at Tampa Bay.
"I am not going to discount the value of a win, particularly a win on the road," coach Jim Schwartz said. "But we definitely have to play a lot better than we played today. We made too many mistakes that kept Tampa in the game."
The Lions host the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, and motivation will not be a problem. This became a red-letter game the instant the Chiefs accused the Lions of tampering with one of their players (former safety Jarrad Page) before the 2010 season.
That charge cost the Lions a draft pick and it still rankles both Schwartz and especially defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, who was the one accused of making contact with Page. "We almost let this get away at the end," said wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who had six catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns. "Had this been another year, who knows? We should have put it away. I didn't feel like we were going to lose, but it shouldn't have been as close as we made it to be."
The Lions trailed the Bucs 10-6 early despite a 147-1 edge in total yards. A 78-yard kickoff return by Sammie Stroughter set up a field goal and a tipped pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford to tight end Will Heller wound up in cornerback Aqib Talib's hands. He took it in from the 28.
The Lions also gave the Bucs life at the end when a personal foul on tackle Gosder Cherilus stopped the clock with 1:26 left. The Bucs were out of timeouts at the time.
"The opponent has no timeouts left and we get a penalty?" said Schwartz. "That's a situation we talk about and we work on. That's stupid football and it almost put us in a situation - the defense should have been in where there were 30 seconds left and they would have to defend two plays."
As it was, Tampa got the ball on the 20 with 1:07 left and moved it to the Lions' 42 before the clock expired.
"Really, we should have blown them out," said cornerback Chris Houston. "There were a couple of plays on offense, the interception return, and a couple of plays we missed on defense - just some mistakes we made that kept them in the game."
There was more good than bad, though. The Lions scored on five of their first seven possessions and finished with 431 total yards. Stafford had the second-most productive performance of his career, completing 24 of 33 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns. The defense didn't allow the Bucs a first down in the first or third quarters. Until the middle of the fourth quarter, after the Lions had built a 27-13 lead, the Bucs had amassed just 209 yards.
"I guess it's the sign of a good football team that we made those mistakes and still came out with the win," Schwartz said. "But there are things that happened in this game that are inexcusable and they will not continue."
Good job stopping the run
TRENDING: The Lions had two big concerns coming out of training camp - stopping the run and running the ball. They came out of Week 1 about 50-50. The defense was very good against the run, limiting the Bucs to 56 yards. Running back LeGarrette Blount, who rushed for more than 100 yards against them last year, wasn't a factor at all (15 yards in five carries). The Bucs hardly played him at all in the second half when they went to a more hurry-up style attack. The Lions also kept a spy on quarterback Josh Freeman. Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch shadowed him for the most part and he only had 26 yards rushing. As for the rushing offense, it's still not great (126 yards, 3.6 average). Jahvid Best had 72 yards in 21 carries (3.4), but when the Lions tried to ground out the clock in the fourth quarter, neither he nor Jerome Harrison could move the chains. Maurice Morris only carried twice and he fumbled once. His right hand (broken in camp) might still be an issue.
UNDER THE RADAR: With rookie wide receiver Titus Young still learning the ropes, the Lions are starting two tight ends instead of three wide receivers. The second tight end is Tony Scheffler and he's proving to be a matchup problem for teams. He's fast and runs excellent routes, so he's a load for a linebacker or a corner. He ran away from a linebacker Sunday for an 11-yard touchdown catch. Young made his debut, but looked confused at times. Stafford had to redirect him at the line of scrimmage a couple of times. Once he cost the team a long run when he lined up wrong.
Player Notes ...
- CB Chris Houston won his battle with Bucs WR Mike Williams. Houston had seven tackles, three pass breakups and a key interception. Williams had four catches for 50 yards. His touchdown catch, a 5-yarder, came late in the game against cornerback Aaron Berry. "It's about film study," Houston said. "I was prepared for him. I knew what we were going to get. He had a couple of catches, we knew he'd get that. I just didn't want to let my team down."
- P Ryan Donahue had an impressive debut, punting five times for 48.2 yards, with a net of 44.6. He dropped three inside the 20. He also made two flawless holds on Jason Hanson field goals. But he wasn't too happy with his performance. "I didn't hit it as well as I wanted to, so I would probably give myself a C," he said. "I am my own worst critic and I wasn't happy with the way I was hitting it. It ended up working out but I might not be so lucky next time." He said he wasn't nervous and his timing was good. He just didn't feel like he was getting all of it. He did get some favorable bounces, especially on his 60-yarder.
- WR Maurice Stovall was expected to play a larger role in the offense on Sunday, but he banged his hand early in the game. He did play on special teams, but was on the field for only a couple of offensive snaps.
- FS Louis Delmas fell hard on his hip during the last play of the game. Delmas said he wasn't injured, just sore.
- PK Jason Hanson joined Jackie Slater (Rams) and Darrell Green (Redskins), both in the Hall of Fame, as players who played the most seasons with the teams that drafted them - 20. His 296 games with the Lions ties center Bruce Matthews for the most games played with one team in NFL history.