In a season where the Detroit Lions organization has done a tremendous job of separating themselves from the failures of the past, another step was taken forward.
The Lions secured their first playoff berth since the turn of the millennium with an impressive 38-10 victory over the San Diego Chargers.
With all the weapons the Lions have on offense, this game was about Matthew Stafford. The 23-year-old signal caller threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 137.6.
Stafford completed passes to eight different targets, leading the offense to 31 points, including 24 in the first half.
The Lions punted only three times in the game – with the last two punts coming in the fourth quarter. The Lions had five drives of nine-plays or more, two touchdown drives of 80 yards or more.
If Stafford can continue to play at the level he did against the Chargers, the Lions can compete with any team in the league. Of course, it will be difficult to continually replicate the success he had on Saturday.
After a few rough outings for the defense, they bounced back against a talented offense that had been producing as of late. And they did it without starting safety Louis Delmas (knee).
The Lions defense allowed 367 yards but surrendered only 10 points. Also, when you consider the fact that they scored a touchdown themselves, the already stingy 10-points allowed looks even better.
The defense generated two turnovers and held the Chargers without points on their first five drives – becoming the first team to prevent them from scoring on their opening drive in eight weeks.
The Chargers were only successful scoring a touchdown on one of their three red zone trips, converting only 40% of their third downs.
The Lions failed to sack Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers, despite generating a decent pass rush at times. However, if the Lions want to be able to challenge the class of the NFC – the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints – they will need to improve in that area.
Jason Hanson converted a 50-yard field goal attempt and was four-for-four on extra points.
Ben Graham averaged 41.3 yards per kick and had one of his three punts downed inside the five-yard line – setting up the Cliff Avril interception for a touchdown.
The coverage units for both kickoff and punt returns weren’t great but they didn’t allow any long returns.
Also, the team was not able to recover an onside kick that surprised them in the third quarter.
This game was a huge game for a young team.
The coaching staff had them prepared to play and finally got a full four quarters out of the team. Perhaps most importantly, the team had only 3 penalties for eight yards.
Since the beginning of the season, head coach Jim Schwartz has been adamant that -- with a full 60 minutes of effort, concentration and execution -- the Lions could compete with anyone. There shouldn’t be many people doubting that after Saturday’s contest.