It only took Drew Stanton one play (and a small fourth quarter flurry) to beg the question: Why was Daunte Culpepper signed, and why did he start on Sunday?
Note to offensive coordinator Jim Colletto: If you consider Stanton's small but mighty performance "embarrassing," Lions fans will take it. At least compared to the alternative, anyway.
In the midst of the 38-14 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Stanton was able to showcase at least a handful of highlights that reminded everyone why he was a second-round draft choice a year ago.
The former Michigan State standout played mostly mop-up duty in the fourth quarter, completing 6 of 8 passes for 94 yards, including his first professional toss -- a five-yard touchdown to tight end John Owens -- in a spot play near the end of the first quarter. In a game that saw little life from a still winless Lions squad (0-9), Stanton was a silver lining.
"You know it was great," he said after the game. "It was so much fun and that's why you put so much preparation in throughout the year -- is to get those opportunities. I think the big thing that I tried to do was go out there and stay in the same framework of what the offense is trying to accomplish. Obviously we had a young guy with my first real live action against a good defense -- you know I made some mistakes, but was able to try to minimize those so I guess we'll have a better feeling tomorrow when we break the film down.
"I think there is some positives to take away from it you know -- and just try to build on that."
Stanton's performance overshadowed the debut of veteran newcomer Daunte Culpepper, who struggled to a 5 of 10 performance, including an interception on his first drive.
Culpepper stole headlines after signing with Detroit earlier in the week, and starting after just three full days of practice. Many considered it another slap in the face to Stanton, who just last week expressed anger after Colletto excused Stanton's lack of onfield time by saying he didn't want to "embarrass" him.
But Culpepper's rust was evident.
"I think we have some things we can build on, and I think as far as personally, I feel I made some mistakes, but I had some good things happen," said Culpepper. "It's a working process. Like I said before, I knew and understood how tough it is to come and play the game of football when you're working in the same system for the whole off-season -- so to come in quickly was tough but I was up to the challenge."
After replacing Culpepper to start the fourth quarter, Stanton led Detroit on an 11-play, 88-yard scoring drive on his second series, including nicely thrown, 41-yard pass to receiver Calvin Johnson. He found Brandon Middleton for 23-yards on 4th and 12 before rookie running back Kevin Smith punched it into the end zone four plays later.
Stanton's next drive was penalty-ridden, but showcased an 18-yard touchdown scamper that was nullified after Rudi Johnson was called for holding.
"For the most part I was really happy on what I was able to accomplish," said Stanton. "There were some things -- and just knowing this offense and being prepared like I said -- you never know when you'll get your opportunity, but you know trying to get out there and make the most of it was what I tried to do today."
Stanton missed all of last year following knee surgery, and part of the preseason in 2008 with a hand injury. He said the adjustment between college and the pros is still ongoing.
"Obviously, I have nothing to compare it to except for college and a little bit of preseason -- it's definitely much faster," he said. "I think that causes you to be that much more sharp on your reads; understanding what's going on and not necessarily running but using your feet to create things - move around in the pocket trying to find some throwing lanes and that's what I'm really trying to do - and build on that."