The Detroit Lions began the 2017 season with a 35-23 comeback victory over the Arizona Cardinals from Ford Field. And while it was far from pretty (which, let’s be honest, is usually par for the course for the Lions), Detroit roared back with 20 straight points in the fourth quarter to put what was a very close game out of reach.
Here are the takeaways:
Matthew Stafford has the heart of a lion (no pun intended) – Matthew Stafford began the day with a pick-six and ended the day with a 45-yard bomb to third-option wide receiver Kenny Galloday. He finished 29-for-41 (70%) for 292 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He wasn’t perfect, he never is, but when you’re constantly in a situation where you know you cannot depend on your running game, you need a guy like Stafford. Look, we all know the numbers, 5-46 against winning teams, zero playoff wins, yadda yadda yadda, but until the Lions present a rushing attack that actually makes the defense worry, the entire Lions season will depend on Stafford’s right arm. Thankfully it’s a pretty damn good right arm.
Kenny Galloday is the perfect third option – While Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. are the obvious 1-2 punch for the Lion’s wide receiver core, the need for a consistent third option was clearly visible last year. Yes, Anquan Boldin did a great job around the goal line, and Eric Ebron showed flashes of what we hope he could be, but there was no one else consistently producing. It’s early, but Kenny Galloday looks to be that guy. He impressed during the preseason, earned himself a roster spot, and had himself one hell of a debut: four catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns.
The running game needs to be better… MUCH better – It’s a tale as old as time for Lions fans, a tale that needs not be spoken but will be spoken nonetheless, the running game is sorely lacking. Finishing the game with a team total of just 82 yards on 27 carries, an average of just three yards per carry, will not get the job done. Not since the back-to-back 20’s (Billy Sims and Barry Sanders), have the Lions been able to produce a rushing attack that’s anywhere near the top half of the league. You can look at the long list of running backs that have donned the Honolulu Blue since Barry retired, and all you will find are decent rookie years and lots and lots of disappointment. And while the names running the ball have changed over the 17 years since Barry left, the problem remains the same: The Lions offensive line is just abysmal at run-blocking. You can blame Ameer Abdullah, you can blame Kevin Jones, you can blame James Stewart, you can blame Kevin Smith… Or you can see we’ve had the same problem since BEFORE Barry came and left.
Lions roar in the fourth – Before the fourth quarter began, the Lions were trailing the Cardinals 17-15, scoring just two touchdowns in the first 45 minutes. Then the fourth quarter began and the Lions began to roar. Stafford to Galloday for a 10-yard touchdown, Stafford to Galloday for a 45-yard touchdown just five minutes later, and one play after that, Miles Killebrew intercepted Carson Palmer and took it 35 yards to the house. A 17-15 deficit became a 35-17 lead just like that. It gives us fans fits to watch the Lions wait until the final quarter to really play football, but with eight fourth-quarter comebacks last year, you’d think we’d get used to this by now.