Sunday, September 11, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Lions 27, Buccaneers 20
By Kevin Seifert
TAMPA, Fla. -- A few quick thoughts after Sunday afternoon's events at Raymond James Stadium:
What it means: The Detroit Lions got their first Week 1 victory in four years, giving us at least one more week of Lions Fever. After months of offseason hype, much of it on this blog, the Lions provided a convincing glimpse that they can be a force this year in the NFC. They displayed an explosive pass offense and a stingy defense, along the way outgaining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 431-313 and had 25 first downs to the Bucs' 17.
Picky, picky: To be fair, the Lions didn't do a great job closing out this game. They allowed the Bucs to pull within one score on Mike Williams' 5-yard touchdown pass with 1 minute, 35 seconds remaining. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus' post-play 15-yard penalty at the end of the ensuing possession was an inexcusable loss of end-game exposure, and the Lions defense also had 12 men on the field for one play during the Bucs' final possession. But ultimately the Bucs ran out of time with the ball on the Lions' 41-yard line.
StaffordWatch: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was sharp in his first regular-season game since offseason shoulder surgery, throwing for three touchdowns and becoming the first Lions quarterback since Bobby Layne in 1953 to have a 300-yard game in a season opener. Lions fans no doubt gasped when Stafford limped off the field after his third-quarter touchdown pass to receiver Calvin Johnson, but he was merely cramping up on a hot and humid Florida day.
WeatherWatch: Temperatures reached 90 degrees with a heat index of 94 during the game. But the Lions followed the perfect path for such an occasion. Their offense possessed the ball for 36 minutes, 14 seconds. It helped that the Bucs' only touchdown came on an Aqib Talib's interception return, robbing the Bucs of an early possession.
Tulloch shines: I thought new middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch made a nice impression in his debut with the team, sacking quarterback Josh Freeman once and nearly bringing down backup Josh Johnson on a second play that he broke up. It's amazing how a high-energy, sure-tackling middle linebacker can change the face of a defense.
Secondary solid: National observers have expressed concern about the Lions' secondary, but I thought it held its own Sunday with a number of strong individual plays. Cornerback Chris Houston intercepted a pass in the end zone. Cornerback Aaron Berry broke up a pass in the end zone. Safety Louis Delmas also made a nice play to break up a third-down pass in the second quarter.
What's next: The Lions will host the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday at Ford Field.