Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Sunday, October 13, 2013
Stafford spike fuels Lions' emotional win

By Michael Rothstein

CLEVELAND -- Matthew Stafford spiked the ball toward midfield, taking a 5-yard penalty but none of that mattered. It was a type of message sent, a type of emotion needed.

The Detroit Lions were not playing well, were slogging through a sometimes-rainy, sometimes-not overcast day in Cleveland. And then on the first drive of the second half, Stafford slammed down the ball.

Matthew Stafford
QB Matthew Stafford and the Lions are now 4-2 overall after a Week 6 win at Cleveland.
And with it, he showed enough emotion to help get the Lions' attention.

“I knew it was going to take something to spark people,” Stafford said later. “That wasn’t false, man. I was happy, number one, to get the first down and number two to be down on the ground safe after a run.

“I just wanted to get guys going. It was time to go.”

Motivation came from all over Sunday for Detroit during its 31-17 win against Cleveland. It came from Stafford. It came from the rest of the Lions seeing a not-fully-healthy Calvin Johnson try to play anyway.

It came from linebacker Stephen Tulloch giving a speech to the Lions' coaches and players.

“He brought the entire team up, including the coaches,” safety Louis Delmas said. “Everybody was in that circle and everybody in that circle knew and felt that we had to do this for Stephen Tulloch.”

They needed to do it for more than Tulloch, though.

Detroit did not play particularly well in the first half Sunday. The offense stalled. The defense allowed Cleveland to rush for more yards in less than the entirety of the first half then the Browns had run for in any game this season.

There were dropped passes, missed tackles and receivers allowed to roam free. It was a game, frankly, that Detroit looked like it would lose. It was not playing well. It allowed the Browns to score 17 points in the second quarter and their star receiver was not fully healthy.

It was a game in many ways set up for Detroit to falter. For the Lions to drop, heading into a two-game homestand on a two-game losing streak. Then came the speeches and the spikes, the adjustments -- including making sure running back Reggie Bush was more involved in the offense -- and the return of a playmaking offense that scored 24 second-half points and an opportunistic defense that forced two interceptions.

And that two-game homestand against Cincinnati and Dallas could provide an opportunity to solidify the Lions entering the second half of the season.

Games like Sunday are games good teams win. Games potential playoff teams win. When things aren’t going well, when the precision is off, when players are hurt, you find a way anyway.

That’s exactly what Detroit did. They rallied. The offense found ways to get Bush and tight end Joseph Fauria involved, making plays. The defense shut Cleveland out in the second half, hitting Weeden and closing off the running game.

It’s cliche to say they believed in themselves and seeing each facet of the game do well inspires the others -- offense, defense and special teams -- but that’s part of what happened.

“I think there’s an element to that,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. “We knew that it wasn’t just going to be the offense playing well in the second half that was going to get us back in the game.

“We knew that we’d have to hit on all three phases and I think we did.”

And now it leads to this. More than a third of the way through the season, Detroit is firmly in the NFC playoff picture. The Lions have as many road wins -- two -- as they did all of last season.

But there’s a confidence about Detroit now. The Lions can play average for most of a game, and they have done that against Minnesota and Cleveland now, and still win a game. Still win a game somewhat convincingly, too.

“I’ll tell you what, we’re 4-2, getting them W’s,” defensive end Willie Young said. “That’s all that matters at the end of the day. All the rest of it, everything else is history at this point.

“Everything else is history.”

A history and a future that could become pretty interesting for the Detroit Lions.