In one of the most anticipated Detroit Lions home openers in too many years to recount, the long suffering Lions’ faithful scurried on down to Ford Field all fervent and passionate in believing that 2011 is the year the Lions actually are a competitive NFL team.
After the Lions’ first possession of the game, I immediately felt it was indeed safe to postulate that somebody is watching over the Lions in 2011. How else can you figure quarterback Matthew Stafford throwing an interception to Kansas City safety Jon McGraw on the Chiefs’ 44 yard line? However, on the ensuring runback by McGraw, he fumbled and Tony Scheffler recovered to keep alive the Lions’ drive. Eventually the Lions concluded that fortuitous drive with a Stafford 15-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson, to make the score 7-0 en route to a rousing 48-3 home opening victory. The win over Kansas City pushed the Lions’ record to 2-0 as they now prepare to go on the road to combat Minnesota. This stat may mean nothing at all, but with the 2010 season ending with four straight wins, the 4-0 preseason and now the 2-0 start to their 2011 campaign, the Motor City Lions have actually won, for them, an amazing 10-0 consecutive games. Sure I understand last season and this preseason mean squat, but the players and coaches know that they have not lost a game in a while. No one in the Lions’ camp is saying anything about it, but it is evident that there is a winning attitude in the Detroit locker room. “We have a lot of talent on this team and we are off to a good start,” said Johnson, “but we all know we have not accomplished anything yet. We made a lot of big plays, but we have to clean up our overall execution.” There may be a number of technique things the Lions need to improve on, but what we have seen so far with Stafford coupled with the Lions’ three receivers, Johnson, Nate Burleson and rookie Titus Young, are indeed a formidable collective. Against Kansas City Stafford tossed four touchdown passes and completed 23 of 39 for 294 yards. He also avoided being sacked by a solid Chiefs’ defensive line. Said head coach Jim Schwartz: “We’ve got good players around Stafford, but you have to be able to make accurate passes. He knows where to go with the football. We have guys that can make plays, but you have to make accurate passes and that’s what he can do.” Sure it is early in the season, but others and I are drawing comparisons to this 2011 receivers’ crew to the best trio of receivers the Lions have had since Herman Moore, Brett Perriman and Johnnie Morton more than a decade ago. The rookie, Young, latched onto five passes for 89 yards, Burleson snatched seven balls for 93 yards and Johnson snatched two touchdowns on only three receptions. “What makes a quarterback special is putting the ball in the right place in tight coverage,” Burleson said. “That’s one of Matt’s specialties. He has the arm and the confidence to squeeze the ball into tight places. “Yeah it is starting to look like we complement each other perfectly. The organization did a good job of putting us all together. We are all a little different type of receiver and that is what gives us the potential to have a special year.” Said Young: “Matthew’s such a competitor. Sometimes he doesn’t even care about the look. He trusts us receivers so much. His confidence and competitiveness just leads to making plays.” When the Lions drafted Young I was like, “Who is this guy?” Then he missed almost all of training camp with a hamstring injury, but he showed me Sunday why the Lions used the first of their two second-round picks in last April’s NFL Draft to select the former Boise State standout. The Lions’ win over the Chiefs was their largest margin of victory (45 points) in the history of the franchise for regular and postseason games. The record was set in the 1957 NFL Championship where the Lions beat the Cleveland Browns 59-14. Even so, coach Jim Schwartz was cautious and somewhat guarded. “We can still play better,” Schwartrz said. “We didn’t start this game very well. We gave up a lot of yards rushing in the first quarter. Again, we haven’t played our best football.”