A come-from-behind win in Week 1 rekindled the late-game magic of last year, but tonight’s display was a different kind of Lions performance as they lead for the entirety of the second half and put the game to bed with some strong defense and an electric punt return.
Matthew “Money” Stafford
It’s a contractual obligation for NFL writers to mention that Matthew Stafford is the highest-paid player in the NFL now, but tonight he played like it too.
Making smart adjustments at the line, flipping runs away from blitzes and making big throws, but the difference between the two quarterbacks was most-notable in the way they handled pressure.
While Eli Manning tried to stand in the pocket and withstand the pressure, Stafford was doing his best Russell Wilson as he spun out, slipped away, rolled and generally frustrated throughout the game.
Both pass rushes brought the heat, but Stafford’s ever-surprising quickness kept drives alive. He ended up with three rushes for 23 yards, but his second touchdown came as he rolled right. The first followed a play where he weaved through oncoming defenders like he was a champion slalom skier.
When he wasn’t calling out Steve Spagnuolo’s blitzes he was dodging them. It was a deeply impressive showing from Stafford even if he finished the day with just 122 yards.
Commitment to running
Jim Bob Cooter’s offense is best known for a varied passing game, but he has stated that he wants to build more of a run game this year, and that was reflected in the free agent signings of TJ Lang and Rick Wagner.
While it wasn’t always smooth sailing, mostly due to Greg Robinson either holding or getting blown off the ball, Detroit finished the day with 138 yards on the ground (115 if you take away Stafford’s scrambles) which ended up being more than they passed for.
Ameer Abdullah’s return to the team this season has been a very welcome sight, with his vision and quick decision making being particularly effective as he ran to the right behind the new signings. The Giants defensive front kept a lid on big gains, but the Lions were able to consistently grind out enough to keep the chains moving and eat up clock. Will they be able to move the ball against elite run defenses? Maybe, maybe not. But they are currently in a situation to at least keep defenses honest, which is an improvement on last year.
Agnew’s ridiculous return
Words can’t really do the efforts of Jamal Agnew justice. His punt return touchdown iced the game in the fourth quarter and was far and away the best moment of the game. Just enjoy it.
Lions defense does it again
Another game, another team held under 20 points. This one was a little more expected than others, but Darius Slay, Ziggy Ansah, and Jarrad Davis all came to play today.
Ansah took full advantage of Ereck Flowers’ poor play and finished the day with three sacks and six tackles, while Davis was strong in the middle and Slay played well on the outside all day, especially shining when the Giants went up-tempo in a late effort to get back into the game. He nailed Evan Engram on a deep pass and broke up a would-be touchdown to Brandon Marshall as well. He’s not spoken about much when it comes to the best corners in the game, but there are few better than Slay right now.
Caldwell’s seat is ice cold
He may not have a contract after this season, but right now Jim Caldwell is coaching as well as he ever has. This whole team is clicking, from a balanced offense that isn’t overly reliant on any one player to a defense that is hungry and a special teams that is working in all facets. His “robotic” nature during games is an easy punchline for talking heads, but right now there are only a handful of coaches doing a better job that Caldwell is.
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