Detroit Lions: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The Detroit Lions were utterly gruesome in the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals. Their defense literally stole the show with four turnovers on the day.

The bad

The Detroit Lions had the worst quarter of football I can ever remember. The first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals was atrocious. Matthew Stafford’s first throw of the season went for a touchdown… the other way. After Tavon Wilson gave the Lions their first turnover of the season with an interception, Stafford threw a pass over the middle where Golden Tate had been knocked off his route and Arizona’s Justin Bethel turned his own interception into a 78-yard pick six. Things got worse from there.

From the Lions end zone, rookie punter, Kasey Redfern, fumbled his first and only snap of the day and was tackled, injuring his knee and ending his day. Not good. His absence also was problematic for the field goal unit since he was the holder for Matt Prater. Introducing Jake Rudock, who muffed his own chance on an extra point when he dropped the snap.

The good

The only good thing was the Lions defense. After Redfern’s malfunction, the Lions defense held the Cardinals six times inside the ten-yard line, holding them to only a field goal. Teryl Austin has been stellar in his ability to wrangle the best out of his injury riddled unit. Once again, Austin’s defense held another NFL team to 20 points or less, allowing the Cardinals just 16 points. Stafford’s pick six doesn’t count against the defense. That makes 17 of the last 25 opponents that have been held to 20 points or less by Teryl Austin’s defense. For all the skeptics and the criticism levied against the Lions defense this offseason, Austin had his defense excelling where it counts the most… on the scoreboard.

$135 million man

Considering Matthew Stafford’s less than auspicious start to the season, he continued to come out slow but as the game wore on, once again, he led the Lions from behind in the fourth quarter for another come from behind win. It sure didn’t feel like it early, but he threw a touch pass that dropped in the bucket for rookie WR Kenny Golladay who had a great day. Stafford worked with a private coach on his variety of throws and this touch pass was perfection. Then late in the game, the combination of Stafford and Golladay found the end zone again. This time Stafford aired it out and Golladay ran past his defender to make a spectacular diving catch at the one-yard line and rolled into the end zone for his second score of the day.

Defensive playmakers

Carson Palmer was off all day. He threw three interceptions, including a pick six of his own. Pressured up the middle, Palmer threw behind his intended receiver, the ball caromed into the air where last years fifth round pick, safety Miles Killebrew, picked it off and raced in for the score.

DE Anthony Zettel, the Lions sixth round pick last year, recorded the Lions only sack of the day. DT A’Shawn Robinson, the Lions second round pick last year, forced a fumble which was recovered by this year’s first round pick, MLB Jarrad Davis. Bob Quinn made it a point that players had to perform and make plays by their second year or they’d be gone. 

So far, his second-year players are making plays… big ones. It’s a credit to his training in New England where he spent 16 years scouting college talent. In years past, the Detroit Lions hoped and prayed they could find a player after the third round of the draft who could just make the team. In Bob Quinn’s second year as the Lions GM, he seems to have solved that dilemma.

So the Detroit Lions are 1-0 to start the 2017 NFL season. No matter what happens they are in first place in the NFC North for at least one week. Next week, Detroit travels to New York to take on the Giants on Monday Night Football. This time, Matthew Stafford will have all his fingers and September is a lot warmer than when the Lions played the Giants in December. It should be another good one because Teryl Austin’s defense held the Giants to just 17 points.

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