The Detroit Lions did a lot of things right during Sunday's opening day game against the Oakland Raiders. Unfortunately, all of those good things seemed to happen during the first two and a half quarters of football. After that, the Lions, who were leading, on the road, 17-0 regressed into the hapless, unable to win on the road, same old team we've seen throughout the Matt Millen era. So it should be no surprise that the .... Wait. The Detroit Lions won (!?) Yes indeed, the Detroit Lions are 1-0. After blowing their 17-0 lead, and falling behind 21-0, the Lions roared back to life, drove down the field for a go ahead touchdown, then two huge defensive turnovers later, it was 36-21, and the Lions won on the road and started their season off on a positive note.
The Detroit Lions deserve a lot of credit for their performance Sunday. Oakland is not an easy place to play on the road, and the Raiders had the #1 pass defense in the NFL last season. Despite that, the Lions offense looked good for most (but, admittedly not all) of the game, and Jon Kitna moved the ball up and down the field with relative ease. He connected with eight different receivers and three (Shaun McDonald, rookie Calvin Johnson, and Roy Williams) caught touchdowns. Johnson looked great in his first professional game, and should only get better as his playing time increases and he adds experience to what is an obviously very talented base. And the MVP of the game may have been Shaun McDonald. With the Lions trailing with 4:30 to go in the game, he caught a Kitna pass short of the first down on 3rd and 8, but broke a tackle and got past the sticks. A few seconds later, he caught a 32-yard touchdown pass to put the game away for Detroit.
The defense was also (again, for the most part) impressive. Kalimba Edwards two big sacks and a fumble recovery. Shaun Rogers looked as dominant as ever in his first game in almost a year, and he helped seal the game with a huge sack near the end of the fourth quarter. And while the defense gave up a lot of yards, they came up with big turnovers when they needed them in the fourth quarter, with new addition DeWayne White leading the way, forcing both big key fourth quarter turnovers (an interception and a fumble force and recovery within the final three minutes of the game).
Now was everything perfect? No. The offensive line was much improved, and gave Jon Kitna a lot of time to throw the ball, but the run blocking was average, and new right tackle George Foster had a few too many (three) false starts. Kitna looked good, but also missed some throws, and a first quarter interception after a 95-yard drive down the field, where he did everything else right, was deflating. And Mike Martz needs to show more confidence in Tatum Bell. Bell averaged 5.8 yards a carry (85 yards and a TD) but the touchdown and extra carries came when the game was already over. The Lions needed to stick with the run game more than they did early on, because it was working. And blowing a 17-0 lead in a matter of minutes wasn't good.
But, far far more good than bad. Lots to be excited out. Great debuts by Calvin Johnson, Shaun McDonald, and DeWayne White. A win on the road to start the season. A comeback win, no less. Maybe this Lions team really is different than the team's we have been accustomed to seeing.