In past years, the Lions would be looking to pick up the pieces entering Week 2. This year, all they need to do is clean up some loose ends after a mostly impressive 27-20 opening week win at Tampa Bay.
“I am not going to discount the value of a win, particularly a win on the road,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “But we definitely have to play a lot better than we played today. We made too many mistakes that kept Tampa in the game.”
The Lions host the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, and motivation will not be a problem. This became a red-letter game the instant the Chiefs accused the Lions of tampering with one of their players (former safety Jarrad Page) before the 2010 season.
That charge cost the Lions a draft pick and it still rankles both Schwartz and especially defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, who was the one accused of making contact with Page.
“We almost let this get away at the end,” said wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who had six catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns. “Had this been another year, who knows? We should have put it away. I didn’t feel like we were going to lose, but it shouldn’t have been as close as we made it to be.”
The Lions trailed the Bucs 10-6 early despite a 147-1 edge in total yards. A 78-yard kickoff return by Sammie Stroughter set up a field goal and a tipped pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford to tight end Will Heller wound up in cornerback Aqib Talib’s hands. He took it in from the 28.
The Lions also gave the Bucs life at the end when a personal foul on tackle Gosder Cherilus stopped the clock with 1:26 left. The Bucs were out of timeouts at the time.
“The opponent has no timeouts left and we get a penalty?” said Schwartz. “That’s a situation we talk about and we work on. That’s stupid football and it almost put us in a situation – the defense should have been in where there were 30 seconds left and they would have to defend two plays.”
As it was, Tampa got the ball on the 20 with 1:07 left and moved it to the Lions’ 42 before the clock expired.
“Really, we should have blown them out,” said cornerback Chris Houston. “There were a couple of plays on offense, the interception return, and a couple of plays we missed on defense – just some mistakes we made that kept them in the game.”
There was more good than bad, though. The Lions scored on five of their first seven possessions and finished with 431 total yards. Stafford had the second-most productive performance of his career, completing 24 of 33 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns.
The defense didn’t allow the Bucs a first down in the first or third quarters. Until the middle of the fourth quarter, after the Lions had built a 27-13 lead, the Bucs had amassed just 209 yards.
“I guess it’s the sign of a good football team that we made those mistakes and still came out with the win,” Schwartz said. “But there are things that happened in this game that are inexcusable and they will not continue.”
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