Detroit Lions Store

Gameday

O'Hara's Burning Questions: Stafford-Johnson combo, running back issues, penalties and more

Posted Aug 17, 2012

BALTIMORE -- Burning questions, including the Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson combination, running back issues, penalty problems, defensive ups and downs and other issues in the Lions’ 27-12 victory over the Ravens Friday night:

Q. Stafford and Johnson put on a show in the second quarter to take the Lions from a 6-0 deficit to a 14-6 lead. How good was their performance.

A. First the disclaimer. It’s only the preseason, and the games don’t count, but it was memorable. And Stafford and Johnson gave a national TV audience something to remember.

They both went out with 5:20 left in the half, after Stafford had hit Titus Young with a 24-yard TD pass to make it 14-6.

While they were in the game, they put on a show. It’s something we’ve seen before – against Oakland, Minnesota, New Orleans and Green Bay last year – but it was fun to another live highlight show.

Q. How good were their stats?

A. Amazingly good, and they get better the more they are boiled down.

For his first half, Stafford completed 12 of 17 passes for 184 yards, the two TDs, and a passer rating of 145.2.

Q. How could it have been better?

A. Easy. Stafford ran two series in the second quarter. Both ended in touchdowns, and he was on the field for 8:44. In that short span, he went 8-for-10 for 150 yards, the two TDs, and a maximum passer rating of 158.3.

Q. What about Johnson? How good was he?

A. He was as good as Calvin Johnson, and that’s saying something – the best non-quarterback in the NFL. He finished with five catches for 111 yards and a touchdown.

Q. Those are great stats. How could he have been better than that?

A. Easy, just like Stafford. It’s what he did in such a short period that was amazing.

The Lions were backed up to their seven-yard line after a kickoff and facing a 6-0 deficit.

On first down, Stafford lofted a long pass down the left sideline. Johnson caught it for a 57-yard gain. The Lions were out of the hole.

He caught an eight-yard pass on the next play and finished off the drive with an 18-yard TD grab.

Johnson snatched the ball away from Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith like an outfielder bringing a home run ball back with a leaping catch at the fence with fans grabbing for it.

Johnson had three catches for 83 yards in the scoring drive.

It was a good night’s work for Stafford and Johnson, and a well deserved rest.

Q. Won-lost record – does the outcome matter?

A. Winning’s always better than losing, but the important thing is getting the top units ready for the regular season and evaluating players for depth in the roster.

Q. Flying flags - did the offense hide all the warts on defense and special teams?

A. No, and it shouldn’t. There were too many penalties – seven in the first half, with some offsides and a late hit by Nick Fairley. That has to be cleaned up.

Special teams had coverage breakdowns and got bailed out at times by penalties, but also had a long kickoff return of their own called back on a penalty. That’s been a point of emphasis, and it needs more work.

And not recovering an onside kick late in the game gave the Ravens a chance to tie the game. The defense held.

Q. How did the defense perform?

A. The first and second teams protected the end zone in the first half, giving up three field goals and no first downs.

But giving up 254 yards in a half is way too many, exhibition season or regular season. The defense got burned on a 35-yard run by Jacoby Jones on an end around when Amari Spievey took a bad angle and couldn’t make the tackle.

Q. Runner’s return – What does it mean that Mikel Leshoure took part in pregame warm-ups?

A. It’s a good step for Leshoure, but just a step. He isn’t close to the finish line. It means that returning to practice last week, even on a limited basis, didn’t do any damage to the injured hamstring that kept him out for two weeks.

Leshoure has to get some work in the last two exhibition games. He’s suspended for the first two regular season games, so he has to get some works. He can’t go into the third game cold, without any game action.

Q. Runner’s risk – Kevin Smith was used on the kickoff return team as a blocker in front of the returner. Is that an unnecessary risk, considering he is the only healthy back on the roster who’s been a consistent starter and ball carrier?

A. Coach Jim Schwartz says that you can’t play scared, and that point is understandable. But I’d be more protective of Smith until it was clear that there was another back to help out in the regular season until Leshoure and Jahvid Best are available – assuming Best returns. And there is no guarantee that he will.

Q. Logan’s run – Stefan Logan went out with an injured ankle when he collided with Matthew Stafford on a handoff in the second quarter. How much would Logan’s absence hurt?

A. He means a lot on special teams, as a return man and on coverage, and he has contributed as a running back. His position is football player, and teams can’t afford to lose football players.

Q. Zebra watch – rate the replacement officials in their second.

A. F, for flunkys.