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O'HARA'S BURNING QUESTIONS: How did the Lions turn it around?

Posted Sep 10, 2017

Mike O'Hara answers all of the burning questions following the Detroit Lions' 35-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Burning questions:The Detroit Lions digging a hole, climbing out and running away; big mistakes early; the quarterback leading while the offense and defense came together in Sunday’s 35-23 season-opening victory over the Arizona Cardinals:

Question: How do you explain how the Lions were down, 10-0, and making mistakes every way imaginable in the first quarter and still came back to win?

Answer: It’s called football – playing football from start to finish. For those who forget last year’s eight comeback victories, the Lions don’t give up – not late, and certainly not early. They just keep playing.

As bleak as it looked in the first quarter – and it certainly looked as though the Lions were in the first day of training camp and had put their uniforms on for the first time – they rallied and dominated the game after that 10-0 deficit.

They made the plays on offense to get the lead, and on defense to protect it.

For one day – and let’s not even get to “over-reaction Monday” and make any projections – it looks like the Lions are a legitimate playoff contender. With talent in key areas.

Q. Matthew Stafford’s game: His first pass of the season was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Any surprise how he performed after that?

A. None. He’s the leader of this team, and he shows that again.

He threw four touchdown passes, and he spread the ball around – TD passes to veterans Marvin Jones Jr. and Theo Riddick, and two to rookie Kenny Golladay. Plus, Golden Tate didn’t make it to the end zone, except to take part in the celebrations, but he had 10 catches for 107 yards. Another 90-catch season – at least – is in the offing.

Q. Defense: What was its strong point?

A. The secondary stood out the most, with three interceptions and one of them returned for a touchdown by Miles Killebrew. But all around, the defense made it tough on Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer. He never really gotten into a consistent rhythm. The Lions got enough pressure on Palmer to make him uncomfortable.

Q. Defense key stat: What was it?

A. Holding running back David Johnson to 23 yards on 11 carries. That kept the Cardinals from getting in situations where they could choose to throw or run. That put the advantage on the defense.

Q. Offense key stat: What was it?

A. Two things: Stafford’s four TD passes, and no turnovers after the interception on the second offensive play.

Q. First quarter: How bad was it for the Lions?

A. Words could explain it, but not any that I’m allowed to use in print. I settle for symbols -- $@&&$$%%$#@ -- and let the readers use their imagination to fill them in.

For public consumption, it can be described in one word: Awful.

Q. Rating the damage: Which misplay hurt the Lions the most?

A. It wasn’t the worst play, but in terms of points on the scoreboard, the interception return for a touchdown did the most damage. The Lions were in position to get at least a field goal and have a 3-0 lead. Instead, the Cardinals took a 7-0 lead on the return.

Q. Stafford pick: The Lions were in good position to score first after an interception by safety Tavon Wilson on Arizona’s first possession. Wilson’s pick and return gave the offense the ball at Arizona’s 26.

On second down, Stafford’s pass meant for Golden Tate was intercepted by Justin Bethel and returned 82 yards for a touchdown.

What happened? It looked like Stafford threw the ball right to Bethel.

A. Tate got bumped off his route as he cut across the middle from left to right. He never got to where the ball was thrown. It was a good football play by the Cardinals’ defense to disrupt the route.

Stafford delivered the ball, anticipating where Tate was going to be had he not been hit. Call that a clean win for the Cardinals’ defense. That gave then a 7-0 lead.

Q. Punt muff, fallout: How much did punter Kasey Redfern’s fumbled snap in the end zone hurt the Lions?

A. It hurt in a lot of ways. First, it cost the Lions three points when the Cardinals converted it into a field goal for a 10-0 lead.

Redfern ran out of the end zone, and when he got hit he sustained a knee injury and did not return. Losing Redfern to the injujry did double damage. Kicker Matt Prater had to punt, and backup quarterback Jake Rudock had to hold for Prater.

Prater was decent as a punter, but great kicking off and on field goals. Rudock mishandled a snap on an extra-point attempt, but he held on a 58-yard cannon shot at the end of the first half.

The two Matts – Mathew Stafford and Matt Prater – were on their game.