O'Hara: Lions did what good teams do, they kept playing through adversity to win 34-24

Posted Sep 8, 2013

Though the first half resembled unsuccessful Lions teams of old, this year's squad persevered and came away with the win

By the eye test alone, it might have looked like the Lions had invited one of the losing teams from last year's state high school football championship games to hang close to Ford Field for nine months and serve as the hand-picked opponent for their opening game of the NFL's 2013 season.

That's how one-sided the first quarter was in favor of the Lions in Sunday's game against the Vikings.

The Lions had a 9-1 lead in first downs, 162-79 in yards gained and 25-4 in offensive plays run. The Vikings had the ball for a little more than two minutes. It looked like a walk-over.

But a little thing called the scoreboard, and an immense talent named Adrian Peterson told a different story. And the scoreboard had the Vikings in the lead, 7-3, off Peterson's 78-yard touchdown run on the Vikings' first offensive play.

There had to be visions in the heads of some people about games lost in previous seasons, when the Lions lost games that they dominated on the stats sheet.

Those thoughts never entered the Lions' minds Sunday – and they didn't end up on the scoreboard in what ultimately became a 34-24 Lions victory.

The Lions did what good teams do. They kept playing through adversity, created in equal parts by themselves and the brilliance of Peterson that accounted for all three Minnesota touchdowns.

There was no doubt which was the better team on Sunday, but the outcome was very much in doubt until Matthew Stafford hit rookie tight end Joseph Fauria for the clinching touchdown with 6:47 left.

Joseph FauriaTE Joseph Fauria (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

That closed out the scoring and put the game in the hands of Detroit's defense to hold the lead. And it did just that, finally sealing the game on safety Glover Quin's interception with 1:20 left.

After the game, Coach Jim Schwartz was asked if last year's team would have been able to overcome its mistakes and misplays.

"I don't know," Schwartz said. "We have some firepower, and the offense never lost faith because they kept on driving the football, so it's easy to keep faith.

"Defense, after we gave up the one play (Peterson's TD run) -- you have to be resilient.  That's a (Vikings) team that was a playoff team last year that has one of the outstanding players in the NFL – not just Adrian Peterson, but defensively, great left tackle, skill guys. That's a very, very good football team.

‘That was a playoff team. It was a division opponent. I can't talk on last year. All I know is we won it."

The first half was an exercise in frustration for the Lions. The fact that they overcame it says something about their fabric. They faced a 14-13 deficit at the intermission and didn't get the lead until Joique Bell's one-yard TD run put them in front, 20-14, just before the five-minute mark of the third quarter.

After that, the Lions never trailed.

They did some good things. On offense, Reggie Bush gave them a game-breaking threat that they've lacked while Bell was superb in a backup role with 25 yards rushing, 67 receiving and two TD runs.

The front four on defense put the clamps on Peterson, except for his long run, and kept the heat on Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder late in the game to thwart any comeback attempt.

The biggest downer was penalties – 11 for 88 yards. They remain a problem that has not been cleared up.

The Lions lost a touchdown on DeAndre Levy's interception return when Ndamukong Suh was flagged for a low block on the return. It was still Lions ball, but the Vikings got it back on the next play when Stafford's pass was deflected at the line and intercepted.

The Lions muffed a field-goal attempt on their first possession when rookie punter Sam Martin dropped the snap from center.

And in the second half, a fumble recovery on a sack by rookie Ziggy Ansah was nullified because Ansah was offside.

Bush was asked what the message was in the locker room at halftime.

"Stop beating ourselves," Bush said. "It was never a doubt in my mind that we weren't going to come back."

Schwartz had to be in shock watching Peterson go 78 yards for a TD. The Lions took the opening kickoff and had the ball for 11 snaps and more than four minutes and all they got out of it was a botched field goal attempt.

Peterson's run took 13 seconds, and the Vikings had a 7-0 lead.

"We worked all offseason on stopping Adrian Peterson, and the first play he goes 80," Schwartz said, stretching the run by three yards. "It seemed like every replay went against us. They were all good calls."

He was talking about replay reviews that overturned two apparent TDs – a catch by Calvin Johnson in the first quarter and a run by Bush in the second.

"The team stuck together," Schwartz said. "They stuck with the plan. We didn't let a bobbled snap or a replay or anything else go against us or take away from us.

"I think that was probably the biggest thing to come out of it. It was a team win."