FIRST DOWN: JOHNSON HITS 100 YARDS
It was a moment the Ford Field faithful loved to see.
Following a 10-yard run late in the fourth quarter, the Ford Field video board caught veteran running backs LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick jumping and dancing around Kerryon Johnson sitting on the Lions bench as the graphic of Johnson’s rushing total for the game came up.
The Ford Field crowd burst into cheers and ovations.
It had been 70 games and more than 1,700 days since the Lions had a 100-yard rusher in a game. Reggie Bush was the last to do it in 2013.
The Lions drafted Johnson in the second round this year to do exactly what he did Sunday – Break that streak and put the balance back into the Lions' run game.
The rookie finished with 101 yards on 16 carries for a 6.3 average. It was 15 yards here, 14 yards there and chunk gains after chunk gains for the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year from Auburn.
“Well, I graduated high school in ’15, so I was 15 years old, a sophomore in high school,” Johnson said after the game. “I was probably winning state or something, I don’t know. But, it was a while, that’s for sure.
“I think we saw a different offense today and we won. So, I think it helped us a lot, opened a lot of our passes, it made life a lot easier for (Matthew) Stafford and our receivers and the O-line did a fantastic job. It takes a lot to get us there, it takes a lot to do that and pass-block and they did an awesome job.”
The circumstances of the first two games – falling behind by double digits – didn’t allow the running game to really get on track. But playing with a lead in Sunday night’s 26-10 win over New England allowed head coach Matt Patricia and Co. to unleash the run game and Johnson.
“I think he just does everything well,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said of his rookie running back. “He can catch the ball out of the backfield, he’s a smart player, he’s got good vision. He’s a slippery runner.
“He’s got probably a little bit more strength than people give him credit for, a little bit more speed. It doesn’t maybe jump off the page to you but when he’s out there he’s really efficient and does some really nice things.”
After a performance like that Sunday night, Johnson is quickly endearing himself not only to his Lions teammates, but to Lions fans as well.
SECOND DOWN: DEFENSIVE EFFORT
There might be a lot of people across the country who watched the Lions' defense completely stymie Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense and be shocked by what they saw.
Lions linebacker Eli Harold said he knew Detroit’s defense had it in them all along.
“We have a bunch of competitors on this team and we’re not scared of anyone,” said Harold, who finished with three tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits in the contest.
“I know I’m not and I know those other 10 guys on the field aren’t either.”
After the Lions gave up 48 points to the Jets Week 1 and 30 last week to San Francisco, holding the Patriots to just 10 is quite the turnaround.
It was complete domination for the Lions on defense Sunday. The Lions nearly outgained New England two to one in total yards (414 to 209). The Patriots converted just 22 percent of their third downs (2 of 9).
The passing yards for Brady are his lowest since the season finale vs. Buffalo in 2014, when he had 80 yards on just 8-of-16 passing.
“We just executed the game plan,” Harold said. “Just trusting the scheme and what he’s coaching us is the right thing. We all believe that. Even with the two losses we still believed that.”
THIRD DOWN: GAME OF MOMENTUM
Patricia faced a tough call very early in the contest on the first offensive possession of the game for Detroit.
After the defense forced a three and out on New England’s first possession of the game, the offense was driving on their first possession when a completion from Stafford to Golden Tate on 3rd and 5 at the New England 21-yard line set up a 4th and 1.
Patricia immediately sent out Matt Prater and the field goal unit, to some boos from the Ford Field crowd that wanted to see Patricia go for it. Prater made the 38-yarder to give the Lions the lead.
Why did Patricia decide to take the points in that spot? He explained it after the game.
“It’s really hard,” he said. “That’s a really tough call. I know the crowd favorite would have been to go for it, but I think in that point of the game being so early, you need points. You need to make sure you maximize every single drive.
“So, at that point if it’s inches or one or two, it doesn’t really matter. You just have to get the points and hope that you’re in a position to play good defense. What you don’t want to do is have something bad happen in that situation and then give them momentum. A game like this is definitely about momentum. And scoring points gives you momentum and that’s what we needed to do.”
FOURTH DOWN: PATRICIA'S FIRST WIN
Wide receiver Golden Tate said this week that the first victory is always the toughest.
That was certainly the case for Patricia and the Lions after starting the season 0-2, but Sunday’s victory over his former team and his long-time mentor, Bill Belichick, allows Patricia to take a breath, albeit a quick one with Dallas Cowboys up next.
For this team, Sunday’s victory reaffirms that all the fundamentals, techniques and long training camp days were building toward something. It reaffirms that the game plan and schemes, when executed, can lead to the kind of lopsided win over a team like New England.
“I’m sure it meant a lot,” Stafford said of this win for Patricia. “Obviously, his first win as a head coach in the NFL, probably no sweeter than to do it against your old team. He has a lot of respect for those guys, we all do in our locker room.
“They’re a really good football team, well coached. But we needed this one. It was great to have them come into our place on a big stage and be able to do something like that.”
There was a lot of doom and gloom surrounding the team after a 0-2 start, with the pressure mounting on Patricia and his coaching staff. At least for a week, there’s a sense that things are on the right track again and everyone can exhale a little bit.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions Week 3 game against the New England Patriots.