FIRST DOWN: WINNING PLAYS
Cornerback Darius Slay knew he had a tough assignment Sunday covering Pro Bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen, who the Chargers targeted 15 times in the game. Allen finished with eight catches for 98 yards.
Most of those catches were with Slay in coverage, but it was Slay who made the biggest play of the matchup, stepping in front of Allen in the Lions' end zone and picking off a Philip Rivers pass with just over a minute left in the game and the Lions leading 13-10.
It was the type of play on defense the Lions didn’t make in the fourth quarter last week in a tie vs. Arizona.
“That lets you know how tough-minded of a team you are,” Slay said after the game of being able to flip the switch and make winning plays in the fourth quarter this week. “We knew our mistakes. We knew what we had to go into this game and do – that’s play all four quarters. Last week we didn’t play all four quarters. This week we did, that’s why we got the W.”
It wasn’t just Slay and the defense making those big plays, either.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford and the offense converted a 4th and 1 in the fourth quarter, scored a touchdown on a 31-yard strike to wide receiver Kenny Golladay and sealed the game converting a 3rd and 6 with under a minute to go.
“I think at the end of the game, I just trust those guys on the outside to go make plays and they did,” Stafford said. “Marv (Jones Jr.) had a great catch on that fourth down. I know it’s a four-yard catch in the game, but it’s a huge catch in the game. Kenny (Golladay) had a good one on that drive. Obviously the touchdown was a great catch. Just tried to give those guys a chance with a good ball and they made some plays for me.”
The Lions made winning plays in the fourth quarter, and that’s what star players do.
“To be able to have those situations come up again and be able to come up on the positive side of it, we can build off that, which is a good thing for us,” head coach Matt Patricia said.
SECOND DOWN: SECOND CHANCE
The Lions couldn’t milk the game away last week in Arizona by converting a 3rd and 5 with less than three minutes to go and leading by eight points. We all know what happened. Arizona got the ball, scored a touchdown, converted the two-point play and the game ultimately ended in a tie.
The call and execution on that play last week left something to be desired. Credit offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and the players with making the perfect call this week and executing it to perfection to win the game.
Stafford play-faked right and rolled out left. He found tight end Jesse James in the flat for a gain of seven yards. First down. Victory formation.
“I thought we had a good play call,” Patricia said. “Obviously, just give credit to those guys. Coach Bev (Bevell) did an unbelievable job, great call by him. Great play by Stafford, Jesse – really smooth on the play – the offensive line. Great execution. Really give the players credit for that.”
It’s winning plays like that 3rd and 6 Sunday, and the ones that got them to that point in the fourth quarter, that can give an offense a lot of confidence.
View photos from the Detroit Lions vs. Los Angeles Chargers Week 2 game at Ford Field on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019 in Detroit.
THIRD DOWN: O-LINE PLAY
Los Angeles’ defense features two of the best edge rushers in the game in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, but both Pro Bowlers were rather quiet Sunday, thanks to the effort upfront by Detroit’s offensive line.
It was a unit already down left tackle Taylor Decker (back; inactive). The Lions got a good performance from second-year tackle Tyrell Crosby stepping in for Decker, and when it was all said and done, the Lions didn’t allow a single sack on Stafford in the contest. Stafford was hit just once.
“It was great. I was really proud of those guys,” Stafford said of the o-line play. “There were some moving parts, not only in the game, but also just all week in practice. Just trying to get a couple guys ready to play, maybe some different spots.
“I thought we ran the ball really effectively, and in the pass game when I was in the pocket, I think the only time I got out and ran over to their sideline, I probably should have stayed in there. It was a really good day for those guys up front. I was proud of them.”
Ingram finished with seven tackles and no sacks. Bosa had six tackles and no sacks.
It was a bounce-back performance upfront for the Lions, who allowed a league-high 22 pressures last week vs. the Cardinals.
FOURTH DOWN: PENALTY PROBLEMS
In two games, the Lions have had six penalties on special teams, two missed kicks (field goal and extra point), one fumbled punt and had a punt blocked.
Patricia references “sloppy September” often, with the limited practice time and reps players get in August, but even he isn't happy with the penalties on special teams.
“The penalties, obviously, is the biggest situation we need to get cleaned up and fast,” Patricia said after the game. “We have to understand how they are calling the games. Our guys have to learn to be smarter in those situations.
“You might miss your guy, you might miss a block, whatever the case may be, but we can’t create penalties on top of it.”