INDIANAPOLIS -- Burning questions: hot start by the Detroit Lions, surge by the Colts and answer by the Lions in a momentum change – and redemption for Matt Prater in the Lions' 39-35 victory over the Colts in the season-opener Sunday:
Question: How much was the outcome redemption for Matt Prater, who had missed an extra point that could have cost the Lions the game, and what did the outcome mean to the team?
Answer: No matter how you could have parsed it, missing the extra point after the Lions touchdown would have put Prater on the hot seat when the Colts came back to score in the final minute and add the extra point with 37 seconds left for what looked like a 35-34 victory.
Instead, Matthew Stafford drove the Lions into field-goal range with another of his patented comebacks, and Prater connected on the winning field goal from 43 yards out. A safety awarded to the Lions on the ensuing kickoff return accounted for the final margin.
Q. Flash back: Before Prater made the field goal, what did the game remind you of?
A. It looked like San Diego with air conditioning. A year ago the Lions built up a lead at San Diego in the opener then melted in the second half and lost, 33-28.
On Sunday, they had a 21-13 lead in the first half and wound up having to rally on the final possession to win.
Q. Bottom line: what's the explanation for so many ups and downs?
A. That's football. That's sports. Can't say it any other way.
But it doesn't erase any of the bad plays the Lions made – most of them by a defense that gave up 32 points in the last 31 minutes, 37 seconds. There were occasional stumbles by the offense, but nothing compared to the crumbling defense in two areas that were supposed to be a strength – the front four and secondary.
But it's a victory, and the Lions head home to play the Tennessee Titans at Ford Field in their next game.
Q. First half summary: How would you rate the first 30 minutes, with the Lions holding a 21-10 lead?
A. I'd call it 28 minutes and 23 seconds of dominant football by the Lions, and one minute and 37 seconds when they gave the Colts hope.
Q. The good Lions: What did they do that made them dominant?
A. Just about everything. The offense clicked, with a surprisingly effective running game. The defense smothered the Colts, led by the pass rush of Kerry Hyder with two sacks. And the special teams were good – good punts and kickoffs by Sam Martin, and good coverage when needed.
Q. The bad Lions: What did they do that made them bad?
A. They gave up a 75-yard touchdown drive in the last 1:37 that let the Colts cut the deficit to 21-10. The Colts were buried before that – down by 18 points, unable to sustain any offense, and with the Lions getting the second-half kickoff.
Instead, Andrew Luck put together a scoring drive and started it with three straight completions for gains, 14 and 16 yards. He finished off the drive with a two-yard TD pass to Donte Moncrief.
There was a momentum shift in the Colts' favor. They left the field at halftime knowing they were in the game, and they kept it up in the second half with a touchdown and two-point conversion on their first possession that made it 21-18.
Q. Third quarter summary: What would you call it, with both teams scoring a touchdown?
A. I'd call it the Lions answering back. No doubt, they were rocked by the Colts' TD drive on their first possession. It looked like more of the same from the end of the first half. Darius Slay gave up a 51-yard completion on a first and 20, and there was a blown coverage that left Dwayne Allen wide open for the TD reception.
But the Lions answered back. The defense made a stop on the Colts' next possession, and the offense responded with a long drive that ended in Ameer Abdullah's 11-yard TD that made it 28-18. After a field goal by the Colts in the first minute of the fourth quarter, it was set up for the finish.
Q. Jim Caldwell, major decision: In the fourth quarter the Colts were called for holding on first down at their six. Caldwell declined the penalty. Right call?
A. Yes. No question. There was an incomplete pass on the play, making it second and 10. Taking the penalty would have been a three-yard walk-off, and first and 13. Better to give up the three yards and keep the down box moving.
Had it been a 10-yard walk-off, it would have been a different story. But it wasn't.
Q. Overall, what does it mean? Were the Lions lucky or good?
A. They were a little lucky, a little good, a little bad – and they're 1-0.