O’HARA’S BURNING QUESTIONS: What made the difference for Lions in a close game?

Burning questions: Key plays, rallies, rally stoppers and a bounce back for the Detroit Lions in a 13-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers at Ford Field Sunday.

Question: What made the difference for the Lions in a game that was close all the way and could have gone either way?

Answer: Big plays by leaders who had some ups and downs all day made the difference for the Lions. There were two on offense by Matthew Stafford, and one on defense by Darius Slay.

It was a prime example of leaders coming through when they absolutely had to.

Q. Must win? Is that what this game was after last week’s disappointing tie with Arizona in the season opener?

A. Hard to say it’s must win in Game 2 of any season, but it was definitely “better not lose” with the schedule that’s coming up – at Philly next week, then home with the Chiefs before the bye. For a lot or reasons, and not just the schedule, the Lions needed a win.

Q. Matthew Stafford: What was so big about his performance?

A. He just kept throwing, despite having two passes intercepted on deep throws earlier. Stafford connected with Kenny Golladay on a 31-yard pass with 7:21 left on the clock for the go-ahead touchdown and what proved to be the final points of the game.

And on the last possession, Stafford’s pass to tight end Jesse James with 53 seconds left clinched the game and let the Lions run out the clock.

Q. Slay: What made his play stand out?

A. He just kept playing. That’s what stood out. He had a tough day covering Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen, and he went out briefly in the fourth quarter with an injury and went back to covering Allen.

Philip Rivers tried to hit Allen in the end zone for the go-ahead TD, but Slay got in front to make the interception with 1:10 left. That turned the ball over to the offense, and after two short runs made it third and six, Stafford to James clinched the game.

It was not a two-man effort by any means, but the fact that the stars came out at the right time highlighted the win.

Q. Tie: Are the Lions over it?

A. It’s still on their record, but the Lions bounced back to win. And that’s all that matters.

Q. First strike, Chargers: The took a 7-0 lead with a long drive on their second possession. What were the key plays?

A. Third downs. The Chargers converted two of them.

One was on a third and four at the Lions’ 13. Allen made a 10-yard catch with Slay defending him. Rivers stepped up in the pocket to get away from the rush to get the ball to Allen.

The second one was on third and goal at the one. Chargers running back Austin Ekeler dove over the line of scrimmage to cross the goal line with room to spare.

Q. Slay-Allen: That was one of the featured one-on-one matchups of the game. Who won it?

A. Slay got Allen early with a pass breakup, but Allen won the matchup overall. It happens, even with the best players. Slay got the last play with his interception when it mattered.

Q Strike back, Lions: What was the best part of the Lions first TD – Kerryon Johnson's 36-yard run with a screen pass from Stafford?

A. Obviously getting the points was the best part, but the way the offense answered back after the defense gave up a long drive for a touchdown was important. It showed that the Lions were in the game, and there was no hangover from the opening game.

Q. The TD: What made it go?

A. It started with a pump fake to the left from Stafford. That gave Johnson a chance to flare out to his left and get clear to take the pass from Stafford. Johnson bobbled it momentarily, but once he cleared the line of scrimmage, he had a path to the end zone down the right sideline.

Q. The hug: Center Frank Ragnow and Johnson had a big hug after the score. What for?

A. For the touchdown, obviously, and partly because Ragnow got downfield to clear out the last defender with a smothering block. The hug was well deserved, for two players drafted 1-2 by the Lions last year.

Q. Lucky strikes: How lucky were the Lions when the Chargers had two TDs nullified by penalties in the third quarter, then lost the ball on a fumble on first and goal at the one?

A. It was good fortune on the two penalties. But the fumble was a good play. Rookie linebacker Jahlani Tavai got a hit on the ball to knock it loose as Ekeler tried to get over the line – again. Linebacker Devon Kennard recovered.

It was just another example of how the Lions kept on playing, no matter the circumstances.

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