The way the Detroit Lions started the season made Golden Tate look like a prophet about what he expected from the offense.
"It's going to be special," Tate predicted near the end of the preseason. "It's going to be fun to watch. It's going to be a fun year to watch us.
"We're going to try to light up the scoreboard."
At least in the opener, the offense lived up to Tate's lofty expectations, piling up 488 yards in the 39-34 road victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
The Lions can't expect to do that every week, including against a Titans defense that is better equipped than the Colts were with a patchwork secondary that gave up 341 yards and three touchdowns.
Everything worked against the Colts. The passing game was crisp, the running game potent, and pass protection solid. It allowed Matthew Stafford spread the ball around like a blackjack dealer with aces up one sleeve and face cards up the other.
"The biggest thing is, we stayed on schedule," Tate said. "We kept Matt off the ground for the most part. Take away the penalties, the game could have been out of hand.
"It's hard to defend us when you have three running backs who score touchdowns (Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington). You have two of those running backs (Abdullah and Riddick) who are running the ball but also going out of the backfield, catching the ball."
Tate did not overlook tight end Eric Ebron's impact, and what his ability to separate from linebackers means to the offense. Ebron had five catches for 46 yards and a touchdown.
"It kind of allows you to control the game," Tate said.
Five things to watch for:
Warning shot – Jurrell Casey: The Titans defensive tackle can be disruptive wherever he lines up. He showed that on the third play of last week's loss to the Vikings. Casey lined up at end, broke on the snap and drilled QB Shaun Hill, forcing an incompletion and a punt.
Warning stat – Titans' D: They were one of two teams that didn't allow an offensive touchdown. Both Minnesota TD's were scored by the defense on turnover returns.
Lions' O without Calvin – keep it shorter: The first look indicates that the offense is different without Calvin Johnson. Stafford got the ball out of his hands quicker and spread it around.
Expect to see that regularly as part of an overall trend around the NFL, according to offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. In general, teams are relying less on throwing up the "50-50" balls.
"I think you see less of those kind of throw-it-up-and-hope balls around the League," Cooter said. "Certainly we had Calvin Johnson around here, maybe the best of all time at that throw. I would probably doubt the '50-50' would be correct with him.
"I think if you did a big study around the League, I'm sure the quicker, shorter throws are probably less turnover prone, and I think our offense is sort of fit towards that."
Lions' D if Levy's out: Based on the linebacker snap counts in last week's game, there has to be a big adjustment whenever DeAndre Levy is off the field.
Levy and middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead played all 70 defensive snaps against the Colts. Next among linebackers was Kyle Van Noy, who started at outside linebacker but played only 15 defensive snaps. Rookie Antwione Williams played one snap on defense and 22 on special teams.
Game situations – primarily the run pass ratio -- play into the rotation, as does the fact that Whitehead and Levy are by far the Lions' best and most experienced linebackers.
Titans' D front: The front seven is strong, and it could get stronger with the prospect of more playing time for rookie outside linebacker Kevin Dodd.
On the interior, Casey is a tough matchup inside and when he lines up outside. He had two quarterback hits and a tackle for loss last week.
"I think they try to get mismatches," said Lions guard Larry Warford. "They move him around to see where he can try to find mismatches."
Dodd, drafted in the second round and 33rd overall, missed all of the offseason and training camp while recovering from foot surgery. He played 13 of 63 snaps last week but is working his way into more playing time by getting more practice snaps.
"It's going to be great experience for him down the road," Titans head coach Mike Mularkey told reporters. "But he has to play. That's why we drafted him."
Stats & Facts:
Chart climbing: Stafford, on passing former NFL QB and University of Michigan—Ann Arbor head coach Jim Harbaugh: "Sweet" – kidding, of course.
But does Stafford wear khakis? "No." Probably not kidding.
Lions' good stat: Last week's win made them 5-1 on opening day. The only loss was last year's opener at San Diego.
Lions bad stat: Game 2, not so good. They've lost the last four – all on the road.
Third downs: The Lions' offense seldom was in a deep hole against the Colts. That gave it flexibility in play-calling throughout the game.
On nine third downs, the Lions needed four yards or less five times and converted all five. They had third and nine three times and third and 10 once, and didn't convert any of the four.