By Chris Morgan
The Detroit Lions' 2013 season ended on a down note, with the team collapsing down the stretch, missing the playoffs, and seeing the coaching staff turned over. On Monday Night, the Lions began a new season, and a new era, with promise for a better tomorrow. Well, so far so good, as the Lions made relatively easy work of the New York Giants to begin the year. In the end, the Lions won by a score of 35-14, with the offense looking potent and Matthew Stafford looking impressive. Here are the grades to be doled out after this big night for Detroit sports.
Offense: The offense was firing on all cylinders right out of the gate, as Detroit scored on their first two drives. The New York Giants defense probably isn't going to end up being all that good this year, but never the less, scoring 35 points and totaling 417 yards is impressive. Calvin Johnson had a massive game, catching seven passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns, and he had a couple more near touchdowns too. New Lion Golden Tate had six catches for 93 yards in his own right.
Now, it wasn't all positive for the Lions on offense. The running game struggled. Joique Bell ended up with 51 yards on 15 carries, with a touchdown, but that was do to some success late. Early on nobody could get going on the ground, and Reggie Bush finished with 15 yards on nine carries. Still, even Bush had six catches for 49 yards, and there were no turnovers and only one sack. Grade: A-
Quarterback: Last season, Matthew Stafford got a reputation for making some galling mistakes. There was none of that in this game. Stafford went 22-for-32 for 346 yards with two passing touchdowns, and he also rushed for a score as well.
He threw the ball a bunch, but threw no interceptions, which feels just as notable as the three touchdowns. Stafford was mobile in the pocket, avoiding sacks on both touchdown throws, and he didn't make any head scratching decisions. All in all, if this is what Stafford is going to be this year, Lions fans should be very excited. It was very encouraging all around. Grade: A
Special Teams: Neither team really did much in the way of returns, and Sam Martin only punted twice, although he averaged 54.5 yards on those punts, with one being downed inside the 20-yard line. Tahir Whitehead partially blocked a punt as well. The only real reason for concern was Nate Freese, the Lions rookie kicker. He made three extra points, and two short field goals, but he also missed a 43-yarder. After last year's kicking woes, this is a little disconcerting, but it's early. Grade: B
Defense: The Lions held the Giants to two touchdowns, and one of those came on a drive continued by a poor roughing the kicker call on a punt. New York only totaled 197 yards of offense, but it feels like that was partially the Giants' doing. They have a new offense too, and theirs didn't seem to be firing on all cylinders yet.
Still, the Lions got two sacks, 1.5 from George Johnson, which was a nice bonus, and they had two picks as well, including a very impressive one by DeAndre Levy. However, the team also dealt with a very shorthanded secondary, and yet the Giants could not get their passing game going. That's somewhat encouraging, even if it remains to be seen if that can continue. Grade: B+
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Chris Morgan has been a diehard Detroit Lions fan through the good (Barry Sanders) and the bad (Matt Millen) and that love has led him to take jobs writing about sports, including as a fantasy sports "expert." His work can be found on Examiner.com. .
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