Last year, the Detroit Lions finished the preseason with a 4-0 record, the only team to do so.
They also finished the regular season 0-16, the first team in the modern era to accomplish that unwanted feat.
This year they won their first preseason game, which, unfortunately, means very little. Detroit didn't look too good, particularly in the first half, which is the most important part of a preseason game.
But hey, it's the first game.
Keary Colbert, who is on his fourth team in the last five years, dropped three passes in two drives. The secondary was getting picked apart. The new and improved linebacking crew looked like the Lions of old. The offensive line couldn't open holes for the backs. One drive had 56 yards worth of penalties.
Granted, several of their offensive starters, including both Calvin Johnson and rookie tight end Brandon Pettigrew, didn't play due to nicks and injuries, so it's hard to judge the starting offense.
When you look at Detroit's final numbers, they are somewhat deceiving. They did very little against Atlanta's first and second string, offense and defense, that would have made this game even close had it been the regular season.
Nearly everything that the Lions accomplished was in the second half, as they finished the first half with only a field goal and very little offensively or defensively to feel good about.
But, there was one part of the game that did impress me. Both of the quarterbacks vying for the starting job, Daunte Culpepper and No. 1 draft pick Matthew Stafford, performed fairly well. Drew Stanton, the third stringer, played a nice game as well.
Culpepper was 5-6, but only had 53 yards total. He led a good drive that got tripped up (literally) near the goal line and led to a FG.
Matthew Stafford came in towards the end of the second quarter. His first play, a pass, was an absolute cannon to the aforementioned Keary Colbert, who dropped it. He looked calm and composed in his first appearance as a professional.
Leading Detroit down the field, he hit fellow rookie Derrick Williams on a 25-yard strike for the Lions first touchdown of the day.
Stafford finished 7-14 with 114 yards passing, with one touchdown and one interception, which was returned for a touchdown. The interception was a typical rookie mistake that he will learn from.
At the end of the day, his numbers weren't bad. His demeanor on the field was that of a winner, and you could see it in the way he played .
Stanton led two late scoring drives, one of which got Jason Hanson within field goal distance to hit the game winning field goal as time expired. He finished the day 8-13 with 114 yards passing.
He also had 59 yards rushing, all late in the third quarter and beyond. It was a good performance, and nice to see from a guy who's never been given a shot and isn't in discussion for the starting job this year, either.
The Lions haven't had a rookie quarterback start a season opener since prior to the NFL merger back in 1970. If this game was any indication, I wouldn't be surprised if this is the year for the Lions to erase that record.
Stafford performed well, and he's only going to continue to develop as the preseason moves onward.
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