(DETROIT, MI) – The Detroit Lions claimed their 48th opening weekend win in the club’s history after downing the Arizona Cardinals 35-23 at Ford Field yesterday. The win also marked a new record for QB Matthew Stafford who now has 52 in the starting role. Stafford surpassed the previous record of 51 set by Hall of Famer Bobby Layne between 1950 and 1958.
“They’re a good football team, we’re a good football team, it happens, and, you know, we couldn’t get out of our own way early on, but our defense kept us in it,” said Stafford. “You know, we were able to put some points up there in the second half and then our defense added one there late, which was awesome. So, just a total team win.”
Stafford connected on touchdown passes of 6, 7 10 and 45 yards in the win over Arizona, marking the 11th time in his career that he has thrown for four touchdowns in a game.
“[Stafford has] been working on his footwork, working on his release, working on everything, trying to find an edge,” said head coach Jim Caldwell. “That’s the great thing I appreciate about him, he’s a guy that has talent and ability but he doesn’t take it for granted and he’s always on that quest to get better.”
With 9:33 remaining in the 4th quarter, Stafford’s 10-yard TD strike to WR Kenny Golladay capped a 10-play, 67-yard drive which gave the Lions a 21-17 lead. The rookie Golladay later in the quarter pulled in a 45-yard TD reception from Stafford.
“At that point, I needed it,” said Golladay. “I felt like I needed to make a play and I was just happy enough. Matt [Stafford] threw a great ball, I just had to go get it and, you know, the rest is history.”
Lions kicker Matt Prater added support via the punting game when he subbed in as an emergency punter early in the game. Prater punted 4 times for a 34.8 net average; the first time he has punted in his career. He also connected on a 58-yard field goal to end the first half. It was the longest field goal at home in team history.
“I think [Lions punter Sam Martin] was basically just telling me, ‘Don’t screw up, and if you screw up we’re going to probably cut you.’ Just things like that to help motivate me,” said Prater.
WR Golden Tate led the Lions with 10 receptions in the game and in total receiving yards with 107. He’s now the third player in Lions history to record 10+ receptions in a season opener, joining RB Mel Farr and WR Herman Moore, who did it twice.
The Lions earned a spot on the scoreboard when Stafford found WR Marvin Jones Jr for a 6-yard pass in the second quarter. The TD reception was Jones’ fifth with Detroit.
On defense, Lions S Glover Quin, S Tavon Wilson, and S Miles Killebrew each recorded an interception against Arizona. Killebrew returned his for 35 yards and a TD. Wilson’s pick was returned for 23 yards. Quin also forced a fumble in the first quarter.
“Oh, the turnovers. Just the conversions on third down to red zone, the entire thing. Not being able to run the football as well as we should have,” said Arizona head coach Bruce Arians. “They really didn’t do anything that we didn’t practice against. We just didn’t handle crowd noise, getting off the ball together. Short yardage, tight ends were late getting off, they got beat inside. So, those things happen, you learn from them.”
The Lions take to the road to meet the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, on Monday, September 18. The Giants are coming off a 19-3 road loss at Dallas on Sunday. Detroit will return home the following week to face Atlanta on September 24.
OUA Week 3
Windsor 10 – 82 Guelph, the Lancers are 0-3. Next game away at Western Mustangs, September 16.
NCAA Big 10 Week 3
Michigan State 28 – 14 Western Michigan, the Spartans are 2-0. Next game away at Rutgers, September 16.
Michigan 36 – 14 Cincinnati, the Wolverines are 2-0. Next game at home to Air Force, September 16.