Read any Detroit Lions season preview and you’re bound to find the words “if Matthew Stafford stays healthy” at some point in the first couple paragraphs.
After one week, mission accomplished.
Stafford threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns and escaped the season opener injury-free as the Lions built a nice lead and held on for a 27-20 win in Tampa Bay.
Stafford overcame an early interception return for a touchdown by Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib and turned in one of his better performances as a pro. He completed 24-of-33 passes on the game for a 118.3 passer rating.
Jahvid Best had 72 yards rushing and 42 more receiving for Detroit, which won its fifth straight game dating back to last season. The four-game winning streak prompted a lot of hype surrounding the team, and they didn’t disappoint.
But admittedly, it didn’t look promising at first.
The Bucs jumped out to a 10-3 after Stafford overthrew his receiver on the Lions’ second possession and was picked off by Talib, who romped for a 28-yard score.
Detroit finally got going toward the end of the first half and took control of the game. After a Jason Hanson field goal, the Lions went for it on 4th-and-2 from the Tampa 36-yard line, and Stafford found Calvin Johnson streaking down the sideline for a touchdown that gave them the lead for good.
On Detroit’s next possession, Stafford hit Tony Scheffler for an 11-yard touchdown and Detroit took a 20-13 lead into halftime.
Stafford picked up right where he left off in the third quarter, driving Detroit for another touchdown toss to Johnson to extend the lead to 27-13.
Tampa would make it interesting in the final minutes when quarterback Josh Freeman hit Mike Williams with a 5-yard touchdown on 4th-and-3 to cut the lead to seven with 1:35 left in the game. Detroit recovered the ensuing onside kick, but Tampa’s defense forced a three-and-out, and after a Godser Cherilus penalty stopped the clock, Tampa had the ball with over a minute left at their own 20.
Freeman got Tampa into Detroit territory, but a multiple-lateral play in the final seconds ended when Louis Delmas fell on the ball near midfield.