MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Matthew Stafford’s arm bled on the TCF Bank Stadium turf, and each breath he took brought another jolt of pain in the rest of his bruised and battered body.
For a guy who was only sacked once on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, Stafford sure took a beating. The Detroit Lions did, too.
Stafford needed X-rays on his chest and ribs after the game, and the Lions turned the ball over three times and committed some penalties in a 26-16 loss to the Vikings that dropped them to 0-2.
"You see him grimace here and there," said receiver Calvin Johnson, who had 10 catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. "A lot of time you don’t even get to see the shots because you’re downfield running routes.
"But you could tell something happened when you get back to the huddle. You see it on the big board and you wonder how he comes back. We know the guy’s tough."
Stafford did not reveal the extent of his injuries and finished 32 for 53 for 286 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
But after the Vikings allowed 230 yards rushing in an ugly season-opening loss to the 49ers, the Lions only managed 38 on the ground on 16 attempts.
Lance Moore and Theo Riddick lost fumbles for Detroit and the Lions also missed a chance to swing the momentum in the third quarter when Adrian Peterson fumbled the ball while going into the end zone.
Defensive end Jason Jones was lined up in the neutral zone, a penalty that nullified the turnover, and Zach Line followed with a 1-yard plunge to put the Vikings up 23-10.
"That hurts," cornerback Rashean Mathis said. "Those are plays you need to make to win in this league. … Adverse situations happen and you have to bounce back."
Peterson rushed 29 times for 134 yards in his first game in Minnesota in 658 days. He missed every home game last season while addressing child abuse charges in Texas, but received a standing ovation from the crowd upon his introduction. He only rushed for 31 yards on 10 carries in the opener, but touched the ball 31 times on Sunday, including a 49-yard catch-and-run that set up a field goal.
The Vikings led 14-0 early in the second quarter when Teddy Bridgewater scored on a bootleg, allowing them to turn the defense loose against Stafford.
The quarterback took some huge hits and could be seen shaking his right arm in pain at several points through the game.
"Stafford was getting the ball out quick," defensive end Everson Griffen said. "He didn’t want to get hit. But the times we got back there, we were able to affect him."
Lions coach Jim Caldwell said, "Getting hit out here as many times as he got hit, obviously that took a toll on him. But he hung in there."
Johnson was only targeted four times in Detroit’s Week 1 loss in San Diego. But Stafford threw in his direction 17 times on Sunday while the Lions tried to claw their way back into the game. A second interception was negated by a pass interference penalty on Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
Eric Ebron caught the other touchdown pass for the Lions.
"Anytime you have a game like this where you fall behind to a really good team and we weren’t successful running the football, you’re going to have to drop back and throw it, which we had to do," Stafford said. "And that doesn’t put anybody in a good position, but it’s what you have to do to try to win the game."
NOTES: LB DeAndre Levy (hip) was inactive. … Lions LB James Ihedigbo forced two of Peterson’s three fumbles. But the Lions were only able to recover one. … The Lions had more yardage in penalties (39) than on the ground. … After opening with two road games, the Lions have their home opener next week against Denver. … Rookie RB Ameer Abdullah had 18 yards on seven touches, down from 94 yards on 11 touches in his debut.