Lions’ impressive start sets up intriguing game vs. Falcons on Sunday
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Jim Caldwell’s demeanor doesn’t change much, even after a nationally televised victory on the road.
Detroit’s famously even-keeled coach had a quick reply when asked about his team’s 2-0 start to the season.
“Only thing it guarantees you is that you won’t be 1-15,” Caldwell said Tuesday. “Still got a lot of work to do.”
That remark falls squarely into the category of coach-speak, but Caldwell’s calm attitude was fitting after the way the Lions won Monday night.
For once, Detroit didn’t need a fourth-quarter rally to win. The Lions took the lead in the second quarter and held it the rest of the way, beating the New York Giants 24-10 .
There was nothing particularly flashy about it, and Detroit’s postgame comments reflected that.
“I think it’s just another football game. The dimensions of the field were going to be the same,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said.
“The team we were playing is a good football team, a playoff-caliber football team with a great defense and talented offense. Any time you can go on the road in this league and play a team like that and get a win in a tough environment, it’s a good thing.”
Stafford and the Lions have been criticized over the years for their inability to win big games away from home.
Just last season, Detroit was 9-4 before a three-game skid, which included road losses to the Giants and Cowboys, cost the Lions the NFC North title.
So Monday’s win was significant, and the Lions now have two victories by double digits in 2017 after managing only one all of last season.
They made the playoffs a season ago by pulling off several comebacks in the final quarter, but that wasn’t necessary this time.
Detroit had only 12 first downs, and Stafford was held to 122 yards passing. The Lions clearly felt the absence of injured tackle Taylor Decker, but they made up for their offensive struggles with a couple of big plays on special teams.
Matt Prater kicked a 56-yard field goal near the end of the first half, and rookie Jamal Agnew scored on an 88-yard punt return in the final quarter.
For a second consecutive week, the Lions looked sharp on defense. After forcing four turnovers in a season-opening victory over Arizona, Detroit sacked Eli Manning five times.
“We’ve had some production there just in terms of collapsing the pocket and getting ourselves near and around the quarterback,” Caldwell said.
“Yesterday was one of those unusual days where you get five, but I do think that our guys are coming along. They’ve stepped up to the challenge for two weeks, but there’s a third one looming, and a very good one at that.”
Detroit’s impressive start has set up an intriguing game this coming weekend, at home against Atlanta. The Falcons are off to a 2-0 start as well after making it to the Super Bowl last season.
Even if the Lions wanted to bask in the glow of their prime-time win over the Giants, they can’t afford to spend too much time celebrating it. Another big challenge awaits.
“The minute you start talking about what you think you’ve gotten done in this league, you end up getting your ears kicked in,” Caldwell said.
“We’ve played OK for two games. We know we got a big one coming up and with an outstanding football team with a lot of great personnel, and they’re going to be tough to handle.”