Stafford, Lions push past Ravens
Calvin Johnson, with help from his quarterback Matthew Stafford, can turn clouds to sunshine in an instant.
That’s what he seemingly did Friday night for the Detroit Lions in their 27-12 preseason victory over the Ravens in Baltimore.
The Lions had more penalty yards (58) than total offense (45) when Johnson, the NFL’s best receiver, took the game over early in the second quarter.
Johnson caught three passes for 83 yards on a 93-yard scoring drive, including an 18-yard touchdown reception. It was the first score by the Lions’ starting offense in six possessions during the preseason.
Next thing you knew, the Lions were in top form and on their way to their 15th victory in their last 18 preseason games.
Here are some of the other highlights and lowlights from Friday’s game:
* After failing to score on three possessions last week against Cleveland and the first two against the Ravens, Stafford finished his night with another touchdown pass to Titus Young midway through the second quarter.
Stafford ended up completing 12-of-17 for 184 yards and two scores. Johnson had five catches for 111 yards.
All is well with the Lions’ first-team offense despite some early concerns.
“It took us a while to get going as an offense, but once we did, we got in that rhythm,” Stafford said during a TV interview with FOX. “It was fun.”
Johnson told FOX, "For a preseason game, it's not too bad. We got some good things going in the second quarter. It just takes a little spark and we can be real explosive on offense."
* Running back/return specialist Stefan Logan suffered an ankle injury as he was about to take a hand-off in the second quarter. The injury led to a collision with Stafford in the backfield.
Logan was seen on crutches after the game.
The Lions are already without their top two running backs, Jahvid Best (ongoing concussion issues) and Mikel Leshoure (rehabbing hamstring injury).
* Receiver/return specialist Ryan Broyles, a second-round pick who is coming off knee surgery, made his Lions’ debut. He has been in and out of practice during training camp. Broyles caught two passes for 26 yards.
* FOX analyst Brian Billick said that first-round pick Riley Reiff, a reserve offensive tackle, is already the Lions’ best run blocker.
“He’s just so physical,” said Billick, a former NFL coach. “His ability to get down into that second level, which is so important in the running game, and it’s just a matter of reps for the technique in terms of pass protection. It’s not like he has a liability there, he just hasn’t done enough of it, and will get better and better.”
* Former Wayne State standout Joique Bell, trying to make the team as a reserve running back, fumbled near the goal line early in the fourth quarter.
* Stephfon Green, basically the seventh-string running back if everyone was healthy, raced 76 yards for a touchdown in the final minute.
* Safety John Wendling, getting an opportunity lately because of injuries to Louis Delmas (knee) and Amari Spievey (headaches), had a strong game. Wendling broke up a pass that helped hold Baltimore to a field goal in the first quarter.
* After committing only one penalty in their preseason opener, the Lions reverted to their mistake-prone ways of last year at the start this time. They committed six penalties by early in the second quarter, including a late hit on the quarterback by defensive tackle Nick Fairley. A tackle for a loss was negated by a face-mask penalty against linebacker Justin Durant.
* Spievey returned to action after missing the first game. There were concerns that his headaches might be related to a concussion he sustained late last season.
* Defensive end Cliff Avril, making his first appearance after missing the opening week of camp in a contract dispute, lost contain on a reverse that went for a big gain. Spievey failed to make a tackle on the same play.
* In the first half of two games, the Lions’ defense has allowed four field goals and no touchdowns.
* Punter Ryan Donahue, in a competition for the starting job with Ben Graham, had a 54-yarder that went out of bounds at the Ravens’ 2-yard line.
The fact that Donahue has been serving as kicker Jason Hanson’s holder recently suggests that it is his roster spot to lose at this point.
Graham responded to the challenge by also pinning the Ravens deep in their territory in the second half.
* Long kick and punt returns by the Ravens were called back by penalties. Nevertheless, the Lions’ coverage units have had tackling problems and need major work before now and the regular-season opener against St. Louis on Sept. 9.
* Hanson, who has kicked more field goals from 50-plus yards than anyone in NFL history, kicked another one. The 50-yarder gave the Lions a 17-9 lead at halftime.
* Willie Young, an athletic defensive end, blocked a punt on the first play of the fourth quarter that gave the Lions the ball at Baltimore’s 34.
*Baltimore, trailing by eight points, recovered an on-side kick with 2:10 remaining. It was another setback for the Lions' special teams, but third-string linebacker Carmen Messina clinched the victory with an interception.
* In case you were wondering, Lions coach Jim Schwartz's post-game handshake with Baltimore coach John Harbaugh went considerably smoother than it did last season with Harbaugh's brother, Jim.