It was the Lions’ biggest win in many years for many reasons, including the venue and the way they won. But there’s another reason their 26-23 overtime victory over the Vikings was fairly momentous: Matthew Stafford took a beating and kept on flinging.
Hey, if we’re going to spend the whole off-season and pre-season wondering if Stafford can hold up physically, we darn sure better acknowledge when he does.
The Lions rose to 3-0, and it wasn’t because of their offensive line. Left tackle Jeff Backus had an awful time against Vikings’ pass-rush star Jared Allen, and nearly cost the Lions on their last drive of regulation with back-to-back false-start penalties. Although the Metrodome noise was a factor, Backus took the blame, and he should.
Right tackle Gosder Cherilus was brutal too, benched early for Corey Hilliard, and that position remains in flux. The Lions rushed for a miserly 20 yards on 19 carries, although Jahvid Best did get loose on some short passes.
So yes yes yes, the line must play better, and Jim Schwartz has no problem admitting it. The line had played well earlier — Stafford wasn’t sacked in the first two games — but he was leveled five times in Minnesota, and clobbered a few other times.
It’s amazing the Lions won considering how poorly their tackles played. And it’s a credit to Stafford how well he hung in after getting beaten up in the first half, when the Lions built a tidy 20-0 deficit.
Afterward, Stafford said, with a healthy smile, he felt “unbelievably sore.” He enjoyed being able to stand there and say it, his right shoulder perfectly fine, his team’s record unblemished.
This is the continued evolution of the Lions, when two key components of their offensive line can struggle and they can pull out another road victory. Their biggest win? So far, but there’s always the next one — like Sunday’s game at Dallas.
“Our biggest win hasn’t come yet,” Schwartz said. “I’ve said all along, we don’t need to have ticker-tape parades over regular-season wins, and I still feel that way.”
Through three games, we know a few key things about the Lions. They can deliver a beating and their quarterback can take a beating. Just the same, the offensive line had better not let it happen often.