TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: Quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions sets to pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium September 11, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Can the Detroit Lions make the playoffs? As we saw in their Week 1 win over the Bucs, they have an excellent chance if Matthew Stafford can stay healthy.
There's been a lot of preseason chatter about the Detroit Lions making the playoffs this season, and at least for one week, it looks justified. With a 27-20 win on the road, the Lions more than held their own against the Bucs, a team that went 10-6 last year.
Matthew Stafford carried this team with 305 passing yards and three touchdowns, easily negating his lone mistake (a first-quarter interception returned for a touchdown) of the day. Stafford did most of his damage early -- he had 265 yards and two scores by halftime -- but playing efficient, safe football in the second half allowed the Lions to put this game on ice.
For moment it seemed like Stafford's infamous difficulty staying healthy resurfaced when he was tended to on the sidelines after his final touchdown, but it turned out to be mere cramps, likely a result of playing in Tampa's hot and humid weather. Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman also had a brief case of cramps, and briefly left the game while receiving fluids. Both players eventually returned.
Calvin Johnson tallied two of Stafford's TD throws among his six catches for 88 yards, in addition to recovering a critical onside kick attempt by the Bucs late in the fourth quarter that helped prevent Tampa Bay from getting back into the game. Jahvid Best kept the defense honest with 21 carries for 72 yards.
Things weren't so easy for the Bucs, who tallied just 56 yards on the ground -- which includes Freeman's 26 yards on four carries. LeGarrette Blount had just 15 yards on five carries.