August 17, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) drops back to pass during the preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE
Another preseason game is in the books for the Detroit Lions, and several players once again stood out after performing well against the Baltimore Ravens. There were also several people who stood out after not performing well in Baltimore, although they weren't just players. Let's take a look at the winners and losers from Friday night's game.
QB Matthew Stafford: Stafford didn't look all that great against the Cleveland Browns, and his performance on the first two drives of Friday's game left a lot to be desired. After that, however, he was outstanding. Stafford got things going with a big pass to Calvin Johnson, and he was locked in from that point on. Stafford finished the night with completions on 12 of his 17 passes, and he had 184 yards and two touchdowns. He looked like he was in midseason form.
RB Stephfon Green: Green only got six carries in Friday's game, but he made the most of his opportunities, especially toward the end of the game. The Lions were just trying to run out the clock when he broke free and went 76 yards for a touchdown. He simply outran the defense, and he showed some excellent speed. Green doesn't necessarily seem like a player who is currently expected to make the 53-man roster, but with injuries and the Mikel Leshoure suspension to start the season, you never know, and plays like that 76-yard touchdown significantly improve his chances of sticking around.
WR Calvin Johnson: Like Stafford, Johnson was in midseason form on Friday. He just simply couldn't be stopped, and he took over the game when the Lions' first-team offense finally started playing well. He had all but 10 of the yards on their 93-yard touchdown drive, and he ended up finishing with 111 yards and one touchdown on five catches. To say the least, Johnson has picked up from where he left off last season.
LB Carmen Messina: Because the Lions are so deep at linebacker, Messina is probably auditioning for a spot on the practice squad rather than the 53-man roster. Even so, he has been impressive through the first half of the preseason. He made some nice plays last week, and he had the game-sealing interception against Baltimore. What's more, he showed off his football smarts by going to the ground after the interception instead of trying to return it. Small things like that go a long way with coaches.
S John Wendling: I don't think anybody impressed me as much as Wendling on Friday night. He has been known best for his skills on special teams in the past, but he's really developed into a pretty good safety. Because of Louis Delmas' knee surgery and Amari Spievey's headaches last week, Wendling has gotten a chance to play with the first-team defense, and he hasn't disappointed. Against Baltimore, he made a number of great plays in coverage, and he also recorded a sack. Not only is he going to make the team, but he may work his way into the rotation at safety even after Delmas returns.
S Erik Coleman: Coleman, the other starting safety on Friday, also had an impressive game. He looked good in coverage, and he made a really nice tackle to hold Baltimore a yard short of a first down on the opening play of the second quarter. Wendling's sack came on the very next play, and the two starting safeties helped Detroit hold the Ravens to a field goal. At this point, it's looking more and more like Coleman will start at safety instead of Amari Spievey.
K Jason Hanson: After missing a field goal last week against Cleveland, Hanson rebounded by nailing a 50-yarder on Friday, showing us that he's still got it.
Special teams cover units: We have already talked about just how bad the Lions' special teams cover units have been in the preseason, and Jim Schwartz put them on blast after Friday's game. The Lions surrendered a couple of long returns against Baltimore, including one that went for a touchdown. Penalties negated both returns, but that didn't change the fact that the Lions can't tackle on returns right now. They have to get this problem fixed before the regular season.
Players who committed penalties: A week ago, the Lions had one penalty. On Friday, they had 11 penalties for 98 yards. It basically looked like the team we saw last year. The Lions had a healthy mix of small stuff like offside penalties and flat out stupid stuff like personal fouls. The officials were definitely flag-happy in Baltimore, but the Lions simply need to play smarter and most of those penalties wouldn't have been called.
Replacement officials: This is the second straight week that the replacement officials have showed up on the losers list. It's not that I am having an issue with specific calls for the most part, but rather it's becoming clear that they just aren't doing a good job of managing the game. As much as I hate to agree with Mike Pereira, this is the biggest issue with the replacement officials. They are slowing down the game. Against the Ravens, for example, they spent several minutes trying to sort out where the ball should be placed after a penalty. That sort of thing shouldn't happen.
Thom Brennaman: I've made it no secret that I can't stand the majority of FOX's NFL announcers, and Brennaman is right at the top of the list. It's too bad for Brian Billick, who actually has become a decent announcer, because Brennaman is just awful. When the Lions got stuck with him for a couple of weeks in a row at the end of last season, he seemed to enjoy their penalty issues far more than an announcer should. On Friday, he was up to his old tricks and managed to use an offside penalty not even on Nick Fairley to bring up Fairley's offseason arrests. Plain and simple, he is one of my least favorite announcers out there right now.