Optimism and hope are the two main things that run through every Lions fan's mind before a season is started. That was and still is present for 2007. With Jon Kitna making wacky predictions, some confidence was shown by a Lions player, which is unusual. Rod Marinelli wanted to install a new attitude in all Lions players, and I'd say he's done just that. Kitna may not see 10 or more wins this season, but after Week 1, he's got only 9 to go.
Detroit opened up the 2007 regular season yesterday on the road in Oakland. Although the Raiders may be at the bottom of the league as far as rankings are concerned, any road test in a hostile environment is big for the Lions. After jumping out to a 17-0 lead, the Lions actually fell behind for a short period of time before fighting back to take control of the game. Finally in the face of adversity Detroit was on the winning side for a change, as the Lions ended up taking home a 36-21 victory.
The start to this game was far from pretty. Detroit got the ball first and quickly went three and out in ugly fashion. Luckily though, Oakland didn't do any better and also went three and out. The Raiders were able to do something right, as a Shane Lechler punt pinned the Lions down to the 1-yard line. Wasting little time in digging out of the whole, Jon Kitna completed a 32 yard pass to Sean McHugh to get the chains moving. After finding many different receivers, the Lions eventually found themselves with third and goal at the Oakland 5. Kitna dropped back to pass and hoped to connect with Mike Furrey, but instead found Oakland MLB Kirk Morrison. Morrison picked the ball off and ended what could've been a 99-yard drive had the Lions found the endzone.
Using the momentum of a big stop, Josh McCown and the Raiders moved the ball down the field and got in position for a Sebastian Janikowski field goal attempt. Janikowski's attempt was from 50 yards out and was blocked by Shaun Rogers, who made a lot of great plays during this game. That block was huge just because it kept Oakland off the scoreboard and seemed to energize the team as a whole.
After going three and out again, Nick Harris pinned Oakland back towards their own goal line for a change. That turned out to be a huge play as Oakland couldn't get things going and had to punt, giving Detroit great field position. Tatum Bell got Detroit even farther down the field with a 24 yard run before Jon Kitna found Roy Williams for a 13-yard TD. That put Detroit on top 7-0 and got the scoring started for this season.
Following another missed field goal by the Raiders, Jason Hanson made one of his own, coming from 46 yards out, to put the Lions ahead 10-0. That's what the score would be at the half as Janikowski missed a 57-yarder as time was running out.
Starting off the second half of play, the Lions defense continued its strong play. This time it was a turnover that turned out to be huge for the Lions. A great defensive play by Fernando Bryant forced the ball off Ronald Curry and into Travis Fisher's hands for the INT. That set up an eventual 16 yard TD pass to #2 overall draft pick Calvin Johnson, who would finish the day with 4 catches for 70 yards.
With a comfortable 17-0 lead midway through the third quarter, I was feeling very confident in the Lions winning this game. Then I realized something, this was the Lions. Oakland started clicking on offense and finally was able to break through Detroit's weak secondary. A long pass to Ronald Curry from Josh McCown put Oakland inside the Detroit 10 and led to an eventual 4-yard connection between the two for a TD.
A Lions turnover would make matters even worse as the game got even closer on the following drive. Jon Kitna threw a pass that barely got through Oakland defenders. It ended up hitting off of Roy Williams, who should've made the catch, but instead caused an interception. The INT was almost run back for a TD, but it didn't matter as LaMont Jordan rumbled into the end zone for the score just minutes later, putting the deficit at only 3.
The Lions did manage to score again to up the lead to 6 on a Jason Hanson field goal, but it still wasn't enough to put away the Raiders. Josh McCown again came out looking like a superstar on the following drive. He led the Raiders down the field and picked apart the Lions' secondary the entire time. A go-ahead score on a 7-yard pass put Oakland up 21-20 and put Lions fans back into panic mode. Could it be more of 2006 in 2007?
As it turns out, the answer to that question would be no. Instead of falling flat on their faces, Lions players stepped up in the pressure situation. Jon Kitna especially took it upon himself to get the job done. Kitna found Shaun McDonald from 32 yards out to put Detroit back on top. The two-point conversion attempt was no good, so Detroit led 26-21. With the offense doing its job, the defense had to make its voice heard.
Dewayne White definitely made sure he was heard. In his first regular season game with Detroit, White stepped up during the most important part of the game and intercepted a McCown pass in spectacular fashion. That led to a Jason Hanson field goal, putting the lead at 8 points. The defense wasn't done just yet, however. With the game still at only one possession, the Lions needed one more big play to put the nail in the Raiders' coffin. Just give the hammer to Dewayne White as he turned it up a notch yet again. White knocked the ball out of McCown's hand on a blitz as Shaun Rogers laid him out and the ball fell to the grass. It rolled around and Oakland's Zach Miller actually picked it up before having it stripped by none other than Dewayne White. I believe Kalimba Edwards came in to recover the fumble, leaving the Lions in position to win the game.
Rather than just sit on the ball and take a knee, Detroit had to put it on the ground to run the clock out since Oakland still had timeouts. Fast forward to third and one and Tatum Bell capped the game off with a 14 yard touchdown run right into the heart of the "Black Hole." He lived it up by throwing the ball off the Black Hole's wall and taunted them. I'm not sure how much stuff he was hit with, but I imagine it was worth it. That put the Lions on top 36-21, which is what the final score would be.
I don't care if Detroit did play the Oakland Raiders; it was still a huge win. When was the last time our own Detroit Lions overcame adversity on the road to come back and win? Props go to all of the players and coaches on this victory. The offense did its job and looked good most of the game, though the running game still is struggling. Then the defense, minus that period of time when Oakland racked up 21 points, did everything it needed to for Detroit to win. All in all, it was nice to see the Lions get the "W." And how about this, they currently have a better record at 1-0 then the Michigan Wolverines (0-2). I definitely couldn't have predicted that.
The Lions take that 1-0 record home in Week 2 to host the division-rival Minnesota Vikings. It's been a while since Detroit has beaten Minnesota, so hopefully we get to see that streak snapped. It won't be easy, though, as Minnesota did look good against Atlanta. Kickoff is set for 4:05 ET on FOX.