Typically the third game of the preseason is meant to mirror a regular season game for the most part. Starters are supposed to play more than in any other preseason game, as coaches want to get depth charts sorted out with the first round of cuts right around the corner. For that reason alone, I was worried that the Colts were going to demolish the Lions. Yes, Detroit took it to the wire with Indy last season, but usually this is the type of game where Detroit would get blown out. With both starting corners out, I figured Peyton Manning would have a field day at the very least.
As we all found out yesterday, though, the Lions proved many people wrong (me being one of them). Sure, Indy was without some its starters and never usually plays all that well in the preseason, but Detroit had some holes in its starting lineup as well. Besides, the fact that the Lions ended up winning 18-17 over the Colts wasn't really the important thing -- how they played was. The Lions controlled the game for the most part in the first half when all the starters were in and took a lead into halftime. The biggest thing for them was time of possession, a category they dominated in the first half, which contributed to this win.
- The Lions opened the game with the ball and had a pretty good drive going until Gosder Cherilus got an unnecessary roughness penalty. Prior to that the Lions had converted two third and longs and were really moving the ball well with dump off passes and screens to Kevin Smith. After the personal foul on Cherilus, though, the Lions were backed up too far and couldn't move the chains, leading to a punt.
- The Colts immediately moved the ball down the field, thanks mainly to a pass interference penalty on William James. James made a play on the defender more than the ball (he never really looked back), which led to the 36-yard penalty that put the Colts inside the Lions' 10. One play later Peyton Manning completed a pass to a wide open Dallas Clark in the end zone off of a play-action.
- Detroit answered the touchdown with a big drive of its own, and Kevin Smith got things started with a 24-yard run. He was a big part of this drive, as were a pair of Daunte Culpepper passes. One went to Calvin Johnson for a gain of 13 and the other went to Jerome Felton for a gain of 10. Smith moved the chains again after two runs and put the Lions on the 2-yard line. A false start penalty backed the Lions up, and an incomplete pass followed. Smith ran for 3 yards on second down, however, setting up an exciting start to the second quarter.
- Daunte Culpepper found Bryant Johnson in the end zone for a touchdown to open the second quarter of this game. Culpepper sort of started to scramble but quickly saw that Johnson was open for the score to tie this game up.
- Unlike the Colts' first drive, the Lions stopped Peyton Manning in his tracks by applying pressure. After giving up one third-down conversion, the Lions weren't about to let that happen again and blitzed Manning. The pressure led to a sack and forced the Colts to punt.
- Matthew Stafford came into the game and put together a nice drive of his own. It would end up taking 7:39 off the clock, and it really got going after Stafford completed a pass to Calvin Johnson for a gain of 37 yards. A pass to Pettigrew moved the chains again, as did a run by Jerome Felton following another catch by Johnson. Maurice Morris and Felton got the ball on the next four plays and moved the Lions all the way down to the 2-yard line. That is where the drive stalled, however. Stafford appeared to throw a perfect pass to Johnson on the fade pattern, but Megatron came down out of bounds. On the next play (3rd and goal), Stafford was under heavy pressure and basically lobbed the ball into the end zone. Johnson nearly made the spectacular catch in traffic but was unable to hang on, meaning the Lions had to settle for a 21-yard Billy Cundiff field goal.
- The Lions caught a huge break when Anthony Gonzalez dropped what very well could have been a touchdown pass. He got behind the Lions defensive back and Manning hit him with a perfect pass. Gonzalez dropped the ball, however, and not only prevented a big play from happening, but he caused the Colts to have to punt as well.
- With less than two minutes remaining and the ball at their own 5, the Lions simply planned on running the ball initially. That strategy worked following an offside penalty by the Colts, as Aaron Brown moved the chains. The Lions then went to the air and picked up a third-down conversion on a 13-yard pass to Brandon Pettigrew. It looked like the Lions were about to put a solid drive together, but a tripping penalty on Stephen Peterman really slowed things down. Detroit went back to its strategy of running the ball, and Brown actually picked up 12 yards. Switching back to throwing the ball, Stafford found John Standeford for another first down. With only 23 seconds left and no timeouts remaining, Stafford heaved the ball down the field on the next play and got picked off. It wasn't a great pass since it hung up in the air for too long, but Bryant Johnson didn't have very good position and should have made a play on the ball to prevent it from being intercepted. Either way, no damage was done since Indy simply took a knee to run out the first half.
- The Colts' offense got back to its old ways at the start of the second half by putting together a balanced scoring drive. Peyton Manning started the drive with a 21-yard pass to Joseph Addai, who ran for nearly 20 yards on 3 runs during the possession. Dallas Clark caught a pass for 23 yards after Addai moved the chains on 4th and 1, eventually leading to a 2-yard touchdown run by rookie Donald Brown. The Colts led 14-10.
- Neither team was able to get much going on the next couple of drives, but the Lions changed that at the end of the third quarter. With the ball deep in their own territory, the Lions' fortunes quickly were turned around when Matthew Stafford completed a pass to Derrick Williams for a gain of 40 yards. It was basically a free play since a Colts defender jumped offside, so Stafford threw it down the field and Williams made a nice catch. After Adam Jennings dropped a pass, Williams made two more catches to pick up another first down. (Drive continues at the start of the fourth quarter...)
- ...Dane Looker kept the drive alive with an 11-yard catch on 3rd and 5. Jerome Felton then ran for 5 and 3 yards to put the Lions on the 1-yard line. Felton was stuffed on the next play, setting up a 4th and goal. The Lions went for it and gave Felton another chance to get into the end zone, but it was the same result as third down -- Felton was stuffed.
- The Colts quickly gave themselves some breathing room and then suddenly ended up on the Detroit 11 after a 63-yard pass. It should have been a much smaller gain, but the Colts receiver showed good speed and made it tough for the Lions to bring him down. This play led to a touchdown run shortly after, but a holding penalty nullified it, and the Colts ended up getting only a field goal out of the drive.
- Drew Stanton entered the game and looked to lead the Lions to another comeback victory, as they trailed 17-10 with 7:31 to go. He would end up doing just that, but not on this drive, as the Lions went three and out.
- Two plays into their next drive, the Colts turned the ball over. A pass hit off a receiver and popped straight into the air, allowing Marquand Manuel to come away with the interception.
- With the ball on Indianapolis' 43 and 5:31 on the clock, the Lions had a great chance to score. Little did we know, they would only take 3 plays to get into the end zone. Drew Stanton completed passes of 8 and 14 yards to Derrick Williams and John Standeford before finding Dan Gronkowski right at the goal line for a 21-yard TD. Since this is the preseason, the Lions decided to go for the 2-point conversion to take the lead. Stanton threw a bullet to Standeford in the back of the end zone, and he made the catch to give Detroit an 18-17 lead with 4:13 left on the clock.
- The Colts went three and out, allowing Detroit to nearly run out the entire clock. When the Colts got the ball back, they only had 19 seconds left. After a couple of relatively short completions (considering how far they had to go), Curtis Painter was sacked by Orien Martin. Indy was out of timeouts, and the clock ran out, clinching the Lions' second win of the preseason.
After last week's pathetic effort in Cleveland, it was good to see the team rebound with a solid win. The defense played much better than I expected against Peyton Manning, and both Daunte Culpepper and Matthew Stafford looked good. The coaches probably were hoping to have an idea of who will be the starter by now, but I don't necessarily think they do. Culpepper and Stafford were pretty even yet again, and with less than a week left in the preseason, both still have a shot at starting.
It will be interesting to see what Jim Schwartz's strategy is in the Lions' final game of the preseason this coming Thursday. Detroit will head to Buffalo to play the Bills, and normally the starters would be done pretty early on in the preseason finale. Considering the starter at quarterback is still up in the air, that may not be the case. We will have to wait and see, and this time around everyone will get to watch live at 6:30 p.m.