Detroit Lions can only hope it's a blip

By Rob Parker - Sports Columnist
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DETROIT - Pro sports has a short menu.

You either win or you lose.

And most will take that win no matter how bad it looks.

Enter the Detroit Lions' season opener against the St. Louis Rams at Ford Field on Sunday afternoon.

On the outside, you see that the Lions scored a game-winning touchdown with 10 seconds to go to score a 27-23 come-from-behind victory before a sellout crowd of 62,315. That's reason for fans to celebrate. Many expected a victory over the Rams in the first game of the season and the Lions delivered.

But when you look deeper, the Lions struggles against the upstart Lam(b)s, er, Rams, might be the reason some NFL experts are expecting the them to take a step back this season after making progress in 2011.

Some have predicted the Lions to go 8-8 and not make the playoffs after winning 10 games a year ago and a postseason game.

There's a long way to go but most are sure if the Lions play this way against some of the better teams in the NFL, you will wind up on the losing end. On this day, the Lions were lucky and got away with one.

"It was a tough one, man,'" Lions' running back Kevin Smith said. "I got to give St. Louis some credit. We had some mistakes and they capitalized on some opportunities and it took us until the last minute to win the game. But the thing about this is you can never count us out. So we'll take a win, but we've got to go back to the drawing board and see what mistakes we made to get better for next week."

Next stop is San Francisco and the 49ers, who were 13-3 last season. The Lions will have to play much better to win there, starting with quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Stafford threw 355 yards and a TD. But it was his three interceptions in the first half that allowed the Rams to stay in a contest they weren't supposed to be in.

"I was frustrated; those guys made some decent plays on it, too," Stafford said. "The biggest frustration is that we were moving the ball."

Then came Stafford's bad decisions. He looked more like the QB from two years ago, not last season. Still. he finally got it figured it.

So did wide receiver Calvin Johnson had a quiet afternoon, despite having 11 yards on six catches. He had a 51-yard catch at the end of the first half that inflated his numbers.

 Still, in the fourth when it mattered the most, Johnson was there, catching a huge 20-yard pass to start the game-winning and an 18-yard pass to set up the first and goal at St. Louis' five yard line.

"We were confident," Johnson said. "We know we needed touchdowns. We wanted to win; we weren't trying to go to overtime. That was everybody's mindset. Therefore, we went down and scored."

It sounded easy. But until that point, Stafford hadn't thrown a touchdown all day. Despite the miracles from last season, there had to be some doubt that it would happen.

"I was just trying to go out there and win it," said Stafford, who ended the nine-play, 80 yard drive with a five-yard TD pass to Kevin Smith. "I trust my teammates and my teammates trust me no matter what happens in the first half, however back I look. That's what being a team is all about."

The Lions' defense, another reason many aren't high on the Lions, held the Rams to just 10 second-half points. And held Stephen Jackson to just 53 yards on 21 carries.

"We definitely needed to rally up and make sure we tackled him and got him to the ground," said Ndamukong Suh about Jackson.

To the Lions' credit, they know got away with a bad performance against the bad team and still won. It was something they thought was behind them.

``We might be the only team to make it look so easy and so hard at the same time,'' Domonic Raiola said.

There will be plenty of tougher games coming up. That's why there's no reason to make the easy ones hard. The Lions were lucky to escape this time.

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