Edson: Give Credit to Stafford and his Offensive Line for Win

Too many times over too many decades, we have seen the Detroit Lions blow a game in the final seconds.

In fact, we’ve grown so numb to it that after Matt Prater missed a crucial extra point in the fourth quarter of the Lions season opener at Indianapolis on Sunday, you knew what was going to happen.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was going to drive his team down for the tying touchdown and the Colts were going to take the lead, 35-34.

Done.

But this is a new season and the Lions had one more chapter to write. This time, quarterback Matthew Stafford drove the Lions downfield in the final minute and set up Prater’s game-winning field goal.

So who were the real heroes of this game? It was Stafford, his offensive line and his new group of receivers.

Beyond his sterling numbers (31-of-39 for 340 yards and 3 touchdowns), Stafford was a fiery leader. He put his stamp on this win on the final drive, completing key passes and chewing out receivers who didn’t get out of bounds. He willed the Lions to this win.

And his offensive line, which has taken so much heat, was outstanding. Rookie left tackle Taylor Decker, in particular, not only kept Stafford safe, but opened enough holes for the running game to punch out 116 yards. Personally, a favorite Lions weapon of mine is running back Theo Riddick, who showed on Sunday he is more than just a third down pass catcher.

This is a great win for coach Jim Caldwell and his team. Now we’ll see if they can make believers out of us week-by-week.

TIGERS FREE AGENTS HAVE DISAPPOINTED – I don’t think you can write the Detroit Tigers off yet in their playoff run, but home losses to the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday and Sunday, coupled with the New York Yankees hot streak, has put a damper on their chances. The Tigers have had a solid season but the two players who have disappointed me the most are their two expensive free agent signings – Jordan Zimmerman and Justin Upton. If either had lived up to his potential, the Tigers would have an inside shot at making the playoffs. But right now, they are on the outside looking in.

BLAME THE PLAY-CALL, NOT THE OFFICIALS NO-CALL. There have been a lot of fingers pointed at the referees because of Central Michigan’s stunning final play win over No. 22 Oklahoma State on Saturday.

That’s too convenient. First, if you follow the Chippewas like I do (Class of 1976), you were frustrated with the lack of calls and the penalty flags on Oklahoma St. that mysteriously got picked up when the game was close.  But the real goal was Oklahoma St. head coach Mike Gundy, who could have run out the clock on the final play of the game, but instead chose to throw the ball for no apparent reason. The result? An intentional grounding penalty and an extra play for CMU. Gundy took the blame after the game… as he should. It was the Bonehead Play of the Week.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.