Tracy Walker's big stop put bow on Lions' first victory
Allen Park — There were plenty of memorable moments from the Detroit Lions' victory over the Los Angeles Chargers last Sunday, but one probably deserves more attention than it's received to this point.
Sure, there was quarterback Matthew Stafford, shaking off two second-half interceptions to connect with Kenny Golladay for the go-ahead score. And cornerback Darius Slay, shrugging off his own struggles to keep up with Keenan Allen, intercepting an end zone pass intended for the Chargers receiver. And even, the game-sealing pass to tight end Jesse James, an aggressive call from a coaching staff often defined by its conservative approach.
But before Slay's pick and James' nail in the coffin, second-year safety Tracy Walker made a play that helped make it all possible.
Walker has already had his share of moments this young season, both good and bad. He had an interception in the opener, but was beat deep twice by future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald down the stretch, as the Cardinals rallied to tie the Lions.
And Walker got beat deep against the Chargers, too, biting on a double-move by running back Austin Ekeler for a 35-yard gain on a drive that ended in the Chargers' only touchdown of the game.
But with Los Angeles driving to tie or regain in the lead in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, Walker started a chain of events that would preserve Detroit's victory. On first-and-10 from the Lions' 19, the young safety shot through an outside gap on a handoff to Justin Jackson to drop the back for a loss of four yards.
"That was one of the biggest plays in the game," defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. "That got them back out of the red zone. It's very hard for offenses to overcome minus-yardage plays in the red zone and I think that was a great example of that.
"Just a hell of a read by him, hell of a reaction," Pasqualoni continued. "Tracy is really working on it. He's a young guy. He's got a lot of football ahead of him. Like everybody, he's got a lot of he can improve on and a lot he's going to learn as he goes forward in his career. But he's a great guy to have."
Walker finished the game with a team-high 10 tackles, but that was his only stop behind the line of scrimmage. After a penalty, the Chargers found themselves facing an unenviable third-and-19. That's when quarterback Philip Rivers attempted to force a pass to Allen that was undercut by Slay, ending the threat.