First-half observations: Matthew Stafford toughs it out but D'Andre Swift slips up
No one knows how many more games Matthew Stafford will play with the Detroit Lions.
The quarterback suffered a rib injury in the fourth quarter of last week’s game against the Green Bay Packers. But for Lions fans without much to cheer about this season, seeing the longtime signal-caller tough another one out might have been one of the few reasons to tune in Sunday.
The Lions (5-8) aren’t statistically eliminated from the playoffs yet, but a loss at heavily favored Tennessee (9-4) will do it. Detroit trails, 24-15, at halftime.
Here are some key takeaways from the first half:
►Stafford doesn’t seem bothered: Despite the rib injury and a several-weeks-old thumb injury, Stafford is putting up decent numbers. In the first half, Stafford went 16-for-21 throwing for 170 yards and a touchdown. He showed good anticipation by threading a needle in the end zone for a first-quarter touchdown pass to Marvin Jones, making the score 7-7. In the second quarter, Stafford dropped a dime to tight end Hunter Bryant for his first career reception, a 44-yard gain.
►Titans offense as good as advertised: Tennessee’s first two possessions were great examples of how the Titans have been beating teams all season.
Their first possession ended in a 3-yard Derrick Henry touchdown, the drive going 75 yards and taking up 6:20. Henry had seven carries on the drive and quarterback Ryan Tannehill went 5-for-5 passing.
Their second possession also gained 75 yards, but it only took one play, a 75-yard heave from Tannehill in which wide receiver Corey Davis showed shifty moves after the catch to score, making it 14-7.
Tennessee gained 274 yards, averaging 9.1 yards per play in the first half with three touchdowns and a field goal.
There’s a reason why Tennessee offensive coordinator Arthur Smith is among the top names on head coaching lists and Detroit found out quickly in the first half.
►Derrick Henry is unstoppable: It was only a 7-yard gain, but Lions cornerback Alex Myres will never forget it. Myres tried to tackle Henry, the most physical back in the game, up high. Henry got hold of Myres’ shoulder and authoritatively threw him to the ground on his way out of bounds, igniting the Tennessee sideline.
Tannehill scored on a 17-yard run on the next play to make it 21-7 for the Titans. It was their third touchdown in three drives.
After the first half, Henry has 14 carries for 80 yards and one score.
►Swift makes costly mistake: Detroit running back D’Andre Swift has been a bright spot for the Lions this season, but late in the second quarter, several yards from the goal line, Swift put the ball in jeopardy by trying to leap into the end zone. The ball slipped out, recovered by Tennessee. Detroit has no chance but to try to keep pace with Tennessee’s offense, and turnovers endanger that effort.
►Okwara continues big season: Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara provided a big highlight for Detroit in the second quarter when he hurdled a cut block attempt and sacked Tannehill for a safety. It was Detroit’s first safety in 75 games and Okwara’s eighth sack this season. Not bad for an undrafted free agent.