Words by Edd Hodsdon
Images from Lions and Chifs Friday Practice courtesy of Andy Neale -
Images from Gameday courtesy of Andy Neale - https://www.flickr.com/photos/whizzyfingers/sets/72157660816686545/
Detroit Lions 10 Kansas City Chiefs 45
In the last Wembley game of this season, the International Series saw one of the most one-sided matches since coming to Wembley in 2007.
The Chiefs dominated proceedings from the start, energised by huge support from the Wembley crowd. After Detroit kicked a field goal on the first possession of the game, the Chiefs scored 38 unanswered points in a dominant performance.
Alex Smith completed 18 of his 26 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns. His first scoring pass went for two yards to Travis Kelce in the 3rd quarter, followed by a 17 yard Jeremy Maclin score in the 4th. Smith did not throw any interceptions, and also rushed for 78 yards on five carries and a 12 yard touchdown run.
Without Jamaal Charles, there was a danger that Kansas City’s offense would sink. But replacement Charcandrick West had a good game, rushing for 97 yards on 20 carries, including an eight yard touchdown. Kansas City’s first touchdown of the game came on a 10 yard Jet Sweep from DeAnthony Thomas.
Meanwhile the Lions struggled to move the ball against the Chiefs defense. Matthew Stafford completed 22 of his 36 passes for 217 yards and a garbage time 21 yard touchdown to Lance Moore in the 4th quarter. Stafford also threw two interceptions in a dismal performance.
Stafford deserves to shoulder some of the blame for Detroit’s bad performance. He held the ball too long and failed to release the ball quickly in the face of Kansas City’s pass rush. A porous offensive line did little to buy him time as Stafford was sacked six times.
The offensive line must also take most of the blame for Detroit’s non-existent running game. Apart from a big Joique Bell run on the opening drive to set up a field goal, the Lions could not run the ball. Between four runners, the Lions ran for 81 yards and suffered four tackles for a loss. Meanwhile the defense allowed 206 rushing yards for the Chiefs, despite being historically good against the run last season.
The defense failed consistently to stop the Chiefs, either on the ground or through the air. Chiefs’ backup running back Spencer Ware managed to score again in garbage time despite Kansas City easing off with the game well in hand.
The Lions sacked the Chiefs three times, but that was the only bright spark as the pass rush failed to bring consistent pressure against what has been one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Smith and many of the starters rested in the latter stages, allowing backups like quarterback Chase Daniel to get some much needed reps.
In a suffocating performance, the Chiefs matched the New England Patriots for the most points scored in an International Series game. The Patriots won 45-7 against the St. Louis Rams in 2012. The Chiefs were handed a lifeline for their season with an easy win, and will head into the bye knowing they have found a formula that could keep them in the AFC West race.
Detroit’s season continues to be yet another embarrassment for a franchise that struggles to win consistently. Last year’s playoff run is a distant memory, and several seats will be scorching hot during Detroit’s bye week.
And that is it for this year’s International Series! But with recent news that Twickenham will host at least three games over the next three seasons as well as Wembley, the UK’s NFL scene shows no signs of slowing down.
The Kansas City Chiefs are currently 2-5 and are chasing the 3-3 Oakland Raiders who are in second place in the AFC West. On Sunday they face the Detroit Lions in the final NFL International game of the season. They flew in overnight and arrived in the UK on Friday morning and were straight into the grind with a Friday afternoon practice.
Kansas City head coach Andy Reid was very pleased with the journey over and the facilities. He said that the team will be at the Wembley site tomorrow for training to familiarise themselves with the ground.
Reid said, of the return of Sean Smith, that he's a veteran player who's “done a nice job” and it's good to have him available to team with Marcus Peters and Eric Berry.
Talking about Lions Superstar Calvin Johnson he was quick to praise him, saying that he creates matchup problems but that it was important to match his physicality.
When asked about the rugby World Cup Reid said that he hoped to watch some of the games if he got time. He was quick to say that the tackling was impressive because “they have good form because they don't have helmets”. He also said that he’ got the opportunity to visit Australia to watch a game. Given the injuries to the Chiefs offence and the release today (October 31st) of running back Jarryd Hayne, himself a former rugby league star, by the San Francisco 49ers is it out of the question that they take a look at him?
Alex Smith (11) – Smith said that although the flight over was a long one it was productive as players reviewed film on IPads, something that wasn't possible even a decode ago, before getting some rest. He said that, as much as possible, the team tried to keep their routine in tact.
Travis Kelce, who's having potentially an all pro year, said that “there no magic formula to winning. You've just got to go out there and put the time in, go
and make plays on Sundays” but added that the Lions defence included some “mind-blowing athletes”. Kelce said he'd try to catch some of his brother’s (Philadelphia Eagles centre Jason Kelce) game in
the bye week and that he owns bragging rights when the two meet from last season when the
Chiefs beat the Eagles.
With the loss of Jamaal Charles the Kansas City Chiefs turned predominantly to Chandrick West and against the Steelers last week he rushed 22 times for 110 yards. Against a Lions team that has allowed an average of 123 yards the player nicknamed tidget (or tall midget) could have a good day.
Starting left guard Ben Grubbs is out for the game against the Lions and that could be an issue against Ziggy Ansah. When asked about this head coach Andy Reid was characteristically cagey about who would replace Grubbs saying they had a number of guys who could step up. Perhaps this may be more complex than a straight swap and involve movement for a number of players.
Lamar Houston spoke briefly but stressed the need to “lead by example” as they faced the misfiring Detroit offence that has shown signs of life recently and will be managed by a number of new coaches following the firing of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and offensive line coaches Jeremiah Washburn and Terry Heffernan. Interim offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter is somewhat of an unknown.
Kicker Cairo Santos was very keen to stress that it was “a business trip” and that they wanted to “get the job done and go home”. The kicker, who recently scored an incredible 25 points in NFL.com fantasy, stressed that he wanted “more touchdowns”. The return of a healthy Jeremy Maclin will definitely help there.
Images from the days practice courtesy of Roger Goodgroves - https://www.dropbox.com/sh/lwi828h0zur1rqn/AAClObCqqaXzYAQjFpjlLdLEa?dl=0
An upbeat Jim Caldwell today spoke to the world's media at the Grove Hotel, Watford, where the Detroit Lions are practising before Sunday's NFL International Series encounter against the Kansas City Chiefs - one of just 13 NFL sides yet to play a regular season game in the United Kingdom. Caldwell feels that the majority of his squad's familiarity with returning to Wembley after last season's come from behind win will help Detroit overcome the Chiefs, as he can teach from personal experience what his new players can expect from a UK game. The Wisconsinite admitted he is seeking to capitalise on becoming the first head coach in NFL history to play a second 0930 EST game - adapting his squad's preparation to tailor both the long journey and the early kick-off, adding "there are few edges in the NFL nowadays, but I may have one here".
On the biggest adjustment to playing in the United Kingdom, Caldwell did not cite problems with time zones but the "slightly different" Wembley turf - grown primarily for soccer it is shorter and less sturdy than other natural grass NFL venues. Indeed after Jacksonville's victory over Buffalo last Sunday in the first of these back to back London games, the NFL's UK office will be closely watching the playing surface to see if it cuts up, like memorably happened in the 2007 Giants/Dolphins game, which may act as a stumbling block for the future expansion of the International Series.
A player who may be fearing a repeat of the slippery conditions is kicker Matt Prater, who returns to the scene of his game winning field goal with both a new snapper and a new holder, something he was keen to dispel as a "non-issue for me" despite repeat questioning from the UK based media. Prater admitted that "for around five seconds" he "thought he had blown the opportunity" of beating the Atlanta Falcons last season, but was "very relieved he got a second chance", let alone that he converted the second attempt.
Meanwhile, one man who seems to be relishing his Wembley debut is Lions' second round draft pick, running back Ameer Abdullah. He spoke of how he had already learned "a great deal" since Monday's transatlantic flight, including the "importance of sleep on your performance" and that "having no service on your mobile can actually be a blessing sometimes - I've got to know more of the Lions back room staff and make more new buddies than at any time since joining the team simply as I've not been looking at my phone!"
This theme ran throughout the squad, with guard Laken Tomlinson and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata both speaking of the visit doubling up as somewhat of a team bonding exercise alongside Sunday's crucial match. Indeed, asked if the 0930 EST start and a week away from friends and family was something very difficult to adjust too, 3rd year defensive end Ezekiel Anash spoke of how he was "prepared to play a game anywhere: indoors, outdoors, at any hour or even in the parking lot!"
Finally, watching the Lions' on the practice field today, on first appearances this did not look like a team arriving in the capital with a 1-6 record. From our 20 minute viewing there was much togetherness on show, and I liked the fact that Coach Caldwell alternated his was around each practice unit - indeed, he seemed to gain great respect from his offensive backfield when he encouraged his team to "try hard all the time". Perhaps the most revealing comment of the day though came from Anash - when pushed on the off-season departure of Ndamukong Suh his reply after a pause was that "yes, I think we've just got over that". It may be tough to lose a star player, but ideally you need to get over that loss well before Week 8.
Coach Caldwell addressed the room at The Grove with the same way he seems to approach everything very open and ready to speak; but in this you could sense that the constant questions about Lombardi’s dismissal and Jim Bobs appointment was getting to him and his answers became repetitive and almost drone like. Eventually moving on from the coaching changes to the relationship between the vets and Jim Bob, Caldwell exclaimed that “the age of the OC doesn’t matter in todays’ game as we can see with many Co-ordinator roles being occupied by young guys who are there because of merit and ability” using himself as an example in this situation.
Caldwell sets bar high for Cooter
When Caldwell was talking about Cooter and his relationship with both the offense as a whole and more specifically Matt Stafford he mentioned about Cooter having twice the workload and how well he has adapted to the situation, as Cooter is currently balancing the roles of both Offensive Co-ordinator and QB coach, his work load has been stretched but the transition into his new role has been smooth as one would hope it to be. When talking about the firing of previous OC Joe Lombardi Caldwell reinforced the fact that it’s the “Life of the NFL” what he re-iterated was that the NFL especially at this time of the season is “High Risk, High Reward” and it seems this attitude has led to some drastic changes on the offensive side of the ball. The question that was most put to the players and Coach was what they got up to on the one day off and Caldwell’s response was “Nope no days off maybe at the end of the week, but for now it’s just; Sleep, Sleep, Sleep.” Last question of the day for Coach took us a step back in time where he recalled the times when teams would have 6 coaches 3 on either side of the ball. Now with all these coaches for individual players and areas of the game he claimed “For us old school coaches it’s like we’ve died and gone to heaven”. *Exit stage Left*
Megatron – Calvin Johnson Jr and Matt Stafford
The man everyone wants to see off of the IR for the Lions is Megatron, a sideline spectator last year for the Lions he showed enthusiasm and euphoria to finally be playing in the International Series. As a self-proclaimed “Man united and Man City” fan he was excited to play on the pitch some of his soccer idols play on. He light-heartedly made the joke that Wembley still got excited and louder when someone finally kicked the ball, but he showed respect to the fans of the game in the UK and thinks that the NFLs expansion is good for the sport and bring it over every year means a fun trip for him so he is all for it. Megatron had very little practice today not getting involved in any of the QB-WR drills but rather giving pointers to some of the other wide receivers, this was to be expected but to have that amount of limited practice would be a surprise to some.
Matt Stafford, was very blunt and short with his answers not wanting to give too much information away. He did however express the importance of some of the Vets on the team being the foundations of the turnaround that the Lions are hoping to make and hopefully try to get the result on Sunday and move step by step from there, he spoke about the fact that every year he gets to go to Wembley and play in an environment he just labelled as “different” to a regular NFL game back in the states. Talking about Jim Bob you can tell Stafford has the confidence in him this could be because of their long time relationship or that Jim Bob has worked with some of the biggest names in the NFL such as Peyton Manning.
Casual Interviews of the Third Kind
When I was speaking with Joique Bell, he couldn’t stop ribbing into Theo Riddick “I was done after 20 minutes, we had to wait For Theo he was gone three hours, and all he got was a new Ego” Joique was very calm in talking about the position he is in with Ameer Abdullah being drafted by the Lions and the fatherhood role he has taken upon the young running backs in the roster. He went on to speak about how the RBs have been affected by the new OC and how they haven’t changed routine much at all still doing the same drills. Run game looks to be staying as it is, whether it was working or not. Which to me sounds like they are going to be looking deeper and have a lot more aggression when on offense.
So as an overall I can definitely can see Detroit beating the Chiefs this Sunday maybe following in the footsteps of Miami and having a new offensive co-ordinator will give them that added edge to creep past an ever improving Chiefs Defence.
Minnesota Vikings 28 Detroit Lions 19
Sunday’s NFC North clash saw the Minnesota Vikings look to consolidate second place against a struggling Lions team, who were scrabbling for any chance to be competitive in the division.
Teddy Bridgewater carried the Vikings offense as Adrian Peterson struggled to dominate. Bridgewater completed 25 of his 35 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns. Kyle Rudolph caught one while rookie sensation Stefon Diggs dove to secure a 36 yard score.
But Bridgewater also fumbled twice, losing one. He played well against a defense that pressured him all day as the Lions registered four sacks.
The same couldn’t be said for Matthew Stafford. He was sacked seven times by the Vikings despite taking an early lead. But the Lions couldn’t hold on as Minnesota increased the pressure. Stafford completed 18 of 26 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns. Calvin Johnson caught one for one yard while tight end Eric Ebron hauled another in for seven yards.
Neither running game was especially relevant. Peterson carried the ball 19 times for 98 yards, but most of his yards came on this 75 yard play. Meanwhile Detroit’s woeful running game saw six runners carry the ball 17 times for just 77 yards in total. Detroit’s poor performance on offense cost OC Joe Lombardi his job. Five Blair Walsh field goals gave Minnesota the win.
The Lions are hoping that a reshuffled offensive coaching staff will help them beat the Chiefs at Wembley this week.
Pittsburgh Steelers 13 Kansas City Chiefs 23
With Ben Roethlisberger still out, the Steelers turned to backup Landry Jones once again. But despite the Chiefs being without offensive centrepiece Jamaal Charles, Kansas City bested the Steelers 23-13.
Jones completed 16 of his 29 passes for 209 yards and a 19 yard touchdown to Martavis Bryant. He was also intercepted two times and lost a fumble as he struggled to dig the Steelers out of a deficit after their conservative run-orientated game plan failed to work.
Alex Smith managed to help carry the load with both Charles and Jeremy Maclin out, completing 21 of 32 passes for 251 yards and a six yard touchdown pass to Chris Conley. Charles’ replacement Charcandrick West had 110 yards on 22 carries and a one yard touchdown run.
LeVeon Bell had 17 carries for 121 yards, but failed to score. Cairos Santos kicked three field goals for the Chiefs, who didn’t commit a single turnover. Both teams scored two sacks in a relatively quiet game.
The Chiefs will hope that their defense gives them an edge over the Lions at Wembley this weekend.
Chicago Bears 34 Detroit Lions 37 (OT)
The Detroit Lions finally got a win with a close 37-34 overtime victory over NFC North rivals Chicago. Matthew Stafford bounced back from being benched against Arizona with a strong performance.
Stafford completed 27 out of 42 passes for 405 yards and four touchdowns. Lance Moore scored with a 20 yard catch, Tim Wright hauled in an eight yard pass, Golden Tate managed to catch this bizarre score for two yards, and Calvin Johnson had a six yard touchdown. Stafford threw just one interception after throwing three last week.
Johnson finished with six catches for 166 yards, while Moore racked up 106 yards on five catches. The Lions rushed for 158 yards between five runners as injuries took their toll on Detroit’s backfield.
Jay Cutler had another decent game, completing 26 out of 41 passes for 353 yards and an 11 yard touchdown to Alshon Jeffery. Cutler also threw an interception. Jeffery finished with eight catches for 147 yards after recovering from a hamstring injury that has kept him off the field for most of Chicago’s opening fixtures.
The Bears added two scores on the ground with Matt Forte and fourth round draft pick Jeremy Langford. Robbie Gould kicked four field goals for the Bears.
Chicago had two sacks against Stafford, while the Lions could get to Cutler just once. Detroit also lost two fumbles, yet still managed to win after Matt Prater kicked the game-winning 27 yard field goal with just under four minutes left in overtime.
The Lions host division rivals Minnesota before travelling to Wembley to play the struggling Kansas City Chiefs. Detroit will be looking to avenge an earlier 26-16 loss to the Vikings.
Kansas City Chiefs 10 Minnesota Vikings 16
Kansas City struggled without star running back Jamaal Charles as they fell 16-10 to Minnesota on Sunday. Alex Smith failed to compensate in the passing game and Charles’ replacement Charcandrick West had an underwhelming game.
Smith completed 22 of his 37 passes, but the Vikings defense shut Kansas City out for three quarters. In the first half, the Chiefs effectively gained just one yard after their net 51 yards were all but wiped out with 50 yards worth of penalties.
Smith eventually found Albert Wilson for a 42 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to overtake Minnesota. Smith finished with 282 yards. West managed just 33 yards on nine carries and lost a fumble that effectively killed Kansas City’s hopes of a comeback win. The Chiefs managed just 57 rushing yards without Jamaal Charles.
Teddy Bridgewater struggled for the Vikings as Kansas City managed to shut down star running back Adrian Peterson. Bridgewater completed 17 of his 31 passes for 249 yards and a four yard touchdown to Kyle Rudolph. He also threw two interceptions.
Peterson had just 60 yards on 26 carries, averaging a measly 2.3 yards per carry against the Chiefs defense. Luckily fifth round pick Stefon Diggs had a huge breakout game, catching seven passes for 129 yards and keeping Minnesota in the lead.
Both teams scored two sacks behind decent pass rushes, and Chiefs rookie corner Marcus Peters had yet another interception. Peters now has three picks in his first six games.
The Chiefs will now host the Pittsburgh Steelers before journeying to Wembley to host the Detroit Lions. With their season in a tailspin, the Chiefs must win these two games to stay alive in the AFC West race.
Chicago Bears 18 @ Kansas City Chiefs 17
Jay Cutler threw two fourth quarter touchdown passes as the Bears rallied from 17-3 down in the third quarter for a close 18-17 win over the Chiefs.
Cutler completed 26 out of 45 passes for 252 yards. His touchdowns went 22 yards to Marquess Wilson and seven yards to Matt Forte. Cutler didn’t throw any interceptions in a good performance, but did lose two fumbles. The first fumble was recovered by the Chiefs in the end zone for the game’s first touchdown.
Kansas City’s offense suffered a huge blow in the third quarter as star running back Jamaal Charles left the game with a suspected ACL tear. Alex Smith struggled to compensate for Charles’ absence as the passing game failed to make much of an impact.
Smith completed 16 out of 30 passes for 181 yards and a 19 yard touchdown to running back De’Anthony Thomas. The Chiefs defense could register only two sacks, but Kansas City didn’t commit any turnovers. The Bears sacked Smith two times.
Without Charles, Kansas City’s season is in huge trouble. The Chiefs travel to Minnesota this week to face the Vikings.
Arizona Cardinals 42 @ Detroit Lions 17
Quarterback Matthew Stafford was benched after his third interception as the Lions fell to 0-5 thanks to a 42-17 beatdown from the Arizona Cardinals.
Before being pulled off the field, Stafford completed 20 of his 32 passes for 188 yards and a six yard touchdown to Theo Riddick alongside his three picks, including this one to Cory Redding. The three interceptions cost Detroit massively in a game where they also lost two fumbles. Backup Dan Orlovsky completed 21 of 38 passes for 191 yards and a 13 yard touchdown to Lance Moore, but also threw an interception.
Carson Palmer completed 11 of 14 passes for just 161 yards, but threw three touchdown passes to Fells for 14 yards, Brown for 18 yards, and Larry Fitzgerald for two yards.
Rookie running back David Johnson added two scores on the ground, and Andre Ellington had a 65 yard touchdown run in garbage time. Chris Johnson carried the ball 11 times for 103 yards as the running game took centre stage for Arizona.
Despite just one sack, the Cardinals forced six turnovers while committing none of their own. The Lions managed two sacks in a disappointing showing. They remain the only team in the league to have not yet won a game.
The Lions host the Bears this week to determine who will languish at the bottom of the NFC North.
Kansas City Chiefs 21 Cincinnati Bengals 36
After an impressive opening win over Houston, the Chiefs have lost three straight games. Against Denver they committed two turnovers that cost them a win. They were outclassed by Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. And on Sunday, they failed to score any touchdowns in a disappointing 36-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cairo Santos kicked seven field goals to score all of Kansas City’s points as the defense struggle to contain the high-powered Bengals offense. Alex Smith completed 31 of his 45 passes for 386 yards, with Jeremy Maclin catching 11 passes for 148 yards.
The Cincinnati defense effectively shut down all of Kansas City’s weapons. Jamaal Charles managed 11 carries for just 75 yards, and Travis Kelce lost a fumble. The Bengals, meanwhile, rushed 26 times for 124 yards against the Chiefs defense. Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill combined for four touchdowns on the ground.
The Chiefs defense, usually a strong unit, couldn’t cover any of Cincinnati’s weapons and failed to generate pressure against a good Bengals offensive line. The Chiefs didn’t get any sacks, while the Bengals brought Smith down five times.
The Chiefs have a lot of issues to fix before they come to Wembley in Week 8, namely a porous offensive line. And with Denver riding off into the distance, they need to change things soon if they want to stay in the race for the AFC West.
Detroit Lions 10 Seattle Seahawks 13
After struggling on offense for most of the season, a visit to Seattle and the Legion of Boom defense wasn’t exactly what the Lions needed. For most of the game, the Lions could muster only three points on offense.
But on their final drive, the Lions started to hit their stride. Marching down the field, Matthew Stafford threw a pass to Calvin Johnson that looked certain to go for a touchdown. Until safety Kam Chancellor knocked the ball out of Johnson’s hands.
The ball bounded into the endzone, and Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright batted the ball out of bounds. The controversial play wasn’t called. But the Lions should’ve been given the ball at the ½ yard line, and would’ve likely won the game. But a bad referee call handed the Seahawks the win.
Matthew Stafford completed 24 of his 35 passes for 203 yards. The Lions’ only touchdown came when defensive tackle Caraun Reid returned a Seattle fumble for a 27 yard score. The Lions struggled on the ground yet again, gaining just 53 yards on 18 carries between five rushers.
The Seahawks offense also struggled again. Seattle finished with 31 carries for 110 yards from four carriers. Marshawn Lynch was absent for the game with a hamstring issue. Jimmy Graham, reportedly unhappy with his role in Seattle, finished with just four catches for 29 yards.
Russell Wilson completed 20 of his 26 passes for 287 yards and a 24 yard touchdown to Doug Baldwin. Wilson also lost two fumbles, while Tyler Lockett lost one other. The Seahawks’ front seven struggled to generate pressure on Stafford, failing to register a sack. Wilson was sacked six times by the Lions.
The Lions have multiple issues, and are now the only winless team left in the league. After falling behind even the Bears in the NFC North, Detroit needs to find some form fast.
Denver Broncos 24 Detroit Lions 12
The Detroit Lions enjoyed one of their best seasons last year, finishing 11-5 and making the playoff for the first time since 2011. They had high hopes for this season, despite losing several key defensive pieces. So far, however, they have struggled on both sides of the ball.
The Denver Broncos may be unbeaten, but that’s not really down to Peyton Manning. They got lucky against the Chiefs last week and their defense has carried them in games. Head coach Gary Kubiak’s run-first scheme hasn’t stuck, and Manning reverted to his old no-huddle, shotgun offense against the Lions.
For two teams who wanted to commit more to the run this season, the first few games haven’t gone to plan. The Broncos had just 42 total rushing yards as Manning returned to his old ways in a 24-12 victory. The Lions continue to struggle everywhere, and had just 29 rushing yards against Denver’s suffocating defense.
Both teams had a one yard score on the ground, courtesy of Ronnie Hillman and Joique Bell respectively. Each team also lost a fumble. Both offensive lines continue to struggle, but the Broncos at least looked stout this week. Manning was sacked just once, whereas Matthew Stafford was brought down four times.
Manning completed 31 of his 42 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns; this 45 yard score to Demaryius Thomas as well as one to tight end Owen Daniels. He also threw an interception. Stafford completed 31 of his 45 passes for 282 yards and a 16 yard touchdown to rookie running back Ameer Abdullah. But he also threw two interceptions.
The Broncos need to figure out what they’re doing on offense. Manning’s style may be winning them games, but Peyton won’t hold up for a whole season unless he is backed up by the running game. The defense can keep them in contention so long as Manning puts some points on the board.
The Lions desperately need to improve on both sides of the ball as they continue to drop out of contention in the NFC North. Things don’t get much better this week as they head to Seattle to face the Seahawks.
Kansas City Chiefs 28 Green Bay Packers 38
As Green Bay’s starting quarterback, Aaron Rodgers had never beaten Kansas City or Cincinnati before this season. Last night at Lambeau Field, Rodgers dispatched the Chiefs 38-28 with a virtuoso five touchdown performance.
Randall Cobb caught three of those touchdowns, with third round rookie receiver Ty Montgomery catching the first of the night. Veteran returnee James Jones hauled in this 27 yard score and finished with seven catches for 139 yards. Rodgers completed 24 of his 35 passes for 333 yards.
Alex Smith had a depressing day after being sacked six times. He completed 24 of his 40 passes for 290 yards, a touchdown and an interception. On the bright side, Smith threw the first touchdown pass to a Chiefs wide receiver in over a year as Jeremy Maclin hauled in the five yard score in the third quarter. Maclin finished with eight catches for 141 yards.
Apart from a second quarter Jamaal Charles touchdown run, most of Kansas City’s points came after the Packers had built up an insurmountable 31-7 lead. Charles added two more touchdown runs as the Chiefs struggled to close the gap.
The Chiefs will travel to face the unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals this week, while the Packers will take on the San Francisco 49ers in Levi’s Stadium.
Denver Broncos 31 Kansas City Chiefs 24
After Denver’s narrow victory over the Ravens in week one, many wondered whether the Broncos were under threat from the Chiefs and Chargers in the AFC West, especially with Peyton Manning struggling. On Thursday night, Manning answered his critics with a 31-24 win over Kansas City.
Manning completed 26 of his 45 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Emanuel Sanders caught scoring passes of 16 and 19 yards and tight end Virgil Green added a one yard score. Manning also threw an interception to rookie Marcus Peters, who turned it into an easy 55 yard pick six.
Denver looked to be moving away from head coach Gary Kubiak’s run-heavy formula. The Broncos has to chase the Chiefs throughout the game, resulting in just 61 yards gained on the ground. The comeback win was sealed late in the fourth quarter when cornerback Bradley Roby recovered Jamaal Charles’ fumble for a 21 yard touchdown.
After looking sharp against the Texans in week one, Kansas City’s offense lagged on Thursday night. Alex Smith completed 16 of 25 passes for just 191 yards and two interceptions. Although Charles rushed 21 times for 125 yards, including a 34 yard scoring run, he also fumbled twice at critical moments in the game.
Both defenses made things difficult, exploiting weak offensive lines. Denver sacked Alex Smith four times and forced several turnovers. The Chiefs brought Manning down three times, with Justin Houston claiming two as he chases another sack crown.
The Chiefs will need to get the offense back on track for their next game, as they travel to Lambeau Field to face the Packers on Monday night football.
Detroit Lions 16 Minnesota Vikings 26
After losing a close game 33-28 to the San Diego Chargers in Week One, the Lions were looking to pick up a win to start chasing Green Bay in the NFC North. But another divisional challenger stood in their way; the Minnesota Vikings, keen to recover from a 20-3 Monday Night Football embarrassment at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.
Facing a deficit early on, the Lions were forced to rely on Matthew Stafford to stay in touch. Stafford completed 32 of his 53 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns; 11 yards to Calvin Johnson and 12 to Eric Ebron, as well as an interception. Stafford also led the Lions in rushing yards as they got just 38 on the ground.
Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings adopted the opposite approach, choosing to lean on Adrian Peterson and the running game after managing just 71 rushing yards against the 49ers last week. Bridgewater completed 14 of his 18 passes for 153 yards and a five yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph. Bridgewater also scrambled for a touchdown and executed some designed runs from offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
Peterson carried the ball 29 times for 134 yards, bringing back the kind of dominance we are used to seeing from him. Despite not scoring a touchdown, Peterson was the main threat to the Lions for most of the game. He also had two receptions for 58 yards, including this brilliant 49 yard flick from Bridgewater to avoid a sack.
Despite recording just one sack, the Vikings were all over Stafford. The Lions quarterback was continually hit, and was seen on the sideline nursing a bloodied elbow at one point. The Lions also committed three turnovers to give the Vikings a 26-16 win.
Detroit Lions 28 San Diego Chargers 33
After an impressive first half on both sides of the ball, the Lions struggled to stop an impressive comeback from Phillip Rivers and the Chargers.
Matthew Stafford completed 19 out of 30 passes for 246 yards, two touchdowns to tight end Eric Ebron and running back Theo Riddick, as well as two interceptions. Stafford didn’t look like the same player in the second half, and could’ve been carrying an injury sustained after a hard hit on a previous play.
Meanwhile Rivers came alive in the second half as the Chargers scored 30 unanswered points to seal the comeback victory. Rivers completed 35 out of 42 passes for 404 yards and two touchdowns to receiver Stevie Johnson and tight end Ladarius Greene. Rivers also threw two interceptions, including a 31 yard Glover Quinn pick six in the first half.
Danny Woodhead added two scores on the ground for the Chargers, while Lions rookie Ameer Abdullah broke Eric Weddle’s ankles on this 24 yard touchdown run. Melvin Gordon was largely ineffective on his debut for the Chargers, carrying 14 times for 51 yards. He also lost a forced fumble to linebacker Stephen Tulloch.
After a narrow loss, the Lions face divisional rivals Minnesota this week for the chance to chase Green Bay.
Houston Texans 20 Kansas City Chiefs 27
After going undefeated in the preseason for the first time since 1969, the Chiefs carried their form over to their regular season opener in Houston. After struggling last season, Kansas City’s offense dominated the Texans in a 27-20 win that wasn’t nearly as close as the score suggests.
Alex Smith looks set to shake off his ‘boring game-manager’ label this season, coming out fired up and on form. Smith completed 22 of his 33 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Travis Kelce caught two as he carved through the Texans’ secondary for ten yard and 42 yard scores, and Jamaal Charles caught the third to seal the win. Kelce finished with six catches for 106 yards alongside his two scores.
Brian Hoyer didn’t look like the same quarterback that steered the Browns to a 7-4 record before being benched last season. Hoyer finished 18/34 for 236 yards and a touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins, but was intercepted by Chiefs rookie corner Marcus Peters on the first-round pick’s first NFL snap. That interception set up a Travis Kelce touchdown, putting the Texans on the back foot early.
Hoyer was benched for Ryan Mallett, who went 8/13 for 98 yards and a touchdown to Hopkins, but the game was already lost.
J.J. Watt continued his MVP-calibre form with two sacks and several tackles for a loss, but couldn’t turn the tide by himself. Kansas City racked up five sacks, including one for Justin Houston, Watt’s rival for the sack-leader’s crown. Houston also forced a fumble from Brian Hoyer.
The Chiefs host divisional rivals Denver this week, hoping to capitalise on a struggling Peyton Manning to take an early AFC West lead.
Buffalo Bills 10 Detroit Lions 17
Like most teams, the Bills and Lions rested their key starters on Friday night. Backup quarterback Kellen Moore completed 16/22 for 150 yards and a touchdown for the Lions in a 17-10 win. Rookie running back Zach Zenner scored the winning touchdown for Detroit on a three yard run. Zenner has been making waves in the preseason, but could struggle to secure a roster spot.
Matt Simms finished 22/38 for 223 yards for the Bills. Cornerback Ron Brooks intercepted Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky for the opening score on an 81 yard pick-six. The Bills failed to score an offensive touchdown.
Kansas City Chiefs 24 St. Louis Rams 17
As the Chiefs rested their starters, Chase Daniel and Aaron Murray led the way to a 24-17 win in the Governor’s Cup; the battle of Missouri. Daniel completed 16/20 for 117 yards and a touchdown and an interception. Murray, last year’s fifth-round pick, completed 11 of his 15 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown.
Nick Foles played one drive for the Rams, completing two of his three passes for 49 yards and an interception. Sean Mannion, this year’s third-round pick, went 11/24 for 107 yards.
The win over St. Louis means that the Chiefs finished the preseason unbeaten for the first time since 1969; the year they won their only Super Bowl title. Can the Chiefs take the good omen all the way this season?
Detroit Lions 22 Jacksonville Jaguars 17
Matthew Stafford continued his impressive preseason form with a dominant performance with Detroit’s first-team offense. Stafford completed 11 of his 15 passes for 173 yards and two touchdown passes, including this 62 yard pass to Golden Tate. Tate finished with three receptions for 91 yards along with his score.
Rookie running back sensation Ameer Abdullah only had three carries for 8 yards, but also hauled in a 21 yard reception; proving that he is a new dual-threat weapon for the Lions.
Detroit’s defense struggled in the first half before helping to secure a 22-17 win over the Jaguars.
Blake Bortles turned in an impressive game to show huge strides after his turbulent rookie season. Bortles finished 20/29 for 245 yards and a touchdown pass to veteran tight end Mercedes Lewis. Bortles seemed to have good rhythm with the first-team offense, making big throws to Lewis, Allen Hurns and Denard Robinson.
Rookie running back T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville’s second round pick out of Alabama, added a one yard score as well as a 12 yard reception as a safety valve for Bortles. With their key young components working well last night, expect progress from Jacksonville’s offense this season.
Tennessee Titans 10 Kansas City Chiefs 34
Kansas City’s dominant performance was unexpectedly headlined by the offense. Quarterback Alex Smith finished 16/18 for 171 yards and two touchdown passes to Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce. The Chiefs’ well-documented struggle at the wide receiver position last year looks to be solved.
Jamaal Charles proved to be a reliable dual-threat weapon as always, and backup quarterback Aaron Murray secured the 34-10 win with two touchdown passes to receiver Fred Williams. Kansas City amassed 432 yards of total offense, against Tennessee’s 238.
After Marcus Mariota managed to avoid Justin Houston and the Chiefs pass rush initially, Houston finally broke through and sacked the rookie. Mariota had a decent game, completing 7 of his 11 passes for 99 yards as well as adding 22 yards on three carries.
The final piece of Kansas City’s offensive jigsaw looked in good shape, as the offensive line didn’t allow any sacks on Smith after letting Seattle get to the quarterback twice last week. The Chiefs continue to impress on offense, and the defense looks as stout as ever. It could be a big year for the Chiefs.
Detroit Lions 17 Washington Redskins 21
The Lions travelled to Washington to play the Redskins on Thursday night, bringing their hard-hitting defense with them. The defense recovered two fumbles and sacked Robert Griffin III three times in the preseason loss.
Matthew Stafford looked good again in limited action, going 6 out of 8 for 78 yards and setting up a field goal. Rookie running back Ameer Abdullah, who had a great performance last week against the Jets, gained just 7 yards on two carries. Could the Lions be saving him for the starting line-up?
Robert Griffin III, barely a week after saying he thought he was the best quarterback in the league, had a miserable night. Although Griffin’s comments were blown out of proportion, they didn’t help him behind a poor offensive line against Detroit’s defense. Griffin completed just 2 out of his 5 attempted passes, gaining just 8 yards.
Griffin left the game after suffering both a shoulder injury and a concussion, and backups Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins took over. With a touchdown pass apiece and a score from running back M Jones, they led the Redskins to a 21-17 victory. But it seems a hollow one given RG3’s struggles. He fumbled twice, losing one as well as suffering three sacks. Griffin couldn’t get comfortable as first-round pick Brandon Scherff struggled.
Seattle Seahawks 13 Kansas City Chiefs 14
After 594 days, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith finally threw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver with Jeremy Maclin’s 3 yard score on Friday night. Smith finished 11 of 18 for 81 yards, but also threw an easy pick-six to Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner.
Kansas City tried some odd formations with their offense against Seattle. Running back Jamaal Charles, in his first preseason action this year, lined up as a wide receiver. Maclin’s touchdown catch started with him positioned in the backfield. Are the Chiefs trying new things with the offense to throw opponents off this year?
The defense needs no such tricks. The Chiefs took advantage of a woeful Seahawks offensive line to generate huge pressure on Russell Wilson. With free-agent guard Evan Mathis visiting Seattle in the next few days, the Seahawks can’t afford to let him leave the building.
The offense clearly struggled. Seattle’s only touchdown came on Wagner’s interception return. The rest of their points were field goals. Wilson finished just 9 out of 15 for 78 yards in a 13-14 loss.
New York Jets 3 Detroit Lions 23
The Lions opened their 2015 campaign with a win over the struggling Jets at Ford Field. Quarterback Matthew Stafford took command of the opening series, completing his only two passes to Golden Tate; one of which went for a 35 yard touchdown. Stafford finished with 57 yards.
Rookie running back Ameer Abdullah, drafted in the second round, stole the show. Abdullah finished with 67 yards, including 45 on a single play in which he darted through the Jets defense with an impressive burst. A good performance on his debut gives the Lions hope for a revived ground game this season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Jets’ starting quarterback after Geno Smith suffered a broken jaw in a fight in practice, completed two of three passes for 16 yards on his only series, leading the Jets to a field goal. Rookie Bryce Petty finished with 10 out of 18 for 50 yards.
The Jets seemed to struggle in new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s system. They recorded just 123 yards of total offense and no running back gained more than 35 yards in total. The Lions offense looked in good shape, and the defense dominated the Jets. It could be another impressive year for Detroit.
Kansas City Chiefs 34 Arizona Cardinals 19
The Kansas City Chiefs started their 2015 campaign off with great news; safety Eric Berry is back on the field after winning his battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Berry hasn’t played since being diagnosed in November, but made his return against the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday night.
Quarterback Alex Smith completed 6 out of his 10 passes for 42 yards, but was intercepted by Arizona safety Tyrann Matthieu. Backup Chase Daniel took over for the rest of the night, completing 17 out of his 21 attempts for 189 yards and three touchdown scores as the Chiefs won 34-19.
Carson Palmer was perfect on his return for the Cardinals. Palmer was injured in November against the Rams and missed the rest of the season. But he showed no signs of struggling on Saturday night, completing all four of his passes for 77 yards.
Also bouncing back for the Cardinals was running back Andre Ellington after recovering from a hip injury that landed him on injured reserve last season. Ellington finished with a touchdown on just three carries.
Jeremy Maclin had a solid night’s work on his Chiefs debut. After reuniting with his old coach Andy Reid in the offseason, Maclin finished with 12 yards from just one catch. Maclin gives the Chiefs a legitimate deep threat as the centrepiece of an overhauled receiving corps.
With Berry back in a line-up which finished second against the pass last season, the Chiefs should fare well against the Detroit Lions in November at Wembley. But before then, the Chiefs will have to test themselves against the Seattle Seahawks next week in their second preseason game.
Last season, the Detroit Lions were responsible for one of Wembley’s most thrilling NFL games yet with a last-minute 22-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons. And they could be part of another instant classic against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8.
“I know they got it done last year on a field goal last minute, so hopefully I get the chance to do that.” Says Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos. But Cairo knows that it will be a tough match between two similar teams.
“It’s going to be a good matchup. They’re very good on defense… we are very good on defense. Offensively, Calvin Johnson is going to be a big threat, but we’ve got good players like Jamaal Charles and Jeremy Maclin.”
The Chiefs defense excelled against the pass last year, second only to Seattle’s famous ‘Legion of Boom’. Kansas City’s secondary should be just as strong this season after drafting cornerback Marcus Peters in the first round and having Eric Berry return free of cancer after winning his battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
But the Chiefs will have to improve on just six interceptions last year. Especially against Detroit’s offense. Calvin Johnson battled injuries, but formed a potent combination with free-agent signing Golden Tate. The pair combined for 2408 yards and 12 touchdowns.
However, the real battle will be fought on the ground. Detroit had the league’s best run defense last season, allowing just 69.3 yards per game. But they let star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh walk in free agency, along with back-up Nick Fairley. They signed Haloti Ngata away from the Ravens to fill the void, but the run defense could still take a step back.
Which is bad news against the Chiefs and running back Jamaal Charles. The 4-time Pro Bowler struggled with injuries last season, but still ran for 1033 yards and averaged 5 yards per carry. If he remains healthy, expect Charles to exploit any weakness in Detroit’s defensive line.
The battle in the trenches could decide the game. The Lions struggled in the running game last year, and the Chiefs allowed just four rushing touchdowns all season. Detroit didn’t have a single back eclipse 900 yards, but that could change after drafting former Nebraska workhorse Ameer Abdullah in the 2nd round.
Last year the Chiefs’ passing game was a major weakness. No Chiefs wide receiver caught a touchdown pass last season. The unit has since been overhauled, and with Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce at his disposal, quarterback Alex Smith’s supporting cast should improve. And they’ll have to against Detroit’s secondary, which combined for 20 interceptions in 2014.
In what could be a tough, physical game the Chiefs should have the edge. But it won’t be easy. “It’s going to be a very intense matchup,” says Cairo. “We’ve got to be ready for those guys.”
And I’ll be ready to take my seat in the stands.