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Published: Tuesday, 9/11/2012

49ers will help Lions discover real identity

ASSOCIATED PRESS

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Calvin Johnson is still more than most secondaries can handle, and the defensive line looked stout.

The running game remains a work in progress, and the banged-up secondary seemed vulnerable.

The Lions opened the season with a 27-23 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday -- and may not have learned much about themselves. That should change this weekend when they play at San Francisco.

"We're going to go out there to the West Coast and see what we've got," linebacker Justin Durant said.

Detroit overcame three interceptions by Matthew Stafford, finally pulling out the win when he found Kevin Smith for a five-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left. On Monday, coach Jim Schwartz was pleased his team managed a victory despite those turnovers.

One of Stafford's interceptions was run back for a touchdown, so the St. Louis offense scored only one TD. Detroit's defensive front held Steven Jackson to 42 yards on 13 carries.

With the exception of Stafford's uncharacteristic mistakes, the game was pretty much what was expected of the Lions against the rebuilding Rams.

"We went in with a goal to try to limit Steven Jackson as much as we could," Schwartz said. "We missed a couple tackles in the game, but there was very little yardage after missed tackles."

Stafford recovered from his early errors to throw for 355 yards, and Johnson caught six passes for 111 yards, including a 51-yard strike in the second quarter and an 18-yarder that set up the winning touchdown.

Of course, Detroit knew going into the season that Stafford and Johnson would be difficult to contain. The question is whether the Lions have enough talent around their young stars to build on last season's playoff appearance. The season opener didn't provide many answers.

Smith, playing because of Jahvid Best's concussion problems and Mikel Leshoure's suspension, scored two touchdowns. He ran 13 times for 62 yards and caught four passes. No other Lion had more than one carry.

On the other side of the ball, defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, and Cliff Avril all made an impact, and they may have to keep it up until the secondary returns to full strength. Defensive backs Chris Houston (sprained left ankle) and Louis Delmas (left knee surgery) both missed the game, and rookie cornerback Bill Bentley left with a concussion.

Lions caught a break

ST. LOUIS -- Rams coach Jeff Fisher says a mistake by the clock operator late in Sunday's last-second loss at Detroit gave the Lions an extra timeout that completely changed how the finish played out. And the league agree with him.

The 40-second time clock started three or four seconds before the game clock resumed after quarterback Sam Bradford slid for a three-yard gain close to the sideline. Fisher anticipated he could let the clock run to the two-minute warning, but instead had to call timeout with 2:03 left with the play clock about to expire. The Rams were set to run on third down after the two-minute warning, forcing the Lions to use their final timeout. Instead, Bradford threw an incompletion, and Greg Zuerlein kicked a go-ahead 46-yard field goal.

The Lions had 1:55 to work with on their final winning drive.



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