Who owns first place in the NFC North? The Detroit Lions!
Quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Golden Tate were standouts for the offense in a game with the New York Jets that went back and forth until late in the fourth quarter. Stafford completed 24 of 34 passes for 293 yards, three touchdowns (two in the air), and no interceptions. Tate produced several crucial third-down conversions on his way to eight receptions for 116 yards. When the dust settled, the Lions had silenced MetLife Stadium fans with a 24-17 victory over the mis-firing Jets.
A former Seahawk and All-American out of Notre Dame, Tate was passed by the Jets in free agency before being snapped up by the Lions. “He’s a quick guy and he has great hands. He’s effective down the field,” Stafford said of Tate. “We’re happy to have him.” Tate’s take on the day? “That was a really good, hard-fought football game on our part, but not perfect. I think in order to be a championship team we need to go into the film room excited to see what we did wrong so we can grow from here.” I can see them now – the Lions in their man cave, watching game footage, munching their favorite snacks (from a Lions Snack Helmet, perhaps?).
Next week the Buffalo Bills come to Motor City. The Bills are 2-2, tied for first in the AFC East. Oddsmakers have Detroit on top by a touchdown. Set your gameday clocks for Sunday, October 5th, 1:00 PM Eastern time. Let’s remember that lions can take down buffalos like a run in the park.
The 1957 Detroit Lions played their first season game on September 29th against the Baltimore Colts and their young but rising star quarterback, Johnny “The Golden Arm” Unitas. The Lions couldn’t have known it at the time, but their matchup with the Colts would enter the record books as the fourth installment of Unitas’ 47-game streak in which he threw at least one completed touchdown pass. On this beautiful fall day, Unitas rocketed four bullets for touchdowns – two to L.G. Dupre, and one each to Jim Mutscheller and Raymond Berry. Two Colt field goals added to the final score: Colts 34, Lions 14. The Lions took the early lead with a touchdown by Hopalong Cassady in the first quarter, but in the second the Colts surged ahead and never looked back. Unitas’ stats for the day: 14 of 23 passes completed for 241 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions (it would have been great if the Lions could have capitalized).
Unitas’ phenomenal string of games with touchdown passes began in 1956, his rookie year with the Colts. A little over four years, 697 passes, 10,645 yards, and 102 touchdowns later, his streak ended but his record stood until surpassed by the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees in 2012. After 18 years, spent almost entirely at Baltimore, Unitas retired having held virtually every career passing record in the NFL. Immensely popular and recognized as one of the game’s greatest players, Johnny led his team to three championships (including the following year, in 1958), and entered the Hall of Fame in 1979.
The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award was created in 1987 to recognize the nation’s outstanding college quarterback, for accomplishments both on and off the gridiron. The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation and the Transamerica Corporation are in the process of narrowing the field of candidates in advance of the award announcement on December 12th in Baltimore. As of October 2nd, 15 quarterbacks were still in contention, including Sean Mannion from my alma mater, Oregon State University!
Back in 1957, the Lions would be close to home for regular season game #2. A visit to Wisconsin and archrival Green Bay was up next. Would the Lions send the Packers packing?