Matthew Stafford was at his best when improvising — and that alone may be a sign of improvement.
Stafford threw two early touchdown passes to Calvin Johnson, and Detroit beat the New York Giants, 35-14, Monday night in Jim Caldwell’s first game as Lions coach. It was a bright start for the Lions and their quarterback after the team collapsed down the stretch in 2013 — in part because of Stafford’s turnovers.
“I don’t work on my moves a lot during practice, but I know I have to be better with my feet this year so that we can keep plays alive,” Stafford said. “On both of the touchdown passes to Calvin, the offensive line got me a lot of time, and he was able to uncover himself and find somewhere open.”
The Lions intercepted two Eli Manning passes in their first Monday night opener since 1971. Stafford went 22 for 32 for 346 yards, and Johnson had seven catches for 164 yards.
Manning was 18 for 33 for 163 yards and a touchdown for the Giants, who started 0-6 last season and never led in their 2014 opener.
“No excuses. We played very poorly,” Coach Tom Coughlin said. “We don’t have a lot to be proud of here. Couldn’t move the ball, couldn’t stop them, turned the ball over, got into that business again. Got a punt blocked, so you name it. A nightmare performance.”
Stafford scrambled to his right and threw deep to Johnson on the game’s first drive, and defensive backs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Stevie Brown appeared to collide. No other Giant was anywhere near Detroit’s star receiver, who jogged into the end zone for a 67-yard touchdown.
Later in the first, Stafford scrambled left and threw back to his right. Johnson’s diving catch in the back of the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown made it 14-0.