Lions 'D' Rallies For Stafford With Final Stop: "We Try To Take The Pressure Off 9"

For once, their roles were reversed.

Will Burchfield
November 18, 2018 - 7:51 pm

© Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

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Time and time again over the last few years, Matthew Stafford has bailed out the Lions defense late in the fourth quarter. On Sunday the defense returned the favor. 

Faced with a do-or-die two-point conversion attempt with 1:14 left in the game, the Lions denied Cam Newton and the Panthers to nail down a 20-19 win. With Stafford throwing to a cobbled-together group of receivers and Kerryon Johnson done for the day with an injury, it was as good a time as any for the defense to step up. 

"We try to take as much pressure as we can off 9 because he already got a lot on him already, being the quarterback. That’s one of the toughest positions to play, so we’re trying to make his job easier," said Darius Slay. "We wanted all the pressure on the defense." 

Were the Lions surprised when Carolina kept its offense on the field after pulling within one? Nope, not at all. The Panthers are a confident team led by a confident QB, said Slay. Their kicker was having a rough day, said Glover Quin. 

"I’m never surprised by anything in an NFL football game, to be honest with you," said Matt Patricia. 

If anything, the defense was eager for the challenge. Just consider Slay's mindset when the Panthers came to the line: "Aww, they ain’t getting this sh*t," he said. "Plain and simple. We ready." 

And then they came through. Newton may have bailed Detroit out by overthrowing an open Jarius Wright in the end zone, but the secondary deserves credit for locking down his favorite targets, from Christian McCaffrey to Greg Olsen to Devin Funchess. It was a solid five seconds before Newton finally thew the ball. 

For the defense, it felt even longer. 

"We were like, man, he's (trying to) scramble or do something to extend the play," said Slay. "But in the back end we covered well, took away his go-to guys and did our job." 

In doing so, they took the burden off Stafford. There would be no need for a game-winning drive on this afternoon, just two kneel-downs behind a victory formation. With Detroit's offense thinned out by injuries and the departure of Golden Tate, this is how it will have to be moving forward.

It's a complimentary game, said linebacker Jarrad Davis. 

"We gotta put the offense in the best position, special teams in the best field position. Defense, we gotta hold them back there so we can give the (offense) a short field. Offense goes out and makes the plays, so we’re just out there working as hard as we can to help everyone out," Davis said. 

As much as he loves bringing his team back from the dead, Stafford was just fine with how things ended on Sunday.  

"They want to go out and steal one on the road, go for it. Obviously our defense made a great play there at the end," he said. "They were rolling a little bit there in the second half on a couple drives, I bet they felt confident. But I was confident in our guys, and I’m glad we made the play."