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Free Head Exam: Detroit Lions

After the Detroit Lions' 48-3 victory Sunday over the Kansas City Chiefs, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. I have a feeling that the NFL world has caught Lions Fever, and nothing is more responsible than the sparkling start of quarterback Matthew Stafford. He's thrown seven touchdown passes in his first two games, the first Lions quarterback to do that since Milt Plum in 1962. But here's my favorite Stafford statistic for this week: Sunday was his third four-touchdown game in a career that has spanned 15 starts. The only other NFL quarterback to throw at least four touchdowns in four of his first 15 NFL games was Fran Tarkenton. I realize it took Stafford three years to get to start No. 15. But remember, Stafford was drafted as an underclassman. He's 23 and, through two weeks at least, we can say he is one of the NFL's top quarterbacks in 2011.

  2. Rookie Titus Young's 43-yard catch was one of the best all-around passing plays we've seen this season. I obviously wasn't watching the game live, so when I saw in the final gamebook that Young had a 43-yard catch on third-and-24, I assumed he had turned some kind of safe pass into a long gainer. How many offenses actually try to convert a third-and-24 from their own 28-yard line? So the aggressiveness was the first thing I liked. The second was how Stafford gunned the ball on a line about 50 yards in the air. The third was the ball skills Young displayed while leaping to make the grab and, with defenders surrounding him, holding on to it between his legs as he fell to the ground. Finally, I think it's worth noting that Stafford, from 50 yards away, saw the ball drop between Young's legs and hustled the team to the line of scrimmage to avoid a potential challenge.

  3. Here's a development interesting at least to me: The Lions have started 2-0 without returning a single kickoff this season. All five deep kickoffs have gone for touchbacks in the first two weeks. I view that as more of a statistical oddity than anything else, but it bodes well for the Lions. Returner Stefan Logan is a legitimate weapon and will get a few chances some point this season. And consider it this way: The Lions have scored 75 points this season despite opening every post-kickoff possession at their 20-yard line. What could they do if they start a few more possessions around the 35- or 40-yard line?

And here is one issue I still don't get:

I wonder if we'll find that in 2011, a team doesn't need a big running game to win as long as it has explosion in its passing attack. Jahvid Best gained 57 yards on 16 carries Sunday and is averaging 3.5 yards per carry this season. None of his runs have gone longer than 12 yards. The Lions gave newcomer Keiland Williams an extended look Sunday in mop-up duty, and it's possible he could provide a different look behind Best. Mikel Leshoure's training camp injury almost certainly will limit the running game's effectiveness this season. But will it matter?