Rams play Lions tough but fall 27-23 in opener

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 09, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 25: Head Coach Jeff Fisher of the Tennessee Titans looks on as the Titans trail the San Diego Chargers on December 25, 2009 at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rex Brown/Getty Images)
Jeff Fisher hoped his St. Louis Rams could hold Detroit's powerful offense to field goals. They did a pretty good job of that - until the final quarter. Matthew Stafford threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Smith with 10 seconds left, lifting the Lions to a 27-23 victory over the Rams on Sunday. St. Louis intercepted Stafford three times in the first half - returning one for a touchdown - and took the lead on a late field goal, but there was still too much time left for Detroit. The Lions went 80 yards in 1:45 to win it. ''We gave ourselves a chance to stay in the game and win it at the end,'' said Fisher, back in coaching after a one-year hiatus following his departure from the Tennessee Titans. ''I think we got better as a team today.'' Sam Bradford directed a go-ahead drive that set up Greg Zuerlein's 46-yard field goal and put the Rams ahead 23-20 with 1:55 left, but they could not stop Stafford at the end after slowing him down for much of the game. St. Louis was also short-handed late in the fourth. Offensive tackle Rodger Saffold was carted off with a scary-looking neck injury. He was taken for a CT scan, and the news afterward was encouraging. ''What I can report to you is that he was conscious, he was alert. He had strength in the arms and legs,'' Fisher said. ''This is more of a precautionary deal.'' Rams center Scott Wells, who signed a four-year, $24 million contract with them after eight seasons with Green Bay, was also injured. The Pro Bowler appeared to have his left foot taped while he stood on the sideline during the second half. Saffold was hurt on the same play Bradford threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Gibson with 9:45 remaining. That gave the Rams a 20-13 lead, but Detroit needed only five plays to go 80 yards and tie it on a 5-yard scoring run by Smith. Bradford finished 17 of 25 for 198 yards, and St. Louis nearly pulled off an impressive upset after going 2-14 a season ago. The first St. Louis interception was by Janoris Jenkins at the goal line, and he returned it 34 yards. Jo-Lonn Dunbar picked off a pass in the second quarter and took it 42 yards to the Detroit 44. Then Cortland Finnegan returned his interception 31 yards for a touchdown to give the Rams a 13-7 lead. It was 13-10 at halftime. ''We did a ton of film study on Stafford, and we knew what he likes to do,'' Finnegan said. ''Our coaches gave us a great game plan, and we were able to take advantage of that in the first half. In the second half, they made some adjustments and they made plays. That's a great offense over there with some big-time players, and they did their jobs. We just needed to make one more play.'' On the final Detroit touchdown, Stafford faked a handoff to Smith, who slipped into the flat and was alone for an easy scoring catch. ''Give the Lions credit - they made the big plays they needed at the end of the game,'' Finnegan said. ''We did some really good things, but we've got to learn how to finish. That will come.'' A pushing and shoving incident was broken up at the end of the game by replacement officials, which included line judge Shannon Eastin - who became the first woman to officiate an NFL regular-season game. Stafford finished 32 of 48 for 355 yards. Detroit's All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson caught six passes for 111 yards, including an 18-yard grab just before Smith's winning touchdown. ''I'm glad Matt stuck with me,'' Smith said. ''I kind of got lost in the shuffle, but he told me before that the ball's coming to me so it felt good.'' The Rams were determined to use a conservative game plan by running Steven Jackson a lot, but he gained just 53 yards on 21 carries, and they couldn't take enough time off the clock on their next-to-last drive to prevent Stafford from getting the ball back. Bradford was hit by defensive end Cliff Avril on the game's last play, and some pushing and shoving at the end didn't get out of hand in part because the officials quickly separated the players. NOTES: Replacement official Paul Caldera left the game in the third quarter with an apparent leg injury. He was replaced by alternate Curtis Adams - a replacement for the replacement. ... Lions coach Jim Schwartz was once on Fisher's staff at Tennessee. ... St. Louis WR Danny Amendola had five catches for 70 yards. --- Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL --- Follow Noah Trister on Twitter: http://twitter.com/noahtrister
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Top 10 takeaways from Super Bowl 50

Was firing Jeff Hornacek the wrong move for the Suns?

Panthers picked wrong day to play worst game of the season

Was Peyton Manning paid for Budweiser mentions?

Cam Newton walks out of postgame press conference

Eli did not look thrilled after Peyton locked up Super Bowl

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Rick Reilly sends awkward tweet during Super Bowl 50

Peyton Manning gives Papa John a kiss after game

Panthers' Josh Norman crying after losing Super Bowl

Peyton Manning ‘going to drink a lot of Budweiser’ after win

Where Peyton Manning ranks among Super Bowl era QBs

Peyton Manning declines to comment on possible retirement

Winners and losers from Super Bowl 50

The best and worst commercials from Super Bowl 50

Aqib Talib wipes out on NFL Network

Six best plays from Super Bowl 50

Five biggest boneheaded plays of Super Bowl 50

WATCH: Cam Newton gives questionable effort to recover fumble

Lions say Calvin Johnson's future still not determined

How Louisville basketball bungled their self-imposed ban

Ted Ginn Jr. whiffs on football twice on one play, results in Panthers turnover

Kony Ealy makes one-handed interception of Peyton Manning

Mike Carey gets another call wrong on incomplete pass in SB

Steph Curry beats Panthers' "Keep Pounding" drum

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The best and worst commercials from Super Bowl 50

Best and worst from Super Bowl 50

Six best plays from Super Bowl 50

Eli doesn't look thrilled as Peyton wins Super Bowl

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

Curry to serve as drummer for Panthers

Report: Marshawn Lynch plans to retire

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Five outrageous predictions for Super Bowl 50

QUIZ: Name the winning starting quarterback from every Super Bowl

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker