Through Their Fingers

Mathews’ fum­ble, Prater’s kick, Slay’s pick lift Lions over Ea­gles

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Larry Lage

DETROIT >> Matthew Stafford picked apart one of the NFL’s best de­fenses for a while, throw­ing for a touch­down on each of the Detroit Lions’ first three pos­ses­sions.

The Philadel­phia Ea­gles an­swered, shut­ting him down for al­most two quar­ters. Al­most. Stafford lofted a per­fect pass to Golden Tate to set up Matt Prater’s 29-yard kick with 1:28 left, send­ing Detroit to a 24-23 win over Car­son Wentz and Philadel­phia on Sun­day.

“It was per­haps one of the bet­ter an­tic­i­pa­tory passes that you’ll see,” Lions coach Jim Cald­well said.

Detroit’s de­fense, though, still had to do its job to seal the much­needed vic­tory.

Philadel­phia (3-1) had the ball at its 25 with 1:28 re­main­ing and no time­outs left.

Wentz, who did not turn the ball over in his first three games, at­tempted a long pass to Nelson Agholor on first down and Dar­ius Slay made an over-the-shoul­der in­ter­cep­tion at the Detroit 23.

Even though Wentz’s last pass looked like a des­per­a­tion heave usu­ally re­served for fourth down or the fi­nal sec­onds of a game, Ea­gles coach Doug Ped­er­son didn’t mind his de­ci­sion to go deep.

“It’s not nec­es­sar­ily de­signed for that, but the op­por­tu­nity was there,” Ped­er­son said.

Wentz, the No. 2 pick over­all in the draft, was 25 of 33 for 238 yards with a pair of 1-yard TD passes to Ryan Mathews and Josh Huff.

“I didn’t buy the hype be­fore today, but he’s is the real deal,” Slay said. “He doesn’t play like a rookie.”

The Lions (2-3) had lost three

straight.

“It’s a big one,” Stafford said. “But at the same time, we’ve got to stack these.”

The Ea­gles turned the ball over for the first time this sea­son with 2:34 re­main­ing when Mathews fum­bled on a hit by Slay near mid­field.

“This one hurts,” Mathews said.

Stafford put Prater in place to make his field goal by con­vert­ing a third-and-4 from the Ea­gles 39 by con­nect­ing on a 27-yard pass to Tate, who was go­ing right to left on a cross­ing route and drew an un­nec­es­sary rough­ness penalty on Mal­colm Jenk­ins.

“I needed that,” Tate said. “This team needed that.”

BOUNC­ING BACK

Tate, who was held to only one catch in last week’s loss at Chicago, had three re­cep­tions for 39 yards. The vet­eran re­ceiver also helped out Detroit’s de­pleted back­field by lin­ing up as a run­ning back for three car­ries that gained 6 yards and serv­ing as de­coy to help set up Stafford’s 17-yard TD pass to Theo Rid­dick.

“Hope­fully I earned some more reps back there,” Tate said. “Had some flash­backs to high school.”

FLAG DAY

Philadel­phia hurt its chances of stay­ing un­de­feated with 14 penal­ties for 111 yards, nearly dou­bling the num­ber of flags they drew on av­er­age over the first three games.

“It’s tough to over­come,” Ped­er­son ac­knowl­edged.

STRONG START

The Lions scored on all three of their drives in the first half, build­ing a 21-7 lead late in the se­cond quar­ter. Stafford threw two TD passes to Rid­dick in the first quar­ter and another to Marvin Jones in the se­cond. Through three games, the Ea­gles hadn’t given up a pass­ing TD, a point in the first quar­ter or al­lowed of­fenses to com­bine to score three TDs.

Ea­gles de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jim Schwartz , who led the Lions from 2009 to 2013, seemed to make some ad­just­ments that worked un­til Stafford made his clutch pass to Tate.

CLOSE CALL

Stafford had his hel­met ripped off by de­fen­sive tackle Fletcher Fox in the se­cond quar­ter on a third down, ex­tend­ing a drive that led to a TD in­stead of a field goal at­tempt.

“It’s never a good feel­ing to not have the old hel­met on,” said Stafford, who re­called a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion at Ge­or­gia lead­ing to a big bruise on his fore­head.

MAK­ING A PLAY

Stafford had an un­forced fum­ble early in the se­cond half that was re­cov­ered by Nigel Brad­ham, who was ar­rested last Sun­day on a mis­de­meanor con­cealed weapons charge. Brad­ham didn’t play much in the first half, but Ped­er­son in­sisted that wasn’t part of team-is­sued dis­ci­pline.

IN­JURIES

Ea­gles CB Leodis McKelvin re­turned af­ter miss­ing the last two games with a ham­string in­jury, ag­gra­vated it, but was cleared to re­turn in the fourth quar­ter . ... Lions DT Haloti Ngata left the game with a shoul­der in­jury.

RICK OSENTOSKI — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Detroit Lions cor­ner­back Dar­ius Slay (23) hits Philadel­phia Ea­gles run­ning back Ryan Mathews and forces a fum­ble dur­ing the se­cond half of an NFL foot­ball game, Sun­day in Detroit.

PAUL SANCYA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Detroit Lions cor­ner­back Dar­ius Slay (23) in­ter­cepts a pass in­tended for Philadel­phia Ea­gles wide re­ceiver Nelson Agholor (17) in the fourth quar­ter of an NFL foot­ball game, Sun­day in Detroit. Detroit de­feated Philadel­phia 24-23.

The as­so­ci­ated press

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