It's (very) early, but Detroit Lions' streak on offense has a ring of playoffs

It’s almost a Week 3 tradition for the Detroit Lions.

Somehow, over their first two games every season, they wind up doing something that sends us to the history books and delivers a lead-in such as, “For the first time since the Lions played at Tiger Stadium … “

Of course, seeing as how their 1-1 start is just their second .500-or-better record entering Week 3 in the past five seasons, it’s usually a negative.

But not this season. Instead, we can report that, for the first time since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970, the Lions have scored at least 35 points in each of their first two games. It’s not the rarest accomplishment — 21 teams have done it between Detroit doing it twice — but this is just the fourth time in franchise history for the Lions. (The others: 1962 and 1951.)

Sep 18, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA;  Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson (88) runs against Washington Commanders safety Darrick Forrest (22) during the second half at Ford Field.
Sep 18, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson (88) runs against Washington Commanders safety Darrick Forrest (22) during the second half at Ford Field.

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Not only that, but the 2022 Lions offense is riding high, at No. 2 in points per game (35.5), fifth in yards per game (405.5) and third in rushing yards per game (186). (The passing game, at 219.5 yards per game, is lagging, but, hey, it’s early.)

But what does having a dynamic — or at least competent — offense mean for the Lions’ chances this season? We went back a few seasons, to the start of the 2010 season; the Lions are the seventh NFL team since then with at least 35 points in each of their first two games. Of the other six, five won in Week 3 — look out, Minnesota! — and five won their division — look out, Green Bay! — and two made the Super Bowl — look out, um, actually, never mind on that one. Of course, the five Week 3 winners don’t overlap with the five division winners, thanks to Buffalo making its way onto the list.

But with that caveat, let’s break down how the previous six fared:

2011 Buffalo Bills: 6-10

The first two weeks: Hello, Fitz-magic! Former Rams and Bengals (and Harvard) QB Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 472 yards and seven touchdowns (and two interceptions) as the Bills went 1-1 against the AFC Worst … er, West squads in Kansas City and Oakland. Running back Fred Jackson topped 100 yards rushing in both games, too.

Game 3: The Bills just missed 35 again, beating the Patriots, 34-31 — but they needed a pick-six in the fourth quarter to get back in it. Fitzpatrick threw for 369 yards, but also two interceptions as the Bills fell into a 21-0 hole early and almost abandoned the run (79 yards).

The rest of the season: The run game returned, but the Fitz-magic dissipated quickly; he threw 21 more interceptions (against just 15 touchdowns) and took 21 sacks over the final 13 games as the Bills went 4-9 to miss the playoffs.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) during an NFL preseason football game against the New England Patriots Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) during an NFL preseason football game against the New England Patriots Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

2011 New England Patriots: 13-3

The first two weeks: This might have been the peak Patriots offense post-Randy Moss, as QB Tom Brady spread it around to Deion Branch, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker and others for 926 yards and seven TDs against the Dolphins and Chargers.

Game 3: Just 31 points against those 2011 Bills, but, again, Brady passed for 174 yards and three TDs in the Pats’ first four possessions .. and then threw four interceptions, including a pick-six, in the final 31:09 of action.

The rest of the season: Brady threw just seven more interceptions as the Pats averaged 31.5 points over their final 13, going 11-2 to win the AFC East. New England finished third in scoring, second in total yards, second in passing yards and 20th in rushing yards. The Patriots rolled to Super Bowl 46, where they lost to the Giants.

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2013 Denver Broncos: 13-3

The first two weeks: Omaha! Omaha! Oh-M-G, so much passing, as Peyton Manning, in his second season in Denver, opened up with 852 yards and nine touchdowns for 90 points in wins over the Ravens and Giants. Meanwhile, Knowshon Moreno led a RB-by-committee approach that picked up 65 and 107 yards on the ground, respectively.

Game 3: The Raiders certainly weren’t stopping Manning, who had nearly as many TD passes (three) as incompletions (five) while throwing 37 times for 374 yards. Oh, and the RB committee rushed 35 times for 164 yards in a 37-21 Broncos win that really wasn’t that close.

The rest of the season: The Broncos scored 35 or more in seven of their final 13 games (and never dropped below 20) while rolling to a 10-3 finish. The scoring slowed down slightly in the playoffs — just 50 points combined in two wins — before being shut down by the Seahawks in Super Bowl 48. Still, Denver finished the season No. 1 in total yards, passing yards and points, and 14th in rushing yards.

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes congratulates Rams QB Jared Goff, after the Rams won 54-51 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Nov. 19, 2018.
Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes congratulates Rams QB Jared Goff, after the Rams won 54-51 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Nov. 19, 2018.

2018 Kansas City Chiefs: 12-4

The first two weeks: Coach Andy Reid handed the keys to Patrick Mahomes III in his second season and, yeah, it worked. In career starts Nos. 2-3, Mahomes threw for 578 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions as K.C. barbecued the Chargers and Steelers for 38 and 42 points, respectively, on the road.

Game 3: The Mahomes train steamed right through the 49ers as K.C. built a 35-7 lead before halftime. Mahomes finished with 314 yards and three touchdown passes. The lone knocks might have been a mere 77 yards rushing and only three points for the Chiefs after halftime, but, hey, had to save something for the next 13 weeks.

The rest of the season: K.C.’s 35-point streak finally ended in Week 4, though Mahomes didn’t throw an interception until Week 5. By Week 6, however, things were back on track, as K.C. topped 35 points four times in six games. A 9-4 finish gave the Chiefs the AFC West title, and K.C. led the NFL in points and total yards while finishing third in passing yards and 16th in rushing yards.

2020 Green Bay Packers: 13-3

The first two weeks: Pull up Aaron Rodgers’ “Greatest Hits” album and press play — the Pack shredded the Vikings and Lions for 593 yards and six TDs passing and 417 yards rushing (including 168 yards from running back Aaron Jones in the Lions’ primetime visit to Lambeau Field) en route to 85 combined points.

Game 3: Volume 2 of the “Greatest Hits” — a shootout between Rodgers and Saints QB Drew Brees, with each passing for three touchdowns and nearly 290 yards. Rodgers came out on top, however, with 24 second-half points in a 37-30 victory.

The rest of the season: Head coach Matt LeFleur’s offense kept rolling with 3,242 passing yards, 39 touchdowns and just five interceptions while also picking up 1,603 yards on the round en route to a 10-3 finish and another NFC North title. The balanced Packers finished ninth in passing yards, eighth in rushing, fifth in total yards — and first in points, at 31.8 a game.

Seahawks' Russell Wilson (3) launches a pass against the Eagles Monday, Nov. 30, 2020 in Philadelphia. Seahawks won 23-17.
Seahawks' Russell Wilson (3) launches a pass against the Eagles Monday, Nov. 30, 2020 in Philadelphia. Seahawks won 23-17.

2020 Seattle Seahawks: 12-4

The first two weeks: Let Russ Cook? Why not, as QB Russell Wilson passed for nine touchdowns and one interception combined as the ’Hawks hung 73 points on the Falcons and Patriots in wins. (The defense was cooked, on the other hand, giving up 55 points combined.)

Game 3: Russ. Rinse. Repeat — Wilson finally broke the 300-yard mark, going 27-for-40 for 315 yards, five TDs and no interceptions. His main targets: Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf, who had 100 and 110 receiving yards, respectively, in Seattle’s back-and-forth 38-31 victory over the Cowboys in Seattle.

The rest of the season: The ’Hawks offense dipped slightly the rest of the way, topping 35 points just two more times while going 9-4. Still, the Seahawks finished just eighth in points, and a woeful 17th — three spots higher than the Lions — in total yards. They won the NFC West but were knocked out in the first round by the L.A. Rams — and replacement quarterback Jared Goff.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Lions' early streak on offense has a ring of playoffs