DETROIT -- Matthew Stafford cut out the mistakes and even showed some nifty moves. The Detroit Lions quarterback did just about everything right in the season opener, while his New York Giants counterpart, Eli Manning, still needs to clean up his mistakes.
Stafford connected with wide receiver Calvin Johnson on two first-quarter touchdown passes, including a 67-yarder, and the Lions handed new head coach Jim Caldwell a 35-14 victory in his debut Monday night at Ford Field.
Stafford completed 22 of 32 passes for 346 yards and was not intercepted. He also ran for a touchdown. Johnson caught seven passes for 164 yards.
Last year, Stafford threw 19 interceptions and lost four fumbles as the Lions' season fell apart. However, he looked sharp Monday in offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's scheme.
"Just trying to be as smart as possible," he said. "Our defense was playing outstanding, getting the ball back for us and stopping New York. We were still aggressive, no question, and we hit some big plays down the field, but we played smart tonight. With the way our defense was playing, that was going to be a recipe for success."
Manning completed 18 of 33 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted twice. Detroit scored 10 points off those turnovers in the third quarter to take a 20-point lead.
Manning, who threw a league-high 27 interceptions last season, is trying to get comfortable in new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's West Coast offense.
"There's no reason for the turnovers," Manning said. "That's not part of the offense. There's no reason to have those two. Besides that, there were a couple of other opportunities to make some plays, and we just didn't make them."
The Lions committed eight first-half penalties but had none in the second half. That was a big reason why they outscored the Giants 21-7 after the break.
"The defense was stingy all night long," Caldwell said. "The issues we had in the first half most of the time were self-inflicted. Once we got that straightened out, you could see the line did a nice job in terms of stopping the run and forcing them to pass more than they'd like to. The guys did a nice job of holding them to a minimum, and then we got turnovers."
Manning was intercepted by linebacker DeAndre Levy on New York's first possession of the second half. The Lions settled for kicker Nate Freese's 28-yard field goal and a 17-7 lead.
Freese's second field goal of the third, a 27-yarder, made it 20-7.
Manning turned it over again when safety Glover Quin stepped in front of wide receiver Victor Cruz and returned the interception to the New York 19. The Lions cashed in on Stafford's third-and-goal scramble from the 5.
"Some of those plays are just natural instinct," Stafford said. "They just kind of happen."
Giants running back Rashad Jennings' 1-yard touchdown plunge cut Detroit's lead to 27-14 with 11:53 remaining. The 14-play, 80-yard drive was the Giants' highlight in an otherwise drab outing.
"Our communication in the no-huddle was good," Manning said. "We had good pace and had some long drives with that, so there's definitely something to build off that. We've got to keep going, keep working and fine-tune some areas."
The Lions iced the game with a methodical 12-play, 80-yard drive that consumed seven minutes, 14 seconds. Running back Joique Bell scored from 3 yards out, and the Lions added a two-point conversion on a Stafford pass to tight end Joseph Fauria.
Stafford and Johnson both used their feet on their early 67-yard scoring pass. Stafford scrambled to his right to avoid the pass rush and launched the ball downfield to a wide-open Johnson, who used an out-and-in cut to shake cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. As Rodgers-Cromartie collided with safety Stevie Brown, Johnson gathered in the pass at the 30-yard line and then coasted into the end zone.
"Through the years, a number of reps, you do establish a strong rapport," Caldwell said of the Stafford-Johnson combo. "They do have great synergy."
Johnson slipped behind safety Antrel Rolle for his second touchdown of the first quarter, a 16-yard diving catch.
A roughing-the-punter penalty helped the Giants pull within 14-7. After that call, New York got another break on a pass-interference call against cornerback Darius Slay in the end zone. The Giants needed all four downs from the 1 before they finally scored on Manning's pass to tight end Larry Donnell.