Detroit — Running back Reggie Bush’s 86-yard touchdown run in the Lions’ 13-12 exhibition win over the Jacksonville Jaguars Friday night at Ford Field should give the offense optimism for several reasons.
Matthew Stafford checked to the perfect option of the two runs to Bush. First-round pick Eric Ebron made a great block to help open the hole, later saying he did “my job.”
And Bush outran the Jaguars’ defensive backs, something he failed to do on a long run in the third exhibition game against the New England Patriots last year.
“It felt really good,” Bush said. “To be able to have a play like that early on in the game is rare, but nevertheless, we found that rhythm early with the offense and that was good to see.”
Lions coach Jim Caldwell was impressed, too, implying that the 29-year-old’s run elicited memories of his past.
“He still is who he is, right?” Caldwell said. “A guy with a lot of speed and burst and can still run away from some of the young fellas out there.”
The Lions finished with 178 rushing yards on 27 carries, a 6.6-yard average, which is a tremendous improvement over their 2-yard average last week in Oakland.
Apart from Bush’s run, the first team was lackluster. Stafford finished 10 of 16 for 98 yards and an interception on a long attempt to Calvin Johnson, but he did complete nine in a row after the pick.
After the game Stafford admitted he was looking for deep plays to Johnson early, but the Jaguars defense made an effort to keep everything in front.
In his 2014 exhibition debut, Johnson had two catches for 27 yards. Golden Tate added three catches for 36 yards.
“I think I could have been more patient early on and just kept us a little bit ahead of the chains,” Stafford said. “The offensive line did a great job of blocking, which was a positive.”
Keeping the Lions behind the chains, in part, were 15 penalties for 131 yards, something they’ll need to correct before the season begins in two weeks.
The only other productive drive by the starting offense took the Lions down to the Jacksonville 3, but Joique Bell was stopped for no gain on fourth down.
The Lions’ first-team defense, meanwhile, was excellent until Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles led a 2-minute field-goal drive at the end of the first half.
The starting defense allowed just 77 yards on the first four drives led by former Michigan quarterback Chad Henne. The Jaguars’ first field goal came after Stafford’s interception gave them the ball at the Detroit 24.
Jacksonville moved the ball much better in a 2-minute drive under Bortles, the No. 3 overall pick this year, leading to another field goal as the first half ended.
The Lions had six sacks, by far their best effort up front in the preseason, and linebacker Tahir Whitehead led the team with three.
Whitehead played well starting on the strong side for Ashlee Palmer and finished with 10 tackles, though he played well into the second half. Palmer added a sack in the second half.
Defensive ends George Johnson and Devin Taylor each had a sack as the Lions used constant pressure to hit Jaguars quarterback six times in the first half. Taylor also had a near interception on a play on which he faked a rush then dropped into coverage.
Defensive tackle Nick Fairley had just one tackle, but created pressure a couple times after coming off the bench. Starter C.J. Mosley also had one tackle.
Defensive end Ziggy Ansah made his debut, though Taylor started in his place. Ansah had one especially nice rush on which he leapt over the left tackle, who tried to block low, but a quick pass by Henne negated the pressure.
The Lions didn’t get much clarity in some of the tight roster battles. Running back Mikel Leshoure had a 30-yard run, but lost a fumble on the following play at the Jacksonville 9. Fellow running back George Winn had a 1-yard touchdown, but also lost a fumble.
At wide receiver, Ryan Broyles continued to impress with the second-team offense and finished with three catches for 44 yards. Kevin Ogletree and Kris Durham were held without a reception, though Ogletree sealed the outside on Bush's long run. Corey Fuller had just a 6-yard reception.
Cornerback Chris Greenwood gave up a 13-yard touchdown in the third quarter to Jaguars receiver Allen Hurns, who torched the Lions for 113 yards on seven catches. Jonte Green, though, added an interception late in the fourth quarter.
In the kicker competition, Nate Freese made an extra point, and Giorgio Tavecchio missed a 51-yard field goal near the end of regulation.
Quarterback Dan Orlovsky was solid, going 9 of 11 for 74 yards after entering in the third quarter. Third-stringer Kellen Moore came in late in the fourth and completed both of his passes for 18 yards.
Fullback Montell Owens suffered a head injury on a first-quarter kickoff. He left the field to be evaluated and did not return.
… Safety Don Carey suffered a hamstring injury late in the second quarter and didn’t return.