Lions snap count: Bullish turn in run game bears fruit

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Lions' running back Joique Bell rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown Sunday despite being benched in the first quarter for violating team rules.

Even though the Bears had the second-worst pass defense in the NFL, the Lions wanted to establish the run at Soldier Field Sunday. And in a 20-16 win, the Lions had their best rushing performance of the year with 138 yards on the ground.

While running backs Joique Bell (13 carries, 74 yards, 1 TD) and Reggie Bush (7 carries, 54 yards, 1 TD) had strong individual performances, the offensive snap counts from Sunday's game revealed the used run-heavy packages to help a unit that's struggled most of the year.

Tight end Brandon Pettigrew played 44 of 72 snaps (61 percent) and Kellen Davis played 14 snaps (19 percent). Fullback Jed Collins played 21 snaps (29 percent) as the Lions went with a power rushing attack for much of the game.

Pettigrew, Davis and Collins are all better blockers than receivers, and Collins' one target was the only one the trio had in the game.

Rookie tight end Eric Ebron continued to show improvement as a blocker, but the Lions' best receiving tight end was limited to 35 snaps (49 percent) and didn't have a target.

Other notable snap counts:

Running back: Joique Bell 38, Reggie Bush 23, Theo Riddick 10, George Winn 2

Analysis: Bush was the primary option in the first quarter with Bell being punished for violating team rules, but once Bell's suspension ended, the Lions made him the workhorse once again. Many of Riddick's snaps came on the opening drive and the final drive of the second quarter, so even though he had 10 snaps, he's still a distant third on the depth chart.

Wide receiver: Calvin Johnson 63, Golden Tate 62, Jeremy Ross 31, Corey Fuller 17.

Analysis: The run-heavy packages led to limited playing time for Ross, but the bigger issue was with Johnson and Tate. As they have all year, Lions coaches give their two best weapons an inordinate amount of rest. Johnson missed two plays after coming off hobbled, but that doesn't explain the other seven. Tate is healthy, so there's no reason for him to be held out of 10 plays.

Nickel cornerback: Don Carey 30 (of 64), Cassius Vaughn 22.

Analysis: The 30 snaps were a season-high for Carey, and it likely had to do with the Bears' size at receiver. However, Isa Abdul-Quddus has typically been the big nickel, so it's unclear exactly why Carey got the call Sunday.

Middle linebacker: Josh Bynes 34, Tahir Whitehead 30

Analysis: For the first time this year, Bynes played more snaps than Whitehead. Whitehead struggled in coverage Sunday, so the Lions likely just played the hot hand as Bynes played well, particularly against the run.

Other notes

■ Second-round linebacker Kyle Van Noy played just five snaps on defense.

■ Cornerback Josh Thomas, who was claimed off waivers last week, had six special teams plays but no defensive snaps in his debut.