Considering neither Calvin Johnson nor Golden Tate has a 100-yard receiving game yet, it’d be hard for anyone to complain about having a limited role in the Lions offense.
Yet, based on what the Broncos saw of rookie running back Ameer Abdullah, they were glad he wasn’t a bigger part of the offense in Denver’s 24-12 win at Ford Field Sunday night.
“I think Ameer Abdullah is a super bright spot over there next to Megatron and Golden Tate and (Eric) Ebron,” Denver linebacker Von Miller said. “Those guys are loaded. I really think they’re going to get it going. They’ve got all the talent over there.”
Through three games, the Lions haven’t been able to find consistency on offense. Abdullah has looked like a dynamic playmaker at times, but on Sunday, but he had just 10 touches in the game (eight carries for 23 yards, two catches for 19 yards). Among those plays was a 16-yard touchdown on an angle route over the middle of the field.
“I knew he was great, but he's even better in person playing against him,” Miller said of Abdullah.
Despite all the talent, the Lions’ offense had just 225 yards before a desperate final drive, though Miller did praise quarterback Matthew Stafford for getting the ball out quick.
“They’ve got everything over there, and I really think that the sky’s the limit for those guys,” he said.
LaAdrian Waddle made his debut at right tackle, but he had to wait a couple series as Cornelius Lucas remained the starter.
“We had designated that early on that we were going to do it just that way,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “We had thought about it and put that in place prior to give Waddle a chance to get in there and get his feet wet. Obviously, he’s coming back from a pretty extensive injury, but he’s making progress.”
Waddle had a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee surgically repaired in January. In the end, Waddle played 68 snaps to 12 for Lucas, and couple of Lucas’ were as a sixth offensive lineman. The Lions had some other shuffling up front after right guard Larry Warford went out with a right ankle injury, but Stafford said he tries not to pay attention to the lineup changes.
Unfortunately for the Lions, Waddle was not much of an improvement over Lucas as the Broncos still had nine quarterback hits.
“I really didn’t notice it until a few plays after,” Miller said of the Lions’ change at right tackle.
The Lions are 0-for-2 on 2-point conversion attempts, and both plays were handoffs to running back Joique Bell out of the shotgun.
After Sunday’s game, Stafford said the failed attempt against the Broncos was originally a pass play.
“I checked into it,” he said. “It was a good play by their defense. They were going to have a coverage that was really tough for us on the first play and when I checked it, they checked.”
Despite recognizing that it was a tough play to run, Stafford said he didn’t want to use a time out. At that point, the Lions trailed 14-12 with 10:51 left in the third quarter.
The officials surely won’t be receiving high marks for their performance Sunday.
In addition to some questionable penalties on both teams, the referees reversed four different calls after review, including two successful challenged by Lions coach Jim Caldwell.
Among the two plays changed after review were two that were handled differently and potentially devastating to the Lions. On a second quarter run, Abdullah was down after 6 yards, but the officials let play continue as the ball came out even though he was down.
In the third quarter, Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas fumbled a ball after reaching for the first down, but one official ruled the play dead and prevented Lions cornerback Quandre Diggs’ fumble return for a touchdown from counting, even though it was a fumble.
Caldwell, though, wouldn’t complain about a play that gave the Lions the ball at the Denver 29 and later scored.
“It is what it is,” he said. “We got the ball. We had an opportunity to score, and I’m not going to make a big deal out of those kinds of things. That’s a kind of loser’s approach to the thing.”
One call with which Caldwell did take issue was the fumble by Stafford in which he thought the quarterback’s arm was going forward before the ball came loose.
“They didn’t think it did, evidently,” Caldwell said of the referees. “Pretty obvious to me.”