Lions say they trust Abdullah but went to Bell late

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Lions running back Ameer Abdullah tries to outrun Packers strong safety Morgan Burnett in the first quarter Thursday night.

Allen Park — Ameer Abdullah's 67 rushing yards in last Thursday's loss to the Packers were a season high for any Lions running back.

But, when the Lions tried to seal the game late in the fourth quarter, the coaches chose to hand the ball to Joique Bell instead of the rookie.

The veteran Bell struggled with the opportunities, as he has for much of this season, failing to gain a yard on any of his four carries on the Lions' final offensive drive before the Packers won on a Hail Mary.

Coach Jim Caldwell said the decision to use Bell had nothing to do with a lack of trust in Abdullah.

"We change it up," he said. "We have three guys that we think can function very well running the ball.

"Joique can be a closer, Joique can start a game, Joique can do a number of different things. Ameer has that kind of balance as well, so we think with any of the three that we have in a ballgame, they're capable."

Lions grow weary of Hail Mary queries

Abdullah has four fumbles this year, including offense and special teams. His ball security issues led to a diminished role for a couple games, but the second-round pick led the Lions in rushes the past three games.

The third back Caldwell meant was Theo Riddick, and as much as Riddick has thrived as a receiver, his career high for rushes in a game is seven.

The Lions' rushing attack has been horrendous this season, but with some improvement the past few games, the team now ranks 31st overall instead of 32nd, as it had most of the season.

Abdullah has been better in yards per carry each of the past three games. He had 12 carries for 44 yards against the Raiders in Week 11, 16 for 63 yards against the Eagles in Week 12 and 13 for 67 against the Packers in Week 13.

Bell, meanwhile, is averaging just 2.6 yards per carry this season compared to Abdullah's 3.8. Against Green Bay last Thursday, Bell finished with just 5 yards on eight carries.

Abdullah's performance against the Packers included a 36-yard run, the Lions' longest of the season.

"He's getting better," Caldwell said of Abdullah. "He's maturing."