Four downs: Lions' run game off to promising start

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
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First down: One of the biggest question marks entering the season was how effectively could the Lions run the ball after finishing last in the NFL last season? Well, it’s just one game but so far, so good.

The team combined for 116 yards on 24 carries, a healthy 4.8-yard-per-carry average. The Lions only had more yards on the ground twice last season, in wins over the Bears (155) and Saints (150).

Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick also combined for a big impact in the passing attack, catching 10 balls for 120 yards.

Additionally, all three active running backs scored. Riddick got in on the ground and through the air, Abdullah scored on an 11-yard reception and rookie Dwayne Washington scored on a goal-line carry.

If the Lions can continue to get this kind of production from the backs, the offense could be one of the NFL’s best.

Second down: Eric Ebron missed the entire exhibition season (ankle), but made significant contributions in his return to action against the Colts.

The third-year tight end caught five passes for 46 yards and had three critical receptions in the victory. The first, a diving 13-yard grab on a third-and-10 gave the Lions a fresh set of downs in the red zone and ultimately resulted in a touchdown.

Ebron would find the painted grass himself in the third quarter, impressively holding on to the short-pass over the middle while taking a big hit from a Colts defender.

For a man often criticized for his hands, both those grabs carried a high degree of difficult.

Ebron’s final catch came in the closing seconds of the game, a 9-yard reception that put the Lions into Colts territory. On the next play, the Lions made their way into Matt Prater’s range and the kicker was able to knock home the winner from 43 yards.

Third down: The Colts entered the contest missing three defensive backs due to injury. That group included starters Vontae Davis and Clayton Geathers. The team lost three more during the course of the game, leaving them precariously thin in the secondary in the second half.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford feasted on Indianapolis’ depth issues (31-for-39, 340 yards, three TDs, no INTs).

Fourth down: While he didn’t play a significant role in the victory, it appears the Lions have temporarily settled on veteran receiver Andre Roberts as the team’s return man.

The Colts kicked off seven times in the game, but Roberts brought just one of the end zone for a 22-yard return. On four punts, one bounced into the end zone and two went out of the bounds. Roberts fielded the last and attempted to bring it back to the middle of the field, but was dropped for a 1-yard loss.

The Lions have a number of options, including receiver Golden Tate, Ameer Abdullah and Dwayne Washington, but the sample size isn’t big enough to expect a change.

Entering Sunday’s game, Roberts averaged 7.1 yards on punt returns and 24.5 yards on kickoffs.

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