Lions' Roberts atones for fumble with timely TD return

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Andre Roberts returns a punt 55 yards for a touchdown in the first half.

Detroit — Seemingly nothing was going right for the Detroit Lions early against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Coming off a bye, the offense got off to a woeful start and Andre Roberts only made matters worse by muffing a punt deep in Lions’ territory.

Ben Koyack recovered the loose ball at the Lions’ 11-yard line for the Jaguars’ first takeaway in six games, which led to a 27-yard field goal by Jason Myers late in the first quarter.

But Roberts made amends when he got another chance two possessions later. With the Jaguars punting out of their own end zone, Roberts fielded the ball near midfield and sidestepped a pair of defenders before hitting full speed and reversing field.

He drew a key block by safety Don Carey at the 15-yard line to clear path to the end zone en route to a 55-yard touchdown, providing a much-needed jolt in the Lions’ 26-19 win Sunday at Ford Field.

“It was a middle return and there were a couple guys coming down,” Roberts said. “It was pretty good hang time, but once again our guys did a great job blocking and we know that we’re going to have limited opportunities, but we make the most of it.

“I just try to kind of fake those guys to the right, take it to the left and once I saw the open field, try to run as fast as I could.”

Roberts said he thought about calling for a fair catch and appeared to signal for one by moving his left arm.

However, Roberts said he’s “100 percent sure” he didn’t call for one, opting to give it a chance.

The result was his second punt return touchdown of the season, making him the fourth Lion to accomplish the feat along with Jack Christiansen (1951, 1952), Tom Watkins (1964) and Eddie Drummond (2004). Roberts’ first came in a Week 4 loss at Chicago when he scored on an 85-yard return in the final two minutes of the game.

“You love to see a guy bounce back that way,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s shown the ability to do that on a number of occasions. He doesn’t shy away.

Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Stafford clutch, line crumbles

“Some guys will wilt in that situation and continue to make mistakes and compound them one after another, but Andre is able to get over it quickly and then do something big for you later on.”

Roberts added a 44-yard reception late in the third quarter and threw a key block that helped tight end Eric Ebron break loose for a 61-yard reception that led to Ebron’s go-ahead 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth.

“I’m happy for Andre. He really stepped up huge,” Ebron said. “We all make mistakes. We’re all human and he knew what he did. He pretty much told us, ‘You know I got y’all.’ He put the team on his back on that punt return and made a heck of a play.”