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Backup QBs front and center as Lions bow to Colts in preseason finale

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Detroit — In a battle of backups, the Indianapolis Colts rallied past the Detroit Lions in the third and final preseason game for both teams Friday night at Ford Field, 27-17. 

The Lions jumped out to a 14-6 lead late in the first half, before conceding a field goal ahead of the break. The Lions extended their advantage back to eight points early in the third quarter with a short field goal, taking advantage of an interception by cornerback Corn Elder, before the Colts executed their comeback. 

Detroit Lions running back Jermar Jefferson rushes during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

The rally started with a 19-play, 92-yard touchdown drive that saw Indianapolis run the ball 14 times, including a trio of quarterback scrambles by Brent Huntley. He capped the series with a 3-yard touchdown pass to running back Deon Jackson. A successful 2-point conversion run by Jackson tied the game 17 early in the fourth quarter.

The Lions finished the preseason 0-3. They were also winless in 2019.

The Colts took the lead after linebacker Curtis Bolden intercepted Lions quarterback David Blough, setting up a 42-yard, go-ahead field goal Rodrigo Blankenship. 

Jackson, an undrafted rookie out of Duke, drove the final nail in Detroit's coffin, running through a tackle attempt by safety Jalen Elliot on his way to a 42-yard touchdown with 1:50 remaining. 

Here are some additional observations from the game: 

►Detroit's offense moved the ball well in the first half with both Tim Boyle and Blough leading touchdown drives. 

On Detroit's second possession, Boyle drove the offense 70 yards on 14 plays. The presumptive frontrunner to back up starter Jared Goff completed six of his seven throws during the series, including a perfect 4-4 on third down. 

Facing third-and-2 in the red zone, Boyle connected with receiver Quintez Cephus on a slant for a 15-yard score. 

Boyle exited the contest after the series and the broadcast showed him wearing a brace on his throwing hand/wrist. Sideline reporter T.J. Lang noted Boyle suffered a cut and the training staff was struggling to stop the bleeding. 

A holding penalty committed by Cephus killed Blough's first drive, but the QB responded with a 14-play touchdown drive of his own on his next series. Blough scrambled for a first down in the red zone, breaking a tackle to set up first-and-goal at the 5-yard line. Four plays later, running back Godwin Igwebuike punched it in. 

► The only offensive starter to see playing time for the Lions was first-round draft pick Penei Sewell. The right tackle got off to a rough start when both he and left tackle Tyrell Crosby got beat, resulting in a sack and fumble for Boyle. 

Boyle did appear to take a deeper than necessary drop on the shotgun snap, potentially contributing to the blocking issues. 

Sewell exited in the middle of Detroit's second possession. He was replaced by Matt Nelson. 

►Breshad Perriman entered the evening on the roster bubble after missing extensive practice time with an injury during training camp. The veteran receiver got off to a strong start, converting a third down, but then dropped a pair of passes before exiting the contest. 

► Cornerbacks Mike Ford and A.J. Parker each had a solid first half. Parker, stating his case for the starting nickel job, broke up a pass in the end zone and made an open-field tackle in the red zone on third down, leading to the Colts twice settling for field goals. 

Ford was sticky in coverage for much of the half, netting a PBU and a couple quick tackles for short gains. He was in coverage on a 60-yard completion near the end of the first half, but it was a broken play where safety Dean Marlowe looked to be more culpable for the blown assignment. 

► Rookie Jermar Jefferson got the start at running back and gained 43 yards on 11 carries, adding another five on a third-down reception that extended a scoring drive. Jefferson's vision particularly showed up on a pair of quality gains on draw plays. 

► The Lions didn't escape the final preseason game without a tough injury. Offensive tackle Dan Skipper, who had been in the mix for a spot on the 53-man roster, had to be carted off the field after suffering an ankle injury in the second quarter. 

Guard Logan Stenberg also left the game with an injury in the second half. 

► On the aforementioned 60-yard pass play for the Colts, defensive tackle Kevin Strong whiffed on a sack, but responded well to the mistake. He recorded a sack and a tackle for loss on the next two plays, helping keep the Colts out of the end zone at the end of the half. 

► Zane Gonzalez handled all the place-kicking duties for the Lions, but with two extra points and a 28-yard field goal, he didn't really have an opportunity to prove he deserves the job over Randy Bullock. 

► In addition to a diving interception, Elder also had a pass-breakup on third down that forced a punt. While he was leaped on the depth chart by Parker while dealing with a camp injury, Elder stated his case for a roster spot with his performance.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers