NFC North: Rob Sims

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – There is now one day left.

The Detroit Lions finished up the second day of their mandatory minicamp Wednesday and it was probably the most balanced day the team has had during their sessions. After the first two weeks of open practices where the defense was dominant and the last couple of practices where the offense has been better, neither group seemed to take over the practice.

Johnson
That might be a good sign for the Lions that the offense is catching up to the defense even if both sides of the ball were without key contributors. Here are some thoughts, notes and observations from the day.
  • A decent amount of players missed practice Wednesday. Wide receiver TJ Jones, cornerback Chris Houston and linebacker Stephen Tulloch were not spotted at practice. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder), guard Rob Sims, wide receiver Golden Tate (shoulder), wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, running back Mikel Leshoure and running back Joique Bell (knee) all sat out practice. Ansah, Tate and Bell were expected. Sims has missed team drills all offseason, as had Glover Quin, who only worked in individual drills Wednesday.
  • Jason Jones appears to be slowly moving back to health. He seemed more active Wednesday than he has during past open practices, including working some with the first unit. He is still coming back from a ruptured patella tendon suffered last season, but he will be a contender for the closed defensive end spot in the fall opposite Ansah on the defensive line.
  • Player of the practice: For the second straight day, it is Calvin Johnson. Any question about Johnson’s health are now gone. He was once again the best player on the field and caught everything around him. He appears to be completely over his injuries and has his timing with Matthew Stafford down once again. He beat any cornerback the Lions lined up against him during 1-on-1 periods and on one play leapt over DeAndre Levy to catch a pass that he ended up running in for a touchdown.
  • During those 1-on-1 drills between defensive backs and receivers, the receivers clearly won the day. They had at least six completions to start the drill, including Kris Durham reaching out to make a difficult catch in front of Darius Slay. Corey Fuller also beat Aaron Hester on a post route that was pretty impressive.
  • Sequence of the day: Two impressive plays in a row. First, safety James Ihedigbo jumped a route from Stafford to Brandon Pettigrew to break up the pass. It was a great break on the ball by Ihedigbo. Stafford followed it up, though, with a perfectly threaded ball to Patrick Edwards into a small window over safety Don Carey. It was the best throw Stafford made on the day.
  • Carey is starting to really emerge as the probable third safety, although this is not unexpected. He once again filled in for Quin during team drills and has been a decent presence back there. In the secondary, Jonte Green is the one player who doesn’t seem to be getting as many reps as one might think.
  • As they did Tuesday, Rodney Austin and rookie Travis Swanson both took first-team reps at guard and center. While Austin worked some at center Tuesday, Swanson was there Wednesday. In some ways, this is a test from Jim Caldwell to see if both of them can play both guard and center, something imperative for a reserve interior lineman. With Sims out, Austin has spent the majority of spring working with the first team at left guard.
  • This is getting repetitive, but Theo Riddick continues to be impressive. He seems a little faster than last season and might have improved more than anyone else on the roster from last season. He is putting himself in position to have a real role in this offense this season after being primarily a backup in 2013.
  • Written about Eric Ebron’s drops here a bit, so worth noting when he makes the type of catch the Lions drafted him for. He extended on what looked like a poorly thrown ball to stretch in front of safety Isa Abdul-Quddus to make the grab before hitting the ground. It is one of the best catches he has made in the open practice setting this spring.
  • With Tulloch not in attendance, Tahir Whitehead took a lot of the first-team snaps at linebacker next to Levy. He was pretty active there. While he is primarily a special-teams standout – he’ll end up having a roster spot because of his special-teams play – that the Lions staff inserted him there behind Tulloch would appear to indicate he is having a pretty good spring. After practice, Caldwell cited how Whitehead controls the movement of other players in that space as one of the reasons they like him behind Tulloch.
  • Really good day for Sam Martin. The second-year punter had some help with the wind, but he crushed almost all of his punts. It is tough to see yard lines because of how the Lions’ outdoor practice fields are set up, but he said after practice one of his punts went over 80 yards and had a few go at least 70 yards. He said his shortest on the day was 63 yards. Strong day for him.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A year ago, things were a bit different with the Detroit Lions. The team was losing. People weren’t happy. The Lions looked like a team headed toward the bottom of the NFL.

“Last year it was kind of like position groups with their position groups,” left guard Rob Sims said. “That’s, any time you’re losing, that’s what it looks like. Stick to your guns, never pointing fingers, but maybe we didn’t associate with everybody like we should've.”

Now you look in the Detroit locker room today and players are, for the most part, happy. Position groups intermingle. The team appears to genuinely get along.

You have a wide receiver, Kevin Ogletree, rooming with a defensive back, Louis Delmas. You have players congregating at events outside of the Lions facility. There’s a different attitude around the team now, and if you think that doesn’t have something to do with their play -- and that the play doesn't have something to do with their attitude -- you’d be wrong.

There’s a chemistry within this Detroit team now, a comfort with one another that has helped on Sundays.

“The real change came in the offseason, when everyone got back here,” backup quarterback Shaun Hill said. “You could tell there was a different mentality around. The leaders were really stepping up and came in with a new focus.

“There’s a lot of things. One was just attention to detail in the offseason program and everybody came with the intentions of working hard and then, aside from that, there was kind of a high priority put on coming together and being a cohesive team, just coming together and being a better team.”

This new mentality began in April, when Detroit returned for its organized team activities and started to slowly prepare for this season. In those first few days, the returning Lions were able to sense that something was changing.

Some of it might have had to do with the changes in the on-field personnel -- Reggie Bush and others were brought in -- and some of it had to do with understanding what happened in 2012, from players who were distractions to chemistry that did not exist.

“Overall demeanor,” safety Don Carey said. “You could tell everyone still had that 4-12 season in the back of their head and we didn’t want that to happen again. So guys worked really hard this offseason, and you could see it from the first time they stepped on the field.”

Then there is the maturity. The free agents the Lions brought in were veterans of either multiple teams or multiple years in the league. Bush, Rashean Mathis and C.J. Mosley all are good presences in the locker room. And the players who were there before all grew up a bit, both in knowing their roles and in understanding what it takes to be a pro.

“There was a lot said about guys not being a distraction and getting into trouble,” Hill said. “And to this point, we’ve held up that end of it. I think that would fall into the maturity category.”

So when you look at the Lions, at 6-3 and leading the NFC North, understand that for all the talent on the outside, it starts inside their locker room, where there is a greater sense of comfort than there was 12 months ago.
It was not Detroit’s prettiest game on offense or defense Sunday, but the Lions are in first place in the NFC North after Week 10 following a 21-19 win over the Bears.

Not surprisingly, the Detroit defensive line and wide receiver Calvin Johnson were two of the main focal points of this week’s behind the numbers, taking a peek at some of the biggest reasons the Lions beat Chicago.

Some numbers in this post were culled from ESPN Stats & Information. Follow Stats & Information on Twitter @ESPNStatsInfo

3 -- Road wins this season for Detroit -- only the third time the Lions have done that in the past decade.

11 -- Quarterback hits on Chicago’s quarterbacks Sunday, all by the Lions defensive linemen.

4 -- Hits each by defensive tackles Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh.

1 -- Target for receiver Kris Durham, his fewest targets this season. It did, however, result in a Lions touchdown.

17 -- Targets for Calvin Johnson according to the official game book on Sunday -- his most of the season.

63 -- Receiving touchdowns for Johnson, most in Detroit history.

567 -- Receiving yards for Johnson the past three games, third most in a three-game stretch in NFL history behind Charley Hennigan (612 yards for the Oilers in 1961) and Chad Johnson (573 for the Bengals in 2006).

8,740 -- Career yards in his first 100 games -- second-most in NFL history behind Lance Alworth (9,019).

47 -- Percentage of Lions’ receiving touchdowns Johnson has this season -- tied for third in the league with Chicago’s Brandon Marshall behind San Francisco’s Vernon Davis and Oakland’s Denarius Moore.

5 -- Interceptions this season for linebacker DeAndre Levy, tied for the NFL lead.

10 -- Lions who played every offensive or defensive snap Sunday (Dominic Raiola, Rob Sims, Riley Reiff, Larry Warford and Matthew Stafford on offense and Stephen Tulloch, Glover Quin, Louis Delmas, Rashean Mathis and Levy on defense).
They had tried this play -- either variations of it or the exact design -- before this season. A cutting screen to running back Reggie Bush either out of the slot or in the backfield.

Against Green Bay a week ago, this play failed. On Sunday against Cleveland, when Bush caught the ball at almost full speed and ran 18 yards for a touchdown, it worked to perfection.

“It’s a hit-or-miss play,” Bush said. “It’s either going to be big or it’s not going to work at all. We’ve been on both sides.”

On Sunday, Detroit was on the big end of the play to finish off the first drive of the second half during the Lions’ 31-17 win over Cleveland.

[+] EnlargeReggie Bush
AP Photo/David RichardWith help from center Dominic Raiola, running back Reggie Bush scored a key third-quarter TD for the Lions on Sunday.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford approached the line of scrimmage on a second-and-7 on the Cleveland 18-yard line, already having used Bush on a run up the middle and a big 39-yard dash off the left block down the sideline earlier in the drive.

Now with an empty backfield, Stafford had three receivers on the right side of him, another receiver outside on the left and Bush in the slot. The ball was snapped and Bush started to look like he was going to drift off into the flat on the left side, taking advantage of Cleveland linebacker Craig Robertson playing about five yards off of him.

At halftime, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan saw the Lions had an advantageous matchup with Robertson on the speedy Bush and tried to leverage that into big plays, especially after not targeting Bush at all in the first half.

“He did a great job in the second half for us, made some big plays,” Stafford said. “We got him matched up with [Robertson] and he made him miss quite a few times.”

Bush’s quick bounce heading left took Robertson out of position almost immediately as he took a few steps toward the left sideline to cover Bush. This gave the three interior Detroit offensive linemen -- left guard Rob Sims, center Dominic Raiola and right guard Larry Warford -- time to get down the field and set up the pocket for the screen.

Bush took off toward the middle of the field.

“Design is the three inside guys getting him vertical and giving Reggie the ball and giving him some space to make plays,” Sims said. “That’s it.”

That’s it?

“That simple,” Sims said. “Not very complicated at all. It’s a very, very, very easy play. It is.”

Not quite.

Bush needed to sell Robertson on the fake cut. When he did, by the time Robertson recovered, Bush already had the ball and Sims was there to put a block on Robertson, springing the big gain and making sure the hit-or-miss play turned into a hit.

“I think they ran an all-out blitz or at least brought pressure on that,” Bush said. “It’s a disadvantage for that guy who is over top of me. For one, he doesn’t want to play me press man coverage because of my speed so he has to respect me and he has to be at least five yards off.

“That’s really all the cushion that we need to make that play work.”

From there, Bush had already beaten most of the defenders and had a two-man escort -- Raiola in front of him and Warford a yard or so to his right -- bringing him down field.

Raiola eventually tried to block safety T.J. Ward around the 5-yard line and actually missed the block, allowing Ward to make contact with Bush. By then, though, Bush was running at full speed and was not going to be brought down. Receiver Ryan Broyles, who was on the right side, also had a key very late small block to ensure Bush got into the end zone on free safety Tashaun Gipson, who made contact with Bush as he crossed the goal line.

“Full speed coming in,” Bush said. “Stafford threw a great pass. I had two blockers in front of me so I really didn’t have to do much.”

If the play looked familiar, it should. It was somewhat similar to Bush’s 77-yard screen for a touchdown against Minnesota. Bush and Sims said it was the same play, but there were different wrinkles.

Against the Vikings, Bush came out of the backfield instead of the slot and was also lined up on the right side instead of the left, so it was Warford with the key first block instead of Sims.

Otherwise, it was a very similar play that led to yet another Detroit touchdown this season.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Detroit’s offensive line had been formidable this season, had blocked well for the run and the pass and had kept the Lions’ quarterback, Matthew Stafford, pretty clean.

Until Sunday, when Stafford was sacked more times in one game than he had been in the previous four combined.

Green Bay sacked Stafford five times Sunday. He had been sacked three times over the first four games of the season.

[+] EnlargeDetroit's Matthew Stafford
AP Photo/Morry GashClay Matthews collects one of five Green Bay sacks on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
“That is a good defensive front,” Stafford said. “They have guys, they drafted a lot of first-round guys, a lot of second-round guys up there to rush the passer. That’s their job. They were doing a good job in the back end so I had to hold the ball a little bit.

“I thought our offensive line played good, fought their (butt) off up front. But that’s a big defensive front up the middle. We struggled running the ball today.”

Part of the issue for the Detroit offensive line was perhaps a change in defensive coverage from Green Bay, which played with a safety down to go against the run more than any other team that faced the Lions this year.

Prior to Sunday, Stafford had not been sacked on more than 2.7 percent of his dropbacks in any game this season. On Sunday, he was sacked 11.1 percent of the time he dropped back.

“It’s disappointing,” center Dominic Raiola said. “We need to go back to work and fix it. It’s nobody’s fault. I mean, a sack is on everybody so we need to fix it up front.”

Four of Green Bay’s five sacks came from linebackers -- with Nick Perry getting two, Brad Jones getting one and Clay Matthews picking up one. On Matthews’ sack, he had a clean shot at Stafford untouched through the line.

With the way the Packers rushed, guard Rob Sims said every lineman had one-on-one assignments instead of potentially trying to double a rusher or work toward a side. Against the Packers, the Lions had no choice but to go single on every assignment and block as best they could.

“It was a tough game for all of us up there,” Sims said. “Any time you’ve got five one-on-ones, especially in the end when they know you’ve got to pass and they are coming after you, it’s just hard.

“Hard to do play-in, play-out.”
DETROIT -- Reggie Bush's big 37-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of Sunday’s 40-32 win over the Chicago Bears almost didn’t happen.

Bush fumbled the play before and the ball was recovered by Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson, extending the Lions drive with 2:52 remaining in the first half.

The Lions went to the line on the next play, calling another handoff to Bush. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was in shotgun with Bush a step behind him and to his right. Center Dominic Raiola saw something in the Chicago defense that told him to make a call with his veteran left guard, Rob Sims.

“I saw a weak dog and I saw a nickel coming off the edge,” Raiola said. “We said all week we wanted to hit one right into the mouth of their blitz and that’s really what it was.

[+] EnlargeDetroit's Reggie Bush
AP Photo/Jose JuarezA lot went into Reggie Bush's 37-yard touchdown, including his hurdling of Major Wright.
“It was a call we practiced all week and we hit it.”

Raiola told Sims to engage the defensive end, Julius Peppers. In doing so -- and getting a good push on Peppers out to the left, he almost made it appear as if he and left tackle Riley Reiff were doubling Peppers on the snap.

They weren’t, as Reiff’s man, linebacker James Anderson, blitzed far on his side. This opened up the first part of a massive hole for Bush, who by the time he reached the line of scrimmage had almost the entire width between the hashmarks to run through and make his initial cut.

In the pre-snap, Bears defensive tackle Nate Collins was initially lined up right over Raiola, but on the snap he slid over to engage right guard Larry Warford. Warford sealed Collins away from the hole.

This allowed Raiola a clean path to the second level, where he was able to block linebacker Lance Briggs.

“We were working on that,” Sims said. “We knew they were going to try and slant Julius and we just, Dom made a good call. Dom told me to go out to (Peppers) and I did and we caught them in it.

“That’s the thing with them, they are really good at moving and when you can catch them in it, you can make some hay. And Reggie don’t need much.”

Bush had a wide open lane to run through. He ran almost right at the Raiola-Briggs block before cutting back to the right side and into the second and third levels of the defense.

It appeared as if defensive end Cornelius Washington was the man who was supposed to mark up Bush at the snap, but he was on the edge of the defense and looked like he hesitated on the snap out of the backfield and ended up chasing Bush from behind. He had a chance to tackle him, but missed.

Then Bush made another quick cut right and -- this is really what made the run -- jumped over a diving Major Wright. Had Wright kept his feet, he would have had a better shot at the Detroit running back.

Once Bush made that move, he had one more assist. Wide receiver Ryan Broyles put a good seal block on Chicago cornerback Tim Jennings to give Bush a deep crease in the secondary.

Jennings would end up almost catching up to Bush, but those few extra strides helped turn the play into a touchdown.

“A sweet run,” Stafford said. “It was a play that honestly we had been working on in practice all week knowing they were going to blitz us, which they always do.

“Instead of getting out of it, just running right into it. Dom made a great call up front, (Brandon) Pettigrew had a great block to seal off the back side and let Reggie do the rest.”

Letting Bush do the rest is becoming a common theme for the Lions these days. Detroit’s offensive line had done such a good job against Chicago on Sunday, the 37-yard touchdown was merely one of the big runs Bush was able to find.

The touchdown was the longest run of the day for Bush, who had four rushes of 14 yards or more and 139 yards overall.

“Reggie Bush is special,” Wright told reporters after the game. “He has speed. He can shake you. He can do everything.”

Rapid Reaction: Lions 40, Bears 32

September, 29, 2013
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DETROIT -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 40-32 victory over the Chicago Bears.

What it means: It became a little tense at the end, but the Lions are in first place in the NFC North. For three quarters, the Lions looked extremely impressive. Their defense appeared dominant on Sunday, even as the offense struggled at points. The line clearly rattled Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler, pressuring him consistently and forcing three interceptions. If you’re looking for a reason for Sunday’s victory, it starts there.

Detroit needed a game like this to follow up on beating the Washington Redskins last Sunday. Even though the Lions were 2-1, they had only one half of really strong football -- the second half of the season opener against Minnesota. In addition to the defense, Detroit running back Reggie Bush slashed through Chicago's defense, looking more like the player he was at USC.

Stock Watch: Rising -- Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh picked up the stats he had been lacking, sacking Cutler twice. Bush returned to normal, gaining 173 total yards and scoring a 37-yard touchdown. Safety Louis Delmas, who has long battled knee issues, picked off two passes and combined with Glover Quin to show how important good safety play is to this defense.

Suh dominance: He had been having his most consistent, productive season of his career but didn’t have the stats to back it up. That is no longer an issue. Chicago tried to double Suh almost every play to give rookie Kyle Long help, but it didn’t matter. Suh disrupted a bunch of Bears plays, sacked Cutler twice and, along with the rest of the defensive line, forced the Bears to bring extra protection.

Line mostly clean again: Detroit’s offensive line continues to block both the run and pass well. Matthew Stafford was sacked only once, and the holes that opened for Bush allowed him to get into the second and third levels of the Chicago defense with ease. Detroit’s line has been building toward this moment, improving every week. The interior of the line -- center Dominic Raiola and guards Rob Sims and Larry Warford -- were effective pushing Chicago off the line of scrimmage.

What’s next: Detroit now heads to a place it hasn’t won in more than two decades -- Green Bay -- with a chance to beat every team in the NFC North at least once this season.

Many Lions limited in practice

September, 26, 2013
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The good news for the Detroit Lions: only one player, Nate Burleson, wasn't at practice.

The not so good news -- a number of players were limited in some way. Now, don't read too much into this because it could be a day of rest with a very minor injury or soreness, but the full list of names is daunting.

Today's limited players: Defensive end Ziggy Ansah (abdomen), safety Don Carey (hamstring), safety Louis Delmas (knee), wide receiver Patrick Edwards (ankle), right tackle Jason Fox (groin), right tackle Corey Hilliard (groin), cornerback Chris Houston (hand), wide receiver Calvin Johnson (knee), linebacker DeAndre Levy (abdomen), linebacker Ashlee Palmer (ankle), left guard Rob Sims (shoulder) and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (knee).

In all, that means 12 players (10 starters) were limited in some way during practice. This isn't alarming, though, because they all were able to practice a little bit at least and all of them were moving around a bit during the media portion of practice Thursday.

Absent from that list is running back Reggie Bush, who practiced fully for the second straight day.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Good news for the Detroit Lions on Thursday. Every player other than receiver Nate Burleson showed up at practice with a helmet.

That means Calvin Johnson and Rob Sims, among others, were back out with the Lions practicing.

Of course, there could be a bunch of guys who are limited Thursday, but that won't be fully known until 4 p.m., when the day's practice report comes out.

The Lions' two signings were also in attendance. Defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith is wearing No. 95, and practice squad receiver Charles Hawkins is wearing No. 19.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson missed practice Wednesday with an apparent knee injury according to the Lions official practice report.

He was one of four starters to miss practice Wednesday. Wide receiver Nate Burleson (forearm) is not expected back for some time. Safety Louis Delmas (knee) shouldn't be a concern as he also missed last Wednesday's practice. Starting left guard Rob Sims (shoulder) also was held out of practice but worked on the side with trainers.

Defensive end Ziggy Ansah (abdomen) and linebacker DeAndre Levy (abdomen) being limited in practice were among two of the newer names on the report. Joining them as limited were linebacker Ashlee Palmer (ankle), safety Don Carey (hamstring), tackle Jason Fox (groin) and wide receiver Patrick Edwards (ankle).

Edwards said Wednesday he is on his way to getting better and participated in the individual drills portion of practice.

"High ankles take longer to heal and it's really slow as far as range of motion in my foot," Edwards said. "My lower foot and my lower ankle, it's good. The high ankle part, some kind of membrane part, like, it takes slow to heal."

During the drills, he said he felt good during portions of it, but cutting is still an issue.

"I was feeling good on the ladders," Edwards said. "As far as cutting-wise, it's a little ginger on it. It's getting better. I feel like I'm on track to come back, try to come back as fast as I can."

Calvin Johnson out, Reggie Bush in

September, 25, 2013
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions had one of its offensive stars back at practice Wednesday -- just as another sat out.

Bush
Bush
Johnson
Running back Reggie Bush worked out with the Lions on Wednesday, going through all drills during the media portion of practice, albeit with a protective sleeve on his left knee. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson, though, did not practice Wednesday.

The reason for him sitting out is unknown. The Lions first injury report of the week will come out at 4 p.m.

Detroit actually had a good number of players return to practice who have missed time. Wide receiver Patrick Edwards (ankle), safety Don Carey (hamstring) and right tackle Jason Fox (groin) all worked out Wednesday.

The only players out were safety Louis Delmas (knee), wide receiver Nate Burleson (forearm) and starting left guard Rob Sims, who was in attendance and working off to the side with trainers.
LANDOVER, Md. -- Matthew Stafford walked into his huddle, his team staring at him waiting for direction, for a play that could alter the fortune of his Detroit Lions on this Week 3 Sunday and perhaps many Sundays after.

It was 4th-and-inches. Detroit led by three, 20-17. A field goal could have made sense. But the Lions decided to go for it. To try and win on their own without having to rely on a defensive stop.

[+] EnlargeJim Schwartz
Brad Mills/USA TODAY SportsCoach Jim Schwartz watched from the sidelines as his Lions executed a quarterback sneak to give Detroit a crucial first down.
So Stafford walked into his huddle and said the Lions would try a quarterback sneak. Then he turned to his center, Dominic Raiola and asked what side he wanted to run the sneak off of -- over the middle, to his left, over veteran guard Rob Sims, or to his right, over rookie Larry Warford.

"I told Rob, 'Look, I’m going to put this on us,'" Raiola said. “Look what happened. I just told him we’re going to go left, to go left. The guy’s a monster. I’m not saying Larry isn’t, but I’m going to go to my vet.

"I'm going to go to my second-in-command over here."

Between Raiola and Sims, there is a combined 17 years playing for Detroit. Almost two decades of not converting this type of play. Not this time. Not this season. They have heard the talk of this being the same type of team as years past.

This play -- this chance -- was an opportunity to begin to remove it. To win. And Raiola wanted that on him.

When the play was called, Detroit running back Joique Bell turned to Stafford with a message -- one filled with coincidence. He told Stafford "I'll push you in the back." Anything to get the first down, to push for the inches they needed.

"Matt looked at me in my face," Bell said later. "And said 'Push me back.'"

Detroit lined up on the Washington 12-yard-line. Four minutes, 42 seconds remained. The Lions shifted into a balanced formation to make sure everything was set to head left.

Then Raiola snapped the ball to Stafford. Sims pushed forward.

“I got out to the backer pretty easy and I know Riley (Reiff) had his guy because I felt him on my heels,” Sims said. “If we were going left we should have something there if we’re talking about inches.”

The inches were there. Stafford moved. Bell lined up behind him and pushed. That’s where there was some irony.

Had it been another week, Reggie Bush might have been the running back behind Stafford. And Bush had perhaps the most famous push for a touchdown in college football history at USC -- pushing his then-quarterback, Matthew Leinart, into the end zone to beat Notre Dame late in the fourth quarter.

This time, Bush watched from the sidelines. It wasn’t a touchdown, but a first down.

“It was just a heads-up play, by [Bell] and by Stafford,” Bush said. “Stafford, that’s a huge play by him and what more can you ask for out of your quarterback.”

Stafford fell forward. He knew he got it. Detroit had it by much more than it needed, gaining two yards on the play. Two plays later, the Lions would score on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to Calvin Johnson to take a 27-17 lead and an eventual 27-20 win against Washington.

But it was the play that set it up, a fourth-down call that took some guts, that made it happen. That might have turned the Lions around. And might have shown that a team with a lot of young players, including a still-growing quarterback, is starting to grow up.

“It was movie stuff. He looked at everybody and Dom said look, 'follow me, I got you,'" receiver Nate Burleson said. “And then he went in there and got hit and kept his feet moving and Joique came in and gave him another bump.

“That’s team football at its best. That’s the Detroit Lions, everybody dialing in for one play, giving all you got, knowing that one play could change the game and get the victory.”

Plays like that change games and potentially the fortunes of a franchise. There’s still a lot of things the Lions have to accomplish, a lot of things the Lions have to get through.

But Sunday -- one play -- might have been the start.

Locker Room Buzz: Detroit Lions

September, 22, 2013
9/22/13
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LANDOVER, Md. -- Observed in the locker room after the Detroit Lions' 27-20 victory over the Washington Redskins.

Stafford
Stafford
Vets for the win: Dominic Raiola, in discussing the fourth down call and why Matthew Stafford chose a particular lane for the quarterback sneak, looked over to the next locker, that of veteran left guard Rob Sims, and said simply “Look at us.” Then both Raiola and Sims laughed.

Postgame noise: Sitting between Reggie Bush and Raiola in the Detroit locker room were two giant speakers, blasting various kinds of music. When Bush was asked if they were his, he said no, then added “Ask Dom about that.”

Picture sharing: The Lions were told before the game the machine to get sideline pictures was down and Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said “the whole first half we were flying blind.”

It wasn’t as big an issue in the second half because of an act of sportsmanship by Washington. The Redskins shared their pictures with Detroit.

“They shared their pictures in the second half,” Schwartz said. “They knew that we were at a (dis)advantage. They don’t have to in that situation but I thought it was a very sportsmanlike move and shows the class that they have.”
Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush returned to practice Friday and is now listed as questionable to play Sunday against Washington after injuring his left knee against Arizona last week.

Bush
Bush
On Thursday, Bush was "optimistic" he would be available against the Redskins, but said it would be a group decision between the staff and Bush. He was limited in practice Friday.

If for some reason he cannot play, expect Joique Bell and rookie Theo Riddick to receive the majority of carries and targets out of the backfield.

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who missed last week's game at Arizona with a shoulder injury but has been limited in practice all week, is also listed as questionable.

Wide receiver Pat Edwards, who injured his ankle against the Cardinals, is out. This likely means Ryan Broyles will probably be active for the first time this season. This week, Broyles said "I'm capable of playing."

Right tackle Jason Fox, who hasn't practiced all week with a groin injury, and safety Don Carey, are doubtful for Sunday.

Safety Louis Delmas (knee), left guard Rob Sims (knee), linebacker Ashlee Palmer (ankle) and defensive end Jason Jones (knee) -- all of whom are starters -- are all probable for Sunday.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- There were no surprises on the Detroit Lions' injury report Thursday.

Running back Reggie Bush, who earlier Thursday said he was optimistic he'd play Sunday with his injured knee, did not practice. Neither did right tackle Jason Fox (groin), safety Don Carey (hamstring), linebacker Ashlee Palmer (ankle) or wide receiver Patrick Edwards (ankle).

Edwards said Thursday he was hopeful he'd be back soon.

"As of now I'm just getting treatment, have been any time I could get [it]," Edwards said. "Trying to make some progress. I don't know if I'll be able to play or not but I'm fighting hard to come back as fast as I can."

Edwards said it'll be up to a combination of how he feels and what the coaching staff says as to his availability against the Redskins.

Safety Louis Delmas (knee), left guard Rob Sims (knee) and defensive tackle Nick Fairley (shoulder) were limited in Thursday's practice.

For Washington, kicker Kai Forbath (groin) didn't participate in practice. Defensive ends Stephen Bowen (knee) and Kedric Golston (abdomen) were limited, as was safety Brandon Meriweather (concussion).

As far as who will be available Sunday, Lions coach Jim Schwartz does not set a timetable for returning to practice as a benchmark for whether a player will participate in games, so don't use that as a gauge to read into anything.

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