NFL Nation: riley reiff

INDIANAPOLIS -- Riley Reiff has spent the past two seasons as the Detroit Lions' starting left tackle. Whether he’s there for a third or not appears to be up in the air.

General manager Martin Mayhew said Friday morning that Reiff could play another position on the line in 2015.

“It depends on how the offseason goes,” Mayhew said. “I wouldn’t say he is locked in at left. He could probably play right, too. We’ll see how things go.”

Reiff played fairly well at left tackle for the Lions this season, grading out along with right guard Larry Warford as the team’s best linemen according to Pro Football Focus.

But the argument could be made that Detroit’s other tackles -- particularly Cornelius Lucas -- looked better on the left side replacing Reiff than he did on the right side when he was replacing LaAdrian Waddle last season. There’s also a chance the Lions could draft a tackle in the first round, which would further shake up the offensive line.

Detroit is in the midst of at least somewhat of an overhaul on the offensive line. The team already moved on from center Dominic Raiola and there are questions as to whether Rob Sims will return to the Lions. Then there’s the tackle situation, which appears to be at least open to some competition.

It could also be a young offensive line in 2015, especially if Sims does not return. Reiff, entering his fourth season, would be the longest-tenured lineman at that point. So that could be a reason to retain Sims for at least one season, potentially giving him the chance to groom his replacement.

These are some of the decisions that the Lions need to make on their offensive line over the next couple of months.

“Leadership is really important in that group, as you know,” Mayhew said. “Not having Dom, obviously, Riley would be a really key part of that. On the other hand, you also want to see some of the young guys, the younger guys, Riley Reiff -- is he still a younger guy now? He’s got a bunch of starts under his belt.

“You want to see some young guys step up and lead, too. There’s a point where the handoff has to happen to the next generation, so to speak, but yeah, Rob’s been a great guy in the locker room and great leader and just a really tough guy.”
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observed and heard in the locker room following the Detroit Lions' 34-9 loss to the New England Patriots.
  • During the week, Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he would not consider taking play-calling duties away from first-year offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. After another game without a touchdown -- the first time the team has gone two straight games without an offensive touchdown since 2000 -- Caldwell said they would be looking at things to change in the offense, although nothing drastic. When asked if he would consider taking play-calling duties away from Lombardi, Caldwell offered a one-word answer: "No."
  • Reiff
    The Lions lost another offensive lineman for the majority of the game Sunday after left tackle Riley Reiff injured his left knee on the game's first play. Reiff, who was walking in the locker room after the game, said to ask the coaches about his knee, and Caldwell had no update on the severity of his injury. Caldwell said he felt rookie Cornelius Lucas "held his own" replacing Reiff, but Lucas gave up at least one sack.
  • Lions safety Glover Quin lined up in the slot more often than normal as Detroit used its three-safety nickel package with Quin, James Ihedigbo and Isa Abdul-Quddus. Detroit did that to try to keep New England from finding mismatches all day. "That was the thinking behind that," Quin said. "To try to hold up [passes] and the run game."
DETROIT -- Three halftime thoughts from Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions lead the Green Bay Packers, 17-10.

Dominating defense: Josh Sitton called the Detroit Lions' defense scumbags and dirtbags on Tuesday. On Thursday, the Lions' defensive line -- who the comments were really directed at -- walked out of the tunnel during introductions together.

Then they shut down the Green Bay offense completely. The Lions' front four gave Eddie Lacy no room to run, holding him to 13 yards on seven carries. They pressured Matt Flynn, sacking him thrice and hitting him five times. Rookie Ziggy Ansah had two of those sacks. Flynn didn’t have much success throwing, either, completing 3 of 8 passes for 45 yards. Even when he did throw, he made poor decisions.

Good Stafford, Bad Stafford: Matthew Stafford did not have a good first half. The Lions had three turnovers on their first four possessions, two by Stafford. He fumbled the ball on his 12-yard line and it was recovered for a Green Bay touchdown. Yes, Riley Reiff blew his blocking assignment, but it will still be credited to Stafford as a fumble.

The second turnover was all Stafford, though. He threw the ball essentially right to Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams, who stepped inside of Kris Durham. Williams caught the ball and if not for a rough tackle by Durham, could have been an interception returned for a touchdown as well.

Of course, right after that, Stafford leads an 85-yard drive for a touchdown. It’s part of the deal with Stafford. With the good comes the bad. Stafford finished the first half 14 of 20 for 202 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Return of Ross: Earlier this season, Jeremy Ross was cut by the Packers after fumbling the ball on a return. The Lions picked him up and stashed him on the practice squad before promoting him on Oct. 19. Since then he’s seen a smattering of snaps -- less since Nate Burleson returned from injury -- but against his old team he went off in the first half on both special teams and on offense.

Ross returned two punts for 36 yards, two kicks for 57 yards, gained 24 yards on a reverse and also caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Stafford. When Ross was signed, he said he understood why he was released and that he still had friends on the Packers. So far, he looks like he’s trying to prove a point to his old team.

DETROIT -- Calvin Johnson was stopped again. The Cowboys couldn’t do much against the Detroit Lions wide receiver Sunday except for one thing -- keep him out of the end zone.

Dallas allowed Johnson to wriggle free one final time Sunday afternoon with 33 seconds left for a 22-yard reception that came real close to a touchdown. How close? Left tackle Riley Reiff -- and this would come into play a few seconds later -- ended up at midfield celebrating instead of running to the 1-yard line.

See, Reiff had thought Johnson had scored, capping an unbelievable 31-30 comeback win for Detroit over Dallas. Except for one problem. Johnson was stopped. So everyone, from the sidelines to Stafford, had to yell at Reiff to get moving toward the line.

[+] EnlargeDetroit's Matthew Stafford
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiMatthew Stafford fooled the Cowboys and his Lions' teammates with this 1-yard touchdown dive.
Hence the Lions left tackle, playing with an injured hamstring all day, sprinting to the line of scrimmage to set up the final play.

“I know,” center Dominic Raiola said. “He’s getting fined for that.”

As Stafford and his entire team ran toward the goal line for one final play, Stafford furiously flicked his right wrist downward over and over again, yelling “clock it, clock it” and “clock, clock.”

He was planning on spiking the ball with 14 seconds left to give Detroit at least one, maybe two chances to score. That is, until he got to the line of scrimmage.

Everyone was lined up ready to go except for the fast-sprinting Reiff, and Reiff’s celebration from behind might have actually given Stafford the second or so he needed to make what ended up being a gutsy, incredible read.

“Honestly, I’m looking down and I see feet in the end zone and light in the stance and I just said, ‘(expletive), here we go.’ " Stafford said.

Stafford snapped the ball. Raiola, right guard Larry Warford and the rest of the Lions thought he was going to spike the ball.

He didn’t. Stafford jumped just to the left of Raiola -- Raiola said later he never saw Stafford essentially jump over him -- to try and score the touchdown.

“I was lined up on the ball,” receiver Kris Durham said. “I’m expecting him to spike it and I’m looking down the line and I can see that he got over. I was telling everybody, ‘He got over.’

“I probably had a better view than the ref.”

When Stafford jumped, Durham raised his arms to celebrate. But just in case there was any question, Stafford landed and took off to the left, darting into the end zone and finishing off with an actual spike.

That was when Raiola and Warford realized what happened.

[+] EnlargeDetroit's Matthew Stafford
AP Foto/Rick Osentoski"I was like, 'What the hell is he doing over there?'" asked guard Larry Warford of Stafford's celebration. "Like 'How could he mess up spiking the ball?'"
“The only thing I saw was him running the other way,” Warford said. “I was like ‘Why haven’t the whistles blown?’ And I saw him running to my left and I was like, ‘What the hell is he doing over there? Like 'How could he mess up spiking the ball?’

“Lo and behold.”

Running back Reggie Bush saw it immediately. And it was eerily reminiscent to another game he had -- the legendary Bush Push Notre Dame-USC game in 2005. In that game, then-USC quarterback Matt Leinart tried to score on a quarterback dive over the top with three seconds left to beat the Irish.

Leinart didn’t get in the first time, so Bush came behind him to push him in over the left side.

On Sunday, Stafford got in on the first try with 12 seconds left, but then when he darted left, Bush, who had already jumped in the air to celebrate just like he did during the USC-Notre Dame game once Leinart scored, pushed Stafford in the back as he crossed the goal line for the Lions.

“It was deja vu, exactly,” Bush said.

So why did Stafford do this? Why take the chance?

The play was somewhat similar to Dan Marino’s decision in 1994, when he ran toward the line of scrimmage yelling “clock, clock, clock,” late in a game against the New York Jets, according to a New York Times report of the game, before Marino chose to fake the spike and throw a touchdown pass instead.

This, though, did not cross Stafford’s mind as he ran down the field or took his own fake spike into NFL lore.

“Sometimes you get a feel and you just go with it,” Stafford would say at his locker later. “If we don’t get in there, we probably lose the game.”

Not an issue for Stafford. He did get in on a play in which only he knew what he was doing, completing yet another fourth-quarter comeback in his career.

“It gets us to 5-3, man,” Stafford said. “It’s a big win, don’t get me wrong. It’s a great comeback, it’s all that, but shoot, we have a lot of work left to do.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush was at practice Friday, but did not participate, watching off to the side.

This is the first time all week Bush has not practiced.

Only two other Detroit players did not practice -- right tackle Corey Hilliard and safety Louis Delmas. Hilliard has not practiced all week. Delmas is having his typical day off.

Left tackle Riley Reiff was at practice for the second straight day, working out.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson returned to practice Thursday, perhaps signaling he is back on a more routine practice schedule.

Somewhat surprisingly -- and importantly for Detroit -- is the return of left tackle Riley Reiff to practice, even on what appeared to be a limited basis. Reiff did not practice Wednesday after injuring his hamstring against Cincinnati on Sunday. He worked on the side with trainers, but had a helmet on, which meant he would likely participate in some portion of practice.

The only Lions not at practice Thursday were right tackle Corey Hilliard (knee) and wide receiver Nate Burleson (forearm).
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Wide receiver Calvin Johnson did not practice Wednesday for the Detroit Lions, although that shouldn't be a concern at this point.

Earlier this season, he took some Wednesdays off.

More pressing was Detroit's offensive tackle issue. Jason Fox returned to practice at one tackle and LaAdrian Waddle, who played both left and right tackle in relief of Riley Reiff and Corey Hilliard on Sunday, was at the other.

Also missing from practice were safety Louis Delmas, wide receiver Nate Burleson and defensive tackle Andre Fluellen.

Upon Further Review: Lions Week 7

October, 21, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Detroit Lions' 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

[+] EnlargeCalvin Johnson
Jason Miller/Getty ImagesCalvin Johnson was back to his old self on Sunday.
First major injury issues of the year: And at a spot the Lions can ill afford to have them. Yes, Detroit has had some injury problems at wide receiver with both Nate Burleson and Calvin Johnson, but this could end up being a bigger issue. Depending on what happens with left tackle Riley Reiff and right tackle Corey Hilliard this week, the Lions might be down to one healthy tackle: undrafted rookie free agent LaAdrian Waddle. Waddle saw extensive action in place of both Reiff and Hilliard on Sunday, but this will be something to really watch as the week progresses. Reiff came back into Sunday’s game, but didn’t look nearly as healthy as he has for the majority of the season.

Martin’s confidence: He hit the worst punt of his short NFL career, but rookie punter Sam Martin answered every question with honesty afterward and took complete and total blame for the mistake. He had a bad game before, struggling in the opener against Minnesota -- but Detroit won that game. This punt wasn’t an overarching issue as Martin was able to diagnose the problem as soon as he kicked the ball, but he needs to be able to forget about it because he has been having a very good season prior to his last kick.

Calvin Johnson is healthy: Even if he isn’t actually fully healthy, Johnson looked like his old self Sunday against Cincinnati. He had two touchdown catches, and neither one of them easy. He caught one with a defender with him step for step -- a perfectly thrown ball from Matthew Stafford, and an impressive catch from Johnson. Then there was his second touchdown, a 50-yard grab in triple coverage that might have been the catch of the season. There may have been some design to the play, but it certainly didn’t come with three defenders right on him and a fourth somewhat nearby. Yet Johnson outleapt all of them for the grab. He had nine catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns.

Sunday looms large: The NFL is undoubtedly an up-and-down league, and almost every team has good weeks and bad weeks in a season. The Lions need a good week this week against Dallas. It may seem a little early for it, and even if the Lions were to lose to the Cowboys, they would still be at .500 entering the off week and still in the divisional race. But for momentum purposes, Detroit needs a big game against Dallas. It is much different heading into the off week at 5-3 with a win against a potential playoff team instead of 4-4 on a two-game home losing streak against potential playoff teams, with road games at Chicago and Pittsburgh coming up after the break.
Some halftime thoughts as the Cincinnati Bengals lead the Detroit Lions, 14-10, at the half.

Not finishing drives: Detroit has moved the ball fairly well during the first half, but stalled twice inside the red zone. One resulted in a David Akers field goal. The other was a blocked field-goal attempt by Akers from 34 yards with a little under three minutes left in the first half. Detroit has been good in red zone opportunities this season, scoring touchdowns 61.9 percent of the time entering Sunday. The Lions struggled there in the first half and considering their inability to cover A.J. Green (more on that next), that could be a problem.

Defend A.J. Green better: It might sound silly, but Detroit gave Green a ton of cushion in the first half and it showed. He burnt Lions cornerback Chris Houston on a double move in the first quarter that led to the Bengals’ only touchdown. Green has four catches for 135 yards and a touchdown in the first half and has caught all four of his targets. In the realm of the NFL, none were particularly difficult catches and two of them, including the touchdown, were wide open. Detroit will have to figure out some scheme change there. The Lions have been good against Tyler Eifert, though, as he has no catches and has just been targeted once.

Injuries a concern: Detroit knew it’d be without starting right tackle Jason Fox (he’s been out for a while), but the Lions also lost left tackle Riley Reiff to a hamstring injury in the second quarter. This leaves Detroit without both of its Week 1 starting tackles. Unlike losing Fox and having a veteran like Corey Hilliard backing him up, the Lions are going with undrafted free agent LaAdrian Waddle at left tackle while Reiff is out. It’ll be interesting to see how he holds up as the game progresses. He has been decent in his first real action.
DETROIT -- Detroit Lions left tackle Riley Reiff is questionable to return to Sunday’s game against Cincinnati with a hamstring injury.

Reiff injured the hamstring earlier in the half and looked to try to play through it initially.

He was replaced in the lineup by LaAdrian Waddle, a rookie undrafted free agent from Texas Tech. This is Waddle's first real action of his career.

Detroit is now playing without both of its opening-day starting tackles as Jason Fox has been out for the past two weeks with a knee injury, replaced by Corey Hilliard.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

October, 6, 2013

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 22-9 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

What it means: Another year, another loss at Green Bay for Detroit, although this one had the makings of another Lions loss before the game started. Once Detroit learned it would be without Calvin Johnson, its chances of winning on the road diminished greatly.

Once the Lions started playing, that looked like even more of a possibility. Detroit’s offense couldn’t find any rhythm without Johnson and for the first time this season, an opposing defense could focus solely on Reggie Bush and it showed. Bush was largely ineffective Sunday, rushing for 44 yards and catching a team-high four passes for 25 yards. Still, without Johnson that isn’t going to be good enough. With the loss dropping the Lions to 3-2, they remain in first place in the NFC North by a tiebreaker over Chicago and a half-game over Green Bay.

Stock watch: Rising -- TE Brandon Pettigrew. He had a drop, but Pettigrew also made some big catches for Detroit on Sunday, including one where he caught the ball, trucked over one Green Bay defender and then hurdled another. Falling -- CB Chris Houston. Rough outing for Houston, who was beat deep on James Jones’ 83-yard touchdown and didn’t look completely healthy with his injured hamstring. Lions' wide receivers. They couldn’t get much separation as a group and couldn’t make any plays at all without Johnson and Nate Burleson. The Lions’ receivers caught a combined nine passes for 93 yards and a touchdown, or in other words, an average Johnson game on his own. Lions' offensive line. Detroit had allowed three sacks in its first four games. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked five times Sunday. Left tackle Riley Reiff, in particular, struggled with the Green Bay rush.

Levy having a season: Detroit linebacker DeAndre Levy had another strong game for the Lions. The linebacker seemingly was everywhere for Detroit. He led Detroit with 13 tackles, but his real value was shown in his bigger plays. He had three tackles for loss and broke up a pass in the first half. While the Detroit defensive line and secondary receive most of the attention and praise, Levy has been putting together perhaps the best season of his career.

What’s next: Detroit stays on the road for the second straight week, heading to Cleveland in a bid to stay over .500 for the season.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Here are three quick halftime thoughts from Green Bay-Detroit, where the Packers lead 6-3:

Penalties crushing Detroit: For the past two weeks, the Lions have done fine when it comes to avoiding drive-crushing penalties. That long-time problem returned again in the first half Sunday. Two third-down penalties on defense (one a defensive holding on Bill Bentley, another a tripping call on Ndamukong Suh) extended both Green Bay drives that ended up in field goals. On offense, a hold on Riley Reiff on the Lions’ final drive of the half negated a first-down run by Matthew Stafford and forced the Lions to kick a field goal.

Not crisp without Calvin: Prior to the final drive of the half, the Lions looked completely out of sorts without star wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Green Bay was focusing on the box, keeping Reggie Bush completely contained. The running back had nine yards rushing and 19 total yards in the first half. They also couldn’t find a reliable receiver to target. No Detroit receiver has more than two receptions. As a result, Stafford is 9 of 17 for 99 yards.

Defense holding up: Considering the lack of offensive, well, anything and a couple of bad penalties, the Lions' defense has done well. Other than the defensive holding penalty, Bentley has been good in coverage (he essentially broke up a touchdown reception) and has come up to help in the run. The defensive line has gotten some pressure on Aaron Rodgers, but not a ton. Then there's DeAndre Levy, who has two pass breakups and also read a Rodgers screen to Eddie Lacy perfectly.

Injuries: So far, not too much for Detroit. Special teamer Theo Riddick left the game with a possible head injury and linebacker Ashlee Palmer with a potential arm injury, but the Lions have been fortunate here.
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.”
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.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- When Detroit signed Reggie Bush before the season, it knew it would be receiving an explosive running back who fit what the Lions wanted in their offense.

The byproduct of Bush signing is that, after one game, the offense appears to be working. Matthew Stafford was accurate. The Lions had a running game with Bush, and much of that came from the improved play of the offensive line, a group breaking in three new starters.

[+] EnlargeReggie Bush
AP Photo/Paul SancyaDetroit's offensive linemen know tailback Reggie Bush needs only a little room to spring a big play.
On Sunday, Detroit picked up positive yards on almost every run play against the Minnesota Vikings. Twice, Bush ran for no gain. The only negative rushing play was a botched snap that Stafford fell on for a 5-yard loss.

Other than that, the line pushed enough to gain positive yardage each time and protected well. The reason why is potentially simple.

“In one word, Reggie,” right tackle Jason Fox said. “He’s a huge part of our offense, as you guys got to see in the first game. Now that we’re a balanced attack, they have to worry about stopping so many weapons on offense with Reggie and Calvin [Johnson] and our tight ends and other receivers and Joique [Bell].

“We have so many guys we can go to, and when they try to stop Calvin, we go to Reggie and vice versa.”

That has been the plan all along. It wasn’t even disturbed when Fox -- one of the new starters along with right guard Larry Warford and left tackle Riley Reiff -- left the game with a groin injury and was replaced by Corey Hilliard.

Didn’t matter. The Lions’ line continued to play well anyway.

All of this is interrelated offensively. The line has to block well enough for Bush to get into position. By getting into position, Bush takes pressure off the line, and if Stafford finds him enough, it could open up the field for Johnson and Detroit’s other receivers and tight ends.

But there is little doubt having Bush helps when it comes to both run blocking and pass blocking. His presence -- and Detroit’s renewed ability to have screens turn into touchdowns -- forces defenses to scheme differently against the Lions.

By having Bush, Johnson and other options, defenses can’t just sit back and play the deep pass or send blitzes at Stafford.

“It definitely kind of takes a little bit of pressure off, because those guys got to be aware of where he’s at,” tight end Brandon Pettigrew said of Bush. “I guess it can take the aggressiveness of a defense off, depending on the point of the game, what down and distance is.”

Teams might have to tone down the aggression against Detroit because Bush can be so active so fast in Detroit’s offense. As he showed Sunday, he can take a little room and turn it into a 77-yard touchdown off a screen.

Knowing Bush can break any play at any time gives the line even more incentive to block for the extra millisecond it takes to spring the play. The difference could have a massive result for Detroit this season.

“I’m excited blocking for him,” Warford said. “It makes you want to stay on your blocks a little bit more and focus on maintaining your blocks.

“You give him a little bit, he’ll make a lot.”