The biggest concern with playing four preseason games is that key players will suffer injuries along the way.
The Detroit Lions received one of those scares Saturday night in their 31-20 road loss to the Oakland Raiders when quarterback Matthew Stafford injured his left (non-throwing) hand/wrist.
“He got his hand banged,” coach Jim Schwartz said during an interview with the Lions’ television network. “We’ll see. I think he’s OK.”
Stafford completed 8 of 10 passes for 68 yards before suffering the injury when he got hit in the pocket by defensive end David Tollefson.
Other Lions who were banged up in the game include running back Kevin Smith and cornerbacks Bill Bentley and Chris Houston.
Running back and cornerback are two positions where the team seemingly can’t afford any more significant setbacks. Both are already suspect areas.
The injured players have two weeks to recover before the first regular-season game on Sept. 9 against St. Louis.
Detroit (1-2) plays its final preseason game Thursday at home against Buffalo.
Here are some of the other highlights and lowlights from Saturday’s game: OFFENSE
Running back Mikel Leshoure, a second-round draft pick in 2011, made his Lions’ debut after missing last season with a torn Achilles’ tendon and the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury. Leshoure wasn’t productive statistically (five carries for 1 yard, one reception for 6 yards). The offensive line simply didn’t open up any holes for him. Leshoure, however, showed good moves, strength and toughness considering his long layoff. He turned apparent negative plays into either a small gain or at least not a loss of yardage in some cases. Smith, the current No. 1 running back, limped off the field with an injured right ankle early in the third quarter. He was later seen jogging around without a noticeable limp.
… Backup quarterback Shaun Hill misfired on a short pass to Calvin Johnson for what would have been a touchdown on a fourth-and-goal play from the 2-yard line late in the first half. Hill came back to redeem himself with a touchdown pass to tight end Brandon Pettigrew on the Lions’ first possession of the second half.
… Third-string quarterback Kellen Moore threw one touchdown pass, but he also had several passes batted down by defensive linemen, including one that got intercepted.
Bentley, a rookie, got the start at right cornerback, but he wasn’t out there for long. While making a tackle on the opening possession of the game, Bentley injured a shoulder when he collided with teammate John Wendling. Houston, the Lions’ other starting cornerback, went down with an injured left ankle. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh also was seen with his left knee wrapped in ice.
… Kyle Vanden Bosch went through the pregame drills but still hasn’t played in a preseason game because of a knee injury. “I’ll be back on the field soon,” Vanden Bosch said in a TV interview. Willie Young started in his place at right end and continued to make plays. Young, a seventh-round pick in 2010, intercepted a screen pass deep in Oakland territory in the second quarter.
The highlight of the night for the Lions was the improvement in these underrated areas. The punt- and kick-coverage teams looked like weak links in the first couple of games, but not this time. Rookie Ronnell Lewis made tackles on kick returns and delivered a key block on Justin Miller’s 79-yard kick return that set up a field goal. Reshard Langford, a safety from Vanderbilt who was recently added to the Lions’ roster, made an impressive tackle on a kick return. Oakland frequently started possessions inside its 20-yard line because of the Lions’ special teams.
Former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor played a major role in the Raiders pulling away in the second half for their first preseason victory. He picked apart the Lions’ defensive reserves, running for one touchdown and passing for two more.