Injury-plagued Lions still adding wrinkles
Drew Stanton at quarterback and Stefan Logan at ... running back?
With injuries mounting as the season draws to a close, the Detroit Lions are needing to find some creative ways to move the ball. Since taking over as a starter two games ago, Stanton has been about as effective with his feet as with his arm.
Logan, meanwhile, carried five times for 30 yards last weekend - not bad for a 5-foot-6, 180-pounder listed as a wide receiver who contributes mostly as a return specialist.
''I don't know that it's anything that we're inventing, but there's going to be times during the season where you're going to have to go to a little bit different way,'' coach Jim Schwartz said. ''That's sort of where we are right now.''
The plan back in September was for Matthew Stafford to throw sharp passes to Calvin Johnson, with rookie Jahvid Best providing support from the backfield. Instead, Stafford hardly has played because of a bad shoulder, and backup Shaun Hill also has been hurt, putting Stanton in charge of the offense.
Stanton looked comfortable when he started Dec. 5 against Chicago, throwing for 178 yards and running for a touchdown. Last weekend, he threw two interceptions, but he remains a threat to tuck the ball in on an occasional designed run. He ran four times for 44 yards in Detroit's 7-3 win over Green Bay on Sunday.
''I didn't really know what to expect,'' Stanton said. ''I think you just focus in on the game plan throughout the course of the week and break it down on each given play what your responsibility is. If your number is called, then you try and do it, and if the look's there, take advantage of it.''
The Lions didn't score much last weekend, but they were able to overcome Stanton's passing struggles by rushing for a season-high 190 yards. Best, who has been fighting a toe injury, contributed only 38 of those yards. The other carries went to players like Maurice Morris, Jerome Felton and Logan. Kevin Smith is on injured reserve.
Logan entered the game with only four NFL carries, although he played tailback when he was in the Canadian Football League.
''These coaches, they've seen me,'' Logan said. ''I'm sure before they bring guys in, they check their bio and see what they do.''
Logan's flashy speed appeared to catch Green Bay off-guard, even if he was used only sparingly at running back.
''Stefan has been an outstanding player for us this year,'' Schwartz said. ''Not only his kick coverage, not only his kick returns and his punt returns, but his contributions on offense. We went another step in his contributions just handing him the football. He's not tall, but he's also not small. He's short but he's strong and he's played a lot of running back.''
The Lions certainly aren't unique with their injuries. At this time of year, any team has to be ready to adjust to account for players who aren't available.
Hill tried to throw a bit at practice Wednesday, but the index finger on his throwing hand still appeared to be in a splint. Schwartz hasn't announced a starting quarterback for Sunday's game at Tampa Bay.
Aside from Stanton and Logan, the Lions are getting contributions from other unheralded players. Defensive lineman Kyle Vanden Bosch has been out with a neck problem, so Turk McBride has stepped in and made three sacks over the last two games.
Johnson is having a fine season at wide receiver, but the real discovery has been second-year tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who has 62 catches.
And when Detroit ran a tight end screen for its only touchdown Sunday, Pettigrew wasn't even on the receiving end. Instead, Will Heller made his third catch of the season and followed his blockers to the end zone.
''In this game, there's going to have to be guys who step in, maybe take a bigger role than they were expected to take, or even take on a different role,'' Hill said. ''Stefan, by and large, has been a receiver for us in different situations. He has had to come in and take some plays at running back, and to be able to do both is very good for us.''