Lions power past Bills in preseason finale
The preseason is over. Now, a couple days of anxiety as the players fighting for one of the final spots on the team wait to see which 22 get released and exactly who makes the 53-man roster heading into the opening week of the regular season.
The Detroit Lions, like all NFL teams, must make their final cuts by 6 p.m. on Saturday.
The Lions finished the preseason with a 3-1 record after beating the injury-depleted Buffalo Bills, 35-13, Thursday night in Buffalo.
Detroit is now 15-5 in the preseason during Jim Schwartz’s five years as coach.
Receiver Calvin Johnson (bruised knee) was one of several starters who didn’t play, along with running back Reggie Bush, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, safeties Louis Delmas and Glover Quin, defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah and receiver Ryan Broyles.
What matters most is that everyone is as healthy as possible for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field.
Here are some more observations from Thursday for each phase of the game -- offense, defense and special teams:
• Concerns over quarterback Matthew Stafford’s passing accuracy this month weren’t put to rest. He played only two series and misfired at least three times when he had open receivers.
However, Stafford’s interception -- the Lions’ first turnover of the preseason -- was the result of a deflected pass that went through receiver Nate Burleson’s hands.
• Rookie Larry Warford started at right guard while Jason Fox got the call at right tackle. Could that be the starting combination on the right side for the opener after a month-long competition between at least three candidates at both positions? You would think so.
• Joique Bell got the start with Reggie Bush out, suggesting that Bell indeed has emerged as the No. 2 running back over last year’s starter, Mikel Leshoure. Bell scored on a 23-yard run. Leshoure didn’t help his case by losing a fumble in Lions’ territory.
• No. 2 quarterback Shaun Hill remained in midseason form despite missing last week’s game. He threw two touchdown passes -- 8 yards to Patrick Edwards, 6 yards to Kris Durham -- on his first two possessions. Hill has been extremely sharp all preseason.
• On a team that is struggling to find pass-catching options to complement Johnson, five-year NFL veteran Matt Willis has been as productive as anyone, albeit mostly with the second- and third-team.
• Running back Theo Riddick, a sixth-round draft pick from Notre Dame, scored two touchdowns on short passes from Kellen Moore. Riddick was one of the players who desperately needed to make a good final impression. He did.
• After beating New England, 40-9, last week, the Lions led the Bills, 35-3, at halftime, marking the first time since 1954 that they scored at least 35 points in back-to-back preseason games.
• The Lions took advantage of the Bills’ quarterback issues. Matt Leinart, who joined the team only a few days ago, got the start at QB and was intercepted by defensive backs Bill Bentley and Rashean Mathis deep in Buffalo territory to set up Detroit’s first and third touchdowns.
• After getting benched in the last game for a taunting penalty, defensive end Willie Young made his first two sacks of the preseason. An avid fisherman, Young celebrated with his trademark move where he pretended to hook a fish and reel it in.
• Don Carey, who is the No. 3 safety, suffered an apparent upper-body injury in the second quarter. Carey indicated it’s not serious, according to Tom Leyden, the sideline reporter for the Lions’ TV network.
• Cornerback Chris Greenwood, who has been injured most of the time since being fifth-round draft pick out of Albion College last year, got beat in man-to-man coverage for a 79-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Not a good moment for a player on the roster bubble.
• Rookie punter Sam Martin, the team’s fifth-round draft pick, has been nursing a sore back and didn’t play. He was replaced by undrafted free agent Blake Clingan, who had a punt downed at the 4-yard line to help set up a touchdown. Placekicker David Akers handled the kickoff duties in Martin’s absence. Akers showed he still has a strong enough leg to reach the end zone.
• Undrafted rookie Steven Miller got the first crack as the return specialist again. He returned the opening kick 34 yards, but didn’t do much on his other return opportunities.