FOUR DOWNS: Passing the test, Bell impresses, penalties still an issue and the "Calvin" rule

Posted Sep 8, 2013

Tim Twentyman looks at the performance of the Lions' offensive line and linebackers, how penalties impacted the game, the play of RB Joique Bell and Calvin Johnson once again being on the short end of his own rule


Two of the bigger question marks for the Lions heading into the regular season were how the offensive line would perform with three new starters and how and linebacking corps with suspect depth would perform.

Both units passed the test in a 34-24 win over the Vikings.

The offensive line gave up only one sack and that was on an ill-advised read-option keeper by Matthew Stafford along the left edge. Otherwise, Stafford was hit just four times in the game.

"There was probably a lot of fretting about our offensive line from people outside our organization, but we had confidence in those guys and what they can do," Schwartz said after the game.

"Like I said, we lost a starter early in the game, didn’t miss a beat. Stepped in and played and that’s what we expect from our guys – it’s what we expect from a veteran player like Corey Hilliard.

"That’s a tough matchup. I mean, that’s a very, very good front and they’ve given us a lot of problems – last year they gave us an awful lot of problems. We had a hard time getting a pass off without getting hit last year. We couldn’t run the ball for an inch. This year was a different story. I think a lot of that credit goes to our offensive line."

The Lions offense put up 469 yards of total offense.

As for the linebackers, job No. 1 was to be sure tacklers, which was the biggest point of emphasis coming in. They tackled well and mixed in some big plays.

DeAndre Levy had an interception and a tackle for loss. Stephen Tulloch had an interception and a sack. Ashlee Palmer had a tackle for loss.

The defense held Adrian Peterson to under 100 yards rushing and forced four turnovers. A lot of that was because of the play at linebacker.


Joique Bell was a spark plug for the Lions in an otherwise dreadful season last year. He established himself as a playmaker and a weapon out of the backfield. He showed Sunday he’s picking up right where he left off.

Bell had his first-career two-touchdown game, but admitted afterward that a shout-out had to go to Reggie Bush.

"I’d like to throw a shout-out to the big homey Reggie Bush for donating to the Joique Bell Touchdown Club," Bell said after the game.

Bell was the beneficiary of two plays in which Bush was tackled right before the goal line.

Bell accounted for 92 total yards and was again a factor in the passing game with five catches for 67 yards. He and Bush look to be a nice one-two combo in the Lions backfield.


Schwartz said after the game that he’d never apologize for a hard-fought victory against a playoff team. He’s right, the only thing that matters in the end is the win, but penalties did rear their ugly heads again, and the kind that could eventually cost the Lions a game.

An illegal low block by Ndamukong Suh negated a second-quarter interception return for a touchdown by Levy. Instead of a touchdown and a 13-7 Lions lead, the ball was placed on the Vikings 39-yard line. The very next play, Stafford had a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage that was intercepted.

No touchdown. No lead. No football.

"The dumb penalties were hurting us early," Bush said after the game. "There's no doubt in my mind that we were going to come back from it and regroup at halftime and we were able to do that. I think that we can play mistake free or a just a few penalties less and no turnovers. I think we could've put up a lot more points today."

The Lions had a total of 11 penalties for 88 yards in the game.

"The one I was disappointed in was on their sideline when we got that penalty," Schwartz said of an after-the-whistle unsportsmanlike penalty on Louis Delmas. "I think that was the one I was most disappointed in.

"But I’m not going to apologize for any win. We won this football game. There’s a lot of positives in this game, we were resilient, we played hard, we played physical and we went out and beat a playoff team at home in the opener. And I’m not going to apologize for anything this team did."



Calvin JohnsonWR Calvin Johnson (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

Completing the process of the catch. It’s a phrase well known around these parts. It became famous on opening day in Chicago in 2010 when Calvin Johnson’s apparent game-winning touchdown catch from Shaun Hill with seconds left was ruled not a catch because he didn’t finish the "process".

Johnson fell victim to a very similar play on Sunday when an apparent diving 20-yard touchdown catch was reversed after video replay looked to show the ball moving in Johnson’s hands when he hit the ground after crossing the goal line.

"Just typical," Stafford said. "It would happen to him. "

Referee John Parry detailed the ruling after the game.

"A player that is going to the ground on his own, which Calvin was on that play, must possess and maintain the possession of the football through the entire act of the catch," he said. "The catch did not end in that scenario. When the ball hit the end zone, the ball moved. It rotated. So he didn’t maintain possession of the football."

Johnson just missed another touchdown later in the game when his second foot hit the end line in the back of the end zone.

"I mean, he’s a two-time loser on his own rule," Schwartz said.