LIONS INSIDER

NOTEBOOK: Lions rookie rushers stepping up big late in the season

Posted Nov 28, 2013

Both considered "raw" when they were drafted, Ziggy Ansah and Devin Taylor are coming alive down the stretch

As happy the Lions were to walk off Ford Field with a resounding 40-10 victory over the Packers, there were still too many mistakes, which -- if not cleaned up moving forward -- could cost them down the stretch the last four games.

Ziggy AnsahDE Ziggy Ansah (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

Detroit had a fumble lost inside the Packers' 10-yard line; a sack and a fumble returned for the only Packers touchdown; two interceptions, both in Packers territory; a missed field goal and two kickoffs that went out of bounds.

Just imagine what the score would have been if some of that hadn’t occurred.

"We just kept on playing," head coach Jim Schwartz said of the mistakes early on. "Look, you’re not going to play a perfect game. You’re not going to have a game with no turnovers and do everything right in a game.

"There is always going to be something that happens in a game that you have to do better and that you have to overcome or so to speak. I thought our guys did a good job. There could have been a lot more points on the board, but we got enough to win. That’s the only thing we’re really worried about."

It is a bit alarming, however, the Lions have 17 turnovers in their last 18 quarters of football. Amazing they are 3-2 over that stretch, which goes to show how talented this team truly is.

If that trend continues, though, the Lions will make it tougher than it has to be to win the NFC North and host a playoff game.

ROOKIE RUSHERS

How good have the Ziggy Ansah and Devin Taylor draft picks turned out to be for general manager Martin Mayhew and the Lions?

The pair combined for six tackles, four sacks (two apiece), three tackles for loss, four quarterback hits and Taylor forced a fumble that was recovered by the Lions in the second half on Thursday.

Ansah, the No. 5-overall pick in April’s draft, has four sacks in his last two games and leads all rookies with seven sacks on the year. He’s quietly throwing his hat in the defensive rookie of the year conversation.

Taylor, the team’s fourth-round pick, has received extended playing time ever since starter Jason Jones was lost for the season with a knee injury in Week 3. Thursday was his best game of the season.

Both players were considered raw when the team selected them. They're getting better each and every week as they gain experience. That has to be a scary thought for opposing quarterbacks.

STEPPING UP

Speaking of rookies stepping up and playing well, second-round pick Darius Slay has had quite an up-and-down season. He began the year as a starter, benched for veteran Rashean Mathis. He has played a reserve role ever since.

The Lions needed him to step up in a big way with starter Chris Houston inactive, however, and Slay answered the bell.

He led the team with three pass breakups and his only real mistake on the day was not coming down with an interception in position to do so, instead letting Packers receiver James Jones take the ball away from him late for a 56-yard gain.

"Darius has worked really hard and he had the opportunity today and he played well," Schwartz said. "I mean, I feel a little bad for him on that last play. I thought he was going to make an interception."

Sometimes it only takes one good performance to build the kind of confidence in a young player that lasts the rest of the season.

EXTRA POINTS

  • Linebacker DeAndre Levy picked up his sixth interception of the season, which leads the NFL. He’s just the third linebacker in franchise history to record six in a season.
  • The team’s 30-point victory margin against the Packers is the largest since a 34-0 win (34-point margin) vs. Green Bay Oct. 28, 1973.
  • The win represents the first time since realignment in 2002 Detroit has defeated Chicago, Green Bay and Minnesota each in the same season.
  • The Lions gained 241 yards on the ground is the highest rushing output since the Lions gained 249 yards vs. Indianapolis November 23, 1997.