MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA: Kaaya's first game action 'exhilarating'

Posted Aug 16, 2017

Brad Kaaya didn't try to hide his enthusiasm in expressing what it felt like to play quarterback in his first NFL game.

Brad Kaaya didn't try to hide his enthusiasm in expressing what it felt like to play quarterback in his first NFL game.

He shouldn't have, either – even if it was a preseason game.

Kaaya played well as the Detroit Lions' No. 3 quarterback in Sunday's 24-10 road win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Kaaya went in with 10:17 left in the third quarter and finished out the game. He completed eight of 11 passes for 71 yards. A 15-yard throw to undrafted rookie Dontez Ford in the fourth quarter accounted for the Lions' last touchdown.

It was a good showing by Kaaya, who was something of a surprise pick when the Lions drafted him in the sixth round after three seasons as a starter for the Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes.

Kaaya talked about the experience first, not the stats, when he was interviewed in the locker room after the game.

"Exhilarating,” Kaaya said. "It's something you dream about when you're a kid. It just felt good to be out in Indy and on the field, throwing the ball around again. I haven't thrown a ball since December 28th in my bowl game – like in an actual game scenario. So it's great.”

That last college game was a good one for Kaaya. He completed 24 of 34 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-14 win over West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl. He did not have an interception.

Despite that performance and the fact that he was a three-year starter, Kaaya had more detractors than supporters among so-called draft gurus when he entered the NFL draft after a third-year junior season.

None of that matters now. And for the moment, neither does speculation of where Kaaya and Jake Rudock stand in competing to be Matthew Stafford's backup. That will be sorted out in practices and the final three preseason games.

Rudock, a 2016 sixth-round pick, also played well against the Colts. He threw two TD passes and showed good mobility and pocket awareness.

Kaaya had the same reaction as other rookies about the difference between training camp practice and a preseason game.

"It happens a lot faster in games,” he said. "I felt like I did a good job in terms of handling the game and handling the process and operation.”

In that regard, Kaaya did well, especially for a rookie. The Lions ran their offense predominantly without a huddle, regardless of whether the quarterback was under center or in the shotgun.

The 15-yard TD pass to Ford was good recognition on Kaaya's part – and a good effort by Ford

On a second and nine, Kaaya was decisive with a quick throw to Ford to the left in front of a cornerback. Ford evaded the attempted tackle, broke another and stretched to get the ball over the goal line as he lunged into the end zone.

"I'm just glad that Brad trusted me enough to throw me the ball again after my first drop,” Ford said. "He put it in my hands, and I finished it.”

Kaaya's first of five possessions was his longest – eight plays for 38 yards, with two penalties for 20 yards forcing it to end in a punt.

The touchdown drive covered 30 yards in four plays and was set up by Jace Billingsley after the defense forced the Colts to punt from their four.

As much as he enjoyed the experience, Kaaya didn't make too much out of his performance.

"It's a good starting point,” he said. "Of course, I'm always finding ways to get better. I think there are things to correct, but overall, I felt I was decisive.

"I felt like I just let it rip and just played football.”