Already down two starters on offense with center Travis Swanson (concussion) and right tackle Rick Wagner (ankle) inactive, the Lions' offense lost three more starters to injury in Saturday’s 20-10 win over Chicago.
Right guard T.J. Lang, who’s been nursing a foot injury the last couple weeks, left the game in the first half and didn’t return. He was replaced by veteran guard Don Barclay, who hadn’t played much at all this season leading up to Saturday.
The offensive line wasn’t the only area affected by injury, either. The skill positions took a hit too.
Receiver TJ Jones left the game in the second half with a left shoulder injury suffered when he attempted to make a tackle on special teams. Before leaving, Jones caught three passes for 26 yards, including a three-yard touchdown.
Running back Theo Riddick, who started the game and played more than three times as many snaps (30) in the first half than fellow backs Tion Green (7) and Ameer Abdullah (4), did not play in the second half.
Riddick didn’t return after fumbling late in the second quarter with what the Lions say is a wrist injury. That’s somewhat concerning, considering Riddick had offseason wrist surgery that made him miss most of the offseason training program.
Lions head coach Jim Caldwell didn’t have any update on Riddick after the game.
Playing on Saturday gives the Lions an extra day of rest before next Sunday’s contest in Cincinnati. Hopefully, the extra day does some of these injured Lions some good.
MARVIN JONES JR. CONTINUES TO BALL
The trust level between Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and second-year Lions receiver Marvin Jones Jr. seems to be at an all-time high. And really, why shouldn’t it be?
All Jones continues to do is make big plays for his quarterback. He notched his 17th catch of the season of 20-plus yards with a highlight-reel 58-yarder that he high-pointed over a Bears defender in the first half. Jones’ five touchdowns on the year of 20-plus yards were the third most in the NFL coming in.
He totaled three catches for 85 yards against the Bears, which gives him 970 yards this year with two games still remaining in the regular season.
“I think that’s the key to success on offense is having trust in each other,” Stafford said after the game. “The one to Marv (Jones) was an exceptional play.”
Jones has shown to have terrific body control on those deep balls, and finds a way to catch them more times than not.
“Yeah, he’s made some great ones for us,” Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said of Jones. “Those 50-50 balls, he finds a way to come up with it, get his body in position to go up and pull that thing down aggressively.
“I think Matthew’s comfortable with the way these guys (including Kenny Golladay) are going after the ball for him. (Eric) Ebron goes up and catches that one extremely high in the end zone, and that’s what’s got to happen. Guys got to make plays for you. Every throw’s not going to be absolutely perfect and he’s got to trust you enough that in 50-50 situations he’s going to lay it up there and know it’s going to be either our ball or nobody’s ball.”
In the second half Saturday, the Lions offensive line looked like this: Taylor Decker (LT), Joe Dahl (LG), Graham Glasgow (C), Don Barclay (RG) and Corey Robinson (RT).
Not what they probably expected heading in.
But the NFL is a next-man-up kind of league, and Detroit’s offensive line found a way to create just enough holes in the run game, and keep Stafford just clean enough in the pass game, to allow four scoring drives and ultimately a 20-10 win.
“Yeah, I commend them,” Caldwell said of his offensive linemen. “I think everybody kind of picks on them once in a while or – I’m going to just tell you something. It is not easy to do what they do. They come in, they don’t blink, they line up, they play wherever we ask them to play, they get the job done and well enough for us to get a victory.
“I commend those guys. They work at it. They’re quiet men that just focus on the task. They got good strong leadership in that room and they did a nice job.”
Stafford certainly appreciated the effort from those guys up front, even though Chicago did get to him four times for sacks.
“Yeah, I mean, that’s a tough front, too,” Stafford said. “I mean, those guys are big and physical on the inside. They make it tough to run the ball, they’re good pass rushers, too.
“So, our guys did a great job, you know, hung together, hung tough, communicated well and we got the win.”