The Detroit Lions running backs rose to the occasion Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis and helped spearhead a 39-35 win to kick off their season.
For a team that finished last running the football last year at just 83.4 yards per game, their 116-yard performance against the Colts was exactly the kind of start they were looking for.
Ameer Abdullah rushed 12 times for 63 yards (5.3 average). Theo Riddick carried it seven times for 45 yards (6.4). Even rookie running back Dwayne Washington, who was the power back for the Lions Sunday with Zach Zenner inactive, got into the mix with a 1-yard touchdown, the first of his career.
All three running backs active for the Lions scored a touchdown. Riddick had two.
"That's no secret. That's how you win championships, by having a run game," receiver Golden Tate said.
"You've got to be able to run the ball and I think we showed that today against a pretty good defense. We've just got to come back, watch the film tomorrow, be very critical, enjoy this win tonight, but it's time to get back to work."
Not only were Abdullah and Riddick effective on the ground, but they also combined to catch 10 passes for another 120 yards.
"When our run game is what it is tonight it helps us out a bunch," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "It keeps our defense off the field and we can kind of eat some clock when we wanted to there at certain points.
"It's going to make our play-action game that much better, but our guys up front I was really proud just kind of watching after I hand the ball off, just the backside. I mean they may not get their block perfect every time, but they're staying on. When we do that we've got backs with talent. I mean they're going to find creases and those guys did that."
The Lions didn't have a 100-yard rushing game until Week 6 vs. Chicago last year (155) and only recorded six such performances all year.
The Lions averaged a very effective 4.8 yards per carry against the Colts.
Stafford has been rolling throwing the football his last nine games. If the offense can be this effective running the football to go along with that, it's going to be tough to handle.
SAM I AM
Just two days after signing a lucrative contract extension that will keep him in Detroit for the foreseeable future, punter Sam Martin had one of his finest games.
Martin punted four times with a gross average of 58.8 yards, a career and franchise high. He also netted 55.5 yards of net, which was also a career high.
Martin is a weapon for this team, and with Don Carey and Johnson Bademosi on the outside as gunners, Martin could be in for a career year.
When training camp started, who had Kerry Hyder recording the first sack of the regular season? Who had him recording the first two?
That's exactly what he did Sunday in Indianapolis, and both plays were critical in stopping Colts drives.
The former defensive tackle turned edge rusher just kept on improving from the start of the offseason program to final cuts, giving the Lions no choice but to keep him on the 53-man roster.
He rewarded them with three tackles, two sacks, two quarterback hits and two tackles for loss in the opener.
"I'll tell you, the guy is interesting because of the fact that he just finds a way," Caldwell said. "He has just an unbelievable motor, but also he's really slippery.
"He doesn't necessarily overpower you, but he can. He doesn't necessarily run around you, but he can, but he just doesn't stop."
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is one of the best in the business, so he's going to go off sometimes. But Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin won't be happy with some of the broken coverages and wide-open receivers Luck found himself completing passes to.
The Colts ended up with 450 yards of total offense, 385 through the air. Hyder had the only two sacks for the defense as Luck had a pretty stress-free night in the pocket.
Austin will have plenty of teaching points in the film room and practice field this week, especially for his secondary, ahead of next week's home opener vs. Tennessee.
There were a lot of question marks about Detroit's offensive line heading into the season, but that unit was very good vs. the Colts.
They allowed just one sack and helped open 116 yards worth of running lanes. Rookie left tackle Taylor Decker was very good in his debut. Veteran right tackle Riley Reiff also played well after the switch to the right side.
Second-year guard Laken Tomlinson allowed the one sack and had a couple of other missed plays pop up throughout the game, but other than that, the unit was pretty strong overall.
"We'll look at the film and see, but when you run the ball for over 100 yards, when you protect (the) quarterback, I think Matthew (Stafford) got hit a few times there after things were over and done with, but I think they held up decently," Caldwell said of the offensive line.
"We're not perfect any stretch of the imagination, I know there's going to be a whole lot of work to do, but I was glad our guys were able to fight and hang in there and get a win on the road against a real good team."