Burning questions – Offense clicking, defense dominating, backups making a statement as the Detroit Lions close out the preseason with a 31-0 victory over the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field Thursday night:
Question: With both teams using reserves almost exclusively, what was the most important aspect of the game?
Answer: Playmaking. Forget the score – although winning is always better than losing. With a lot on the line for players trying to improve their status, the ability to take advantage of playing time and make plays is what separates players.
There were a lot of players who did that for the Lions on both sides of the ball.
Q. Dwayne Washington: How much did the rookie running back help himself with a 58-yard touchdown run on the third play of the game?
A. Wherever he stood in terms of any decision about his status, that play had to help. It was his third TD of the preseason, and he showed breakaway speed on the play. Once he got around the left end, he outran everyone to the end zone. No Bills defender was gaining on him as he crossed the goal line.
Q. Was that his best play of the game?
A. It's hard to argue that it wasn't because it was a touchdown. But he had a five-yard gain on the next possession that showed something, too. There was no opening to the left, and he cut back through traffic to find an opening and turn what would have been no gain into a five-yard run.
Sometimes small runs can be just as important as big ones. That play showed good vision on Washington's part.
Q. Jake Rudock: He took over for Dan Orlovsky early in the first half and threw three TD passes. Did that solidify his spot as the No. 3 quarterback?
A. It all depends on if the Lions have planned to go with two quarterbacks or three. If they plan to keep three, there's no reason he didn't clinch a job. He was efficient, and he got the ball in the end zone.
Q. Catching up: Two rookie free agent receivers had big games. Jay Lee had six catches for 78 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Jace Billingsley made a terrific 10-yard TD catch in the third quarter, and he turned a short pass from Rudock into a 47-yard gain just before that. How much did the two players help themselves?
A. This goes for Lee, Billingsley and any other player trying to make the roster. Decisions will be made by the front office, with input from the coaching staff, on who makes the 53-player roster based on the entire training camp and the preseason games.
A lot goes into a lot of decisions that aren't based entirely on statistics in one game – whether it's Game 4 of the preseason, or the first possession of Game 1.
Q. Bottom line: So what does it mean that they played well in the last preseason game?
A. The most accurate thing to say is that with the starters not playing, they got extended playing time and took advantage of it. They put something on their resume that can only help. It's probably as much pressure as they have faced in any one game in their sports career, and they handled it well.
The same thing goes for a lot of players. Zach Zenner had a nifty catch and run on third and 10 that set up the TD pass to Lee in the last minute of the first half. The offensive line gave the two quarterbacks, Orlovsky and Rudock, enough time to function.
Q. Defense: What about the job it did?
A. It dominated up front. Caraun Reid, Kerry Hyder and Anthony Zettel put pressure on the quarterback from the beginning. Rookie A'Shawn Robinson deflected a pass in the fourth quarter that turned into an interception and a long return for the Lions into scoring territory.
With none of the starters playing, they got their chance to show that there could be quality depth up front.
Q. Reservations about reserves: Does it take anything away that the Lions beat up on the Bills' reserves?
A. Nobody's claiming that the winner was going to the Super Bowl. It was Game 4 of the preseason, and a game that the Lions should have won – which they did.
Overall, it gave the Lions a better feeling than if they'd have ended the preseason with a third straight loss.
The bottom line on the entire preseason is this: the instant the game ended, all that counts is the regular-season opener at Indianapolis on Sept. 11. Win or lose, it would have been the same.