The Detroit Lions may not have played many of their starters, but head coach Dan Campbell has got to be pretty happy with the team’s effort against the Indianapolis Colts in Saturday’s preseason game.
Detroit was specifically able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, outrushing the Colts 174 yards to just 30 for Indy.
But perhaps more importantly for the Lions, unlike last week’s preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons, the Lions were able to finish this game strong. Quarterback Tim Boyle led the Lions on a long touchdown drive late in the game, and while the defense allowed a potential go-ahead touchdown, a two-point conversion stop sealed the victory and give Detroit their first preseason win in the Dan Campbell era.
Detroit walked away from Indianapolis with a 27-26 victory. Here’s how it happened.
The Lions opted to bench the following players for Saturday’s game.
A lot of Lions not suited up today. Here are the uniform numbers:— Justin Rogers (@Justin_Rogers) August 20, 2022
Offense: 16, 4, 8, 14, 32, 30, 88, 68, 73, 77, 72, 88, 87 (injured), 13 (injured), 75 (injured).
Defense: 53, 54, 90, 97, 91 (injured), 99 (injured), 34, 24, 21, 5, 26 (injured), 38 (injured)
For the second game in a row, the Lions’ offense got the opportunity to take the field first, albeit the team’s second teamers. David Blough got the start and was able to create a couple first downs—a short pass to Kalif Raymond and a 6-yard scramble up the middle. Detroit was also able to run the ball somewhat effectively against the Colts, with “starter” Craig Reynolds and Jermar Jefferson combining for 27 rushing yards on the opening drive.
But in the red zone, Blough couldn’t find Raymond on a third-and-7, so the Lions settled for a short field goal. Austin Seibert was good from 28 yards for a 3-0 Lions lead.
The defense was in position to get a quick three-and-out after Anthony Pittman did a great job blowing up a disguised screen. However, Will Harris gave up a 23-yard play on third down after playing too soft in coverage on an underneath route. Harris then bit on a fake bubble screen on the next play, opening up the defense for another 20-yard gain to receiver Dezmon Patmon.
The Colts converted a third-and-9 after rookie safety Kerby Joseph couldn’t bring down rookie receiver Alec Pierce before the sticks.
Much like the Lions offense, though, the Colts stalled in the red zone. Austin Bryant provided a third-down pressure and linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez had perfect coverage to force an incompletion and a short field goal for the Colts. 3-3 tie.
The Lions’ offensive line started moving some Colts defenders on the next drive, starting with a pair of 11-yard runs from Reynolds to end the first quarter.
The Lions continued to lean heavily on the run game in the second quarter with Jefferson picking up a key fourth-and-1. But another red zone trip stalled after a couple of questionable play calls including a fade to Kalil Pimpleton and a screen that was completely blown up by the Colts defense. Seibert just barely squeaked a 40-yard field goal inside the right upright making it 6-3 Lions.
The Colts brought in third-string quarterback Sam Ehlinger on their second offensive drive of the day. It was a quick three-and-out for Ehlinger thanks to a first-down sack from Eric Banks and a tackle from Jeff Okudah well short of the sticks on third-and-long.
The Lions couldn’t take advantage of the good field position, though. Blough tried to force a ball in tight to Tom Kennedy on third-and-short, but Colts linebacker Forrest Rhyne deflected the pass up and it landed right in the hands of Tony Brown.
Tony Brown said, "I'll take that!"— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) August 20, 2022
: FOX pic.twitter.com/0SVhfmxeG9
Detroit’s defense was up to the challenge, though, holding the Colts to 0 yards in three plays. Indianapolis would tie it up with a 40-yard field goal of their own. 6-6 tie.
Receiver Maurice Alexander, who had been taking both punt and kick return duties in the first half, tried to give the Lions offense a spark with a huge 61-yard kick return.
Unfortunately, the Lions offense only went backwards, and Seibert doinked a 55-yard field goal off the right upright, keeping the score tied at six.
Ehlinger finally got the Colts offense moving from there, connecting for 19 yards after linebacker Chris Board had fallen and slipped in coverage. He then found receiver Mike Strachan for a big 25-yard pickup on third-and-7. Lions defensive end Eric Banks was injured on the play.
Out of the two-minute warning, Ehlinger hit Strachan for a 15-yard touchdown over Lions cornerback Mark Gilbert—who arguably had to deal with some uncalled offensive pass interference. You be the judge:
To help aid a two-minute drill for Blough, Alexander notched another big kick return, this one for 45 yards.
A couple of completions to Pimpleton got the Lions quickly in field goal range, and a big third-down conversion to Trinity Benson got the Lions in a first-and-goal situation with 20 seconds left, but no timeouts. A curious draw play left the Lions in a tough spot: three seconds on the clock, facing a third-and-goal from the 5-yard line. Rather than kick a chip-shot field goal, Dan Campbell opted to go for it, and Blough rewarded the risk with his first touchdown pass of the preseason to Tom Kennedy. 13-13 tie.
Detroit’s defense got off to a great start when Austin Bryant picked up a sack to force a quick three-and-out for Indy.
Justin Jackson rebounded from an earlier fumble with a big 21-yard run to kick off the Lions’ ensuing drive. Godwin Igwebuike moved Detroit into the red zone with a 17-yard run of his own. Tim Boyle capped the drive with a nice throw to Kennedy for the 10-yard touchdown pass. 20-13 Lions.
The Colts would quickly strike back, though. The Lions had busted coverage in their secondary, leading to a wide open Patmon for a 50-yard touchdown. There was clearly a miscommunication between the safeties, as rookie Kerby Joseph was clearly expecting help over the top from JuJu Hughes. 20-20 tie.
The offenses slowed from there, as three straight three-and-outs gave the ball back to the Colts at their own 34-yard line. They finally broke the streak with a 12-yard pass as the game rolled over into the final quarter.
The Colts drive wouldn’t last much longer, though. Saivion Smith laid a huge hit to break up a pass, and Austin Bryant got to Ehlinger for his second sack of the day (shared with John Cominsky).
Boyle responded with a really nice drive of his own. He did a nice job escaping pressure for a 9-yard scramble on third-and-6, and then he found Shane Zylstra for a huge 12-yard gain on third-and-9. Then on an all-out blitz, Igwebuike laid a nice block, giving Boyle time to find Trinity Benson for a 17-yard pickup on third-and-6. Igwebuike capped off the 18-play, 85-yard drive that ran off over 9:30 on the clock with a 2-yard touchdown run. 27-20 Lions.
That left the Colts just over four minutes left to tie the game. Fourth string quarterback Jack Coan got into Lions territory with a big 22-yard pickup to a wide-open Jelani Woods. Then Coan lofted a pretty pass to Samson Nacua for this touchdown pass.
But the Colts went for two to try and win the ball game, and Coan couldn’t find anyone open and an incomplete pass, ultimately giving the Lions the win (after a failed onside kick). 27-26 Lions.