Lions potentially have versatile, dynamic duo in backfield

September 15, 2016
Detroit Lions running back Theo Riddick (25) celebrates as he runs in for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during the first half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — A year after having the NFL’s worst running game, the Detroit Lions look as if they potentially have a dynamic duo in the backfield.

Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick combined for 120 yards receiving and 108 yards rushing in the Lions’ season-opening 39-35 victory at Indianapolis.

Detroit was determined to establish its improved ground game early against the Colts, including on the opening drive that was capped by Riddick’s 21-yard touchdown run.

And late in the game, the coaches didn’t abandon that part of the game plan as they called running plays to set up Riddick’s second score on a 13-yard reception.

“To be a successful team, you got to be able to run the ball in tough situations and you got to be able to count on it,” Abdullah said Wednesday.

The Lions had a one-dimensional offense last season, relying on Matthew Stafford’s arm, a receiving group led by Calvin Johnson and Riddick’s pass-receiving skills.

Detroit averaged an NFL-low 83.4 yards rushing per game, gaining just 3.8 yards per rushing attempt.

Abdullah approached that average by himself in Week 1, running for 63 yards on 12 carries. Riddick had seven carries — matching a career high — for 45 yards and a score against the Colts.

“In the run game, we were a little bit better,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “The real key thing is to make certain that we continue because every week is going to be a little different challenge.”

The Lions (1-0) will host Tennessee (0-1) on Sunday in their home opener.

The Titans began the season with a 25-16 loss at home to the Minnesota Vikings, but did an impressive job of holding Adrian Peterson to just 31 yards rushing on 19 carries, none of which went for double digits in yards.

Without Johnson in the lineup for the first time in a decade, the Lions have had to quickly learn how to make the most of what they have on the roster.

Abdullah, a second-round pick last year, and Riddick, a sixth-round selection in 2013, appear to be great options for Stafford when he hands the ball off or tosses a short pass.

“Both guys are really, really good between the tackles running the ball, and also out in space,” Stafford said.

“Catching the ball out of the backfield, running wide, whatever it is. We’ve got two talented guys, two young guys that are going to help us out.”

Abdullah had career highs with five receptions and 57 yards receiving and a score at Indianapolis. Riddick had five receptions for 63 yards and a score, picking up where he left off last season. He and Danny Woodhead had 80 receptions, the most by a running back in 2015.

“I said this morning, ‘They have two backs that are dangerous in both areas and so do we,’” said Titans coach Mike Mularkey, referring to DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry. “It’ll be a good challenge.”

Detroit also has a third running back, Dwayne Washington, a 6-foot-2, 226-pound rookie, who gives them another option in short-yardage situations. Washington powered into the end zone on a 1-yard run, helping the Lions take an early 14-point lead against the Colts.

“He’s a really young, talented kid, got a lot of raw potential,” Stafford said. “He’s got potential. We’ll see where his role goes, and how he evolves in this offense. We’re happy to have him.”


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