Before Sunday’s matchup with the Carolina Panthers, the signing of RB Kevin Smith during Detroit’s bye week barely made any headlines. The Lions’ record when Smith played was a lousy 4-32. Smith was a third round draft pick in 2008, but was the featured back during that awful 0-16 season with 976 yards rushing, 8 TDs. Smith never displayed any breakaway speed and some people doubt the Lions should have drafted him in the first place – of course, it did not help Smith’s case that he was drafted by Matt Millen. In 2010, the Lions drafted Jahvid Best to take some of the workload from Smith. Smith tore his ACL last year and seem forgotten as the Lions drafted another running back in 2011, Mikel Leshoure, and waived him. Smith rehabbed his knee, but did not receive any training camp invitees by other teams due to the lockout.
While Smith was laying on his couch a couple of weeks ago, the Lions called Smith for a tryout during their bye week. The Lions were thin at RB as Leshoure tore his achilles tendon during preseason (out for season) and Best had a concussion. All of sudden, the Lions struggled running the ball which led to them losing 3 out of their next 4 games. The Lions signed Smith in hope to carry the some workload off of RB Maurice Morris. Little did they know how much they would need him on Sunday.
Much of the talk this past week was QB Matthew Stafford’s right index finger he hurt against the Broncos back a couple of weeks ago. Stafford threw four interceptions against the Bears and fans were wondering maybe the Lions should go with backup QB Shaun Hill until Stafford was healthy. That debate heated up quickly on Sunday as Stafford threw 2 more interceptions all in the 1st quarter. But in the 2nd quarter, enter Kevin Smith. Smith on the first play of the 2nd quarter, rushed for 43 yards and then on the next play scored on a 28 yard TD pass from Stafford. Smith would finish the day with 140 yards rushing and scoring 3 TDs – all career highs.
Now Smith’s strong performance does not come against a powerful run defense. In matter of fact, Carolina has the third-worst run defense in the NFL, allowing 140.7 yards per game on the ground, and also in the bottom five, allowing opposing backs to gain 4.8 yards per carry. It will be interesting to see if Smith will be a major contributor throughout the rest of this season – or was this just an average running back having an unbelievable day against one of the worst run defenses in the league.
Behind Smith and Stafford, the Lions pulled out a 49-35 win despite being down by 13 at halftime. Stafford threw for 5 TDs and while none went to WR Calvin Johnson. As good teams are suppose to do, they found a way to win despite not playing their best. Next up for the Lions – the Packers. Unlike other games this season, the Lions cannot get down in the 1st half and expect to rally in the 2nd half against the undefeated Packers.
About the Author
Written by Bob Ballard