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Return Game A Bright Spot In Detroit's 33-28 Loss

By Ashley Scoby

One of the positives to Detroit's meltdown on Sunday, where the Lions blew a 21-3 lead on the Chargers but lost 33-28, was the return game.

Before the defense stopped forcing San Diego to punt, Golden Tate was back deep and returned two punts for 34 yards. It was a good example of what can happen when the ball is in a playmaker's hands (positive yardage, and in this case, good field position).

Although Tate performed well, head coach Jim Caldwell said there was still the potential of putting other players back deep. Detroit has several options at punt return, if they decide they would rather Tate save his play-making for the regularly-scheduled offense.

"Like I said even before the game, you're going to see a mixture of a number of guys," he said. "You could see Ameer (Abdullah) back there, you could see a number of guys back there. You could see TJ (Jones) back there and that's a good thing. I think we do have some options there in that area but he did a nice job for us."

Tate wasn't the only one doing well in the return game. Rookie running back Abdullah electrified with three kickoff returns totaling 105 yards, including a long of 48 yards.

After kickoffs that were returnable, the Lions started out their drives at their own 47, own 43 and own 26. Two of those drives, however, ended in punts, and the other ended in the final touchdown of the game, when the result was pretty much decided barring an onside kick miracle.

If Detroit's offense can get on the same page and consistently move forward (and if Matthew Stafford remains healthy after taking a huge blindside hit Sunday), it could be huge for the Lions if Abdullah keeps putting up those kinds of numbers on kickoffs.

"Well, I think he's a guy that gets the ball a number of different ways, too," Caldwell said of Abdullah. "I think you have to look at the total. He's carrying the ball on kick returns, he's carrying the ball on pass receiving and he's carrying the ball from scrimmage. So that's a pretty good sampling size there."

During his four-year career at Nebraska, Abdullah returned 61 kicks for 1,592 yards and a touchdown, including 14 for 392 yards his senior year. And his freshman season was actually his most prolific when it came to his return game: In 2011 he returned 26 kicks for 763 yards (a 29.3 average) and a touchdown (100 yards against Fresno State).

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