Indianapolis — In a world that often feels so unstable, allow Detroit Lions wide receiver Kalif Raymond to provide some words of comfort.
“There’s two things gonna happen that you can count on every day,” Raymond said. “The sun’s gonna rise, and Tom Kennedy’s gonna make a play.
Perhaps somebody in the Lions’ receiver room should amend the mantra to pluralize “play,” because Kennedy is starting to stack them like lumber.
After leading the NFL in receiving yards during Week 1 of preseason, Kennedy arrived at Lucas Oil Stadium for Week 2 on Saturday and lifted the Lions over the Indianapolis Colts with a two-touchdown performance and critical onside kick recovery in the final minute.
Sure, Kennedy only caught five passes for 24 yards — but the touchdowns were both huge, and they came just 5:29 apart.
His first was a 3-yard reception on the final play of the first half; he went up and caught a ball in the left corner of the end zone from David Blough with no time on the clock. He then caught another touchdown from Tim Boyle with 9:31 left in the third quarter in the back right corner of the end zone.
Lions head coach Dan Campbell said, “we’re trying to give him every opportunity to make this team,” and “he just won’t go away.”
You’d think Kennedy would be excited to talk about these triumphs. “You’ve got one minute. I want to talk to my parents,” Kennedy told reporters gathering around his locker after the game.
OK, so maybe not. But hey — he’s letting his play speak for him, and his teammates and coaches certainly aren’t having trouble coming up with adjectives to describe his play on the field and his demeanor off it.
“Dependable, reliable, trust, right? All those things,” Blough said. “He’s a baller. He showed up here four years ago on a tryout and he’s still here, and there’s a reason for that. Everything he’s done, he’s excelled in, and he does everything right.”
But at the same time, despite the fanfare and preseason production, Kennedy has yet to actually do anything with the opportunity that he’s grabbed. Not to say that what he’s done in preseason games or in training camp doesn’t matter; he simply recognizes that all it’s really doing is producing more opportunities that are even more important.
Campbell last week described Kennedy as “dependable.” This week, he upgraded him to “reliable.” It’s not lost on Kennedy, who’s scratched and clawed his way to this position with the Lions for nearly a half-decade, how fickle that endearment can be in the NFL.
“I think I said this a few weeks ago, but (I’m) just trying to keep that trust, you know? It’s something that takes a long time to earn, but you can lose it quickly,” Kennedy said.
“So, just trying to keep his trust every single day. Just continue to prove him right, basically.”
The Lions’ defensive line rebounded from a tough Week 1 of preseason in which the Falcons ran rampant and the quarterbacks broke contain with ease.
It appears they learned their lesson. The Lions on Saturday gave up 30 total rushing yards against the Colts for an average of 1.67 yards per carry. Sam Ehlinger led Colts quarterbacks in rushing yards with two. John Cominsky, Austin Bryant and Eric Banks each had a sack, with Cominsky and Bryant’s both coming on third down.
“We knew we needed to improve. The Falcons were able to get a couple good runs and we wanted to take pride in stopping the run,” Cominsky said. “So, we took the necessary adjustments and everybody showed up in their gap every time there was a run play, and running backs had nowhere to go. It was just a matter of what gap he ran into, whoever made the play.”
It also appears Bryant and Cominsky, who was claimed off waivers from the Falcons in May, have started to develop some chemistry. Neither entered the day as locks to make the Lions roster — hence, why they played nearly the entire game during the second week of preseason action — but both strengthened their case to be rotational pieces on Detroit’s defensive line.
“He’s just a warrior. I mean, I’ve been here for just a few months, and even at practice, he’s just a warrior. When it comes to the game, he’s two notches above that,” Cominsky said of Bryant. “I love playing with him.
On Cominsky’s sack, he came from the right-side interior and was waiting to tackle Colts quarterback Jack Coan after Bryant’s pressure from the left-side edge forced him up in the pocket.
“He’s been a force inside and out, man. He can play inside. He can play inside. Strong as an ox, so it’s been great being able to play beside him and build that chemistry,” Bryant said. “We’re coming together as a unit. Chemistry’s building and like I said, it’s a starting point.”
The great performance by Detroit’s defensive line capped a week that Campbell said was equally strong.
“I just felt like the most consistent group, of all of them this week, was the D-line in those two days (at joint practices),” Campbell said. “I thought every one of those guys improved. I didn’t feel like anybody took a step back and it just carried over into the game. So, they did a good job. They were disruptive, they fit gaps, they hustled, they played hard.”