The Detroit Lions are playing without several key players along the offensive and defensive lines due to injury — and it hasn't hurt them much.
Defensive tackle Nick Fairley, right guard Larry Warford and left tackle Riley Reiff, all starters, are recovering from knee injuries with no specific timetable for their return.
Asked about Fairley and Warford, coach Jim Caldwell said both are "getting better, but how rapidly remains to be seen." And he was "not real certain" whether Fairley would be ready to go again this season.
Without Fairley, who sprained his right knee against Atlanta on Oct. 26, the Lions' defensive line has stood strong.
In the four games since, Detroit has limited opponents to 49.6 yards rushing per game on 2.7 yards per carry. The Chicago Bears mustered a measly 13 yards on eight carries against the Lions on Thanksgiving.
"We all trust each other to be able to pick up the slack if someone goes down," defensive tackle Andre Fluellen said. "Everything is kind of working together right now. The first main emphasis is stopping the run."
Defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh, C.J. Mosley, Caraun Reid and Fluellen, and defensive ends Ziggy Ansah, Jason Jones and Darryl Tapp have all helped step up.
"The guys up front have been able to fill in wherever we have had some issues or an injury," Caldwell said. "They're versatile enough where they can play multiple positions. Their body types are such that their strike-and-get-off kind of nullifies weight. They may not be 320 pounds, but some of them can strike with enough force to minimize the damage."
Ansah, who has 40 tackles and a team-high 6 1/2 sacks this season, has emerged as a strong pass rusher.
"I don't think he has scratched the surface of how good he's going to be," Caldwell said. "He is some kind of player, and he is developing by leaps and bounds. He will do something every week that will vault him into a different level when you're evaluating. His strength, speed, the size of man he is, his awareness — he makes plays all over the field."
Along the offensive line, the Lions are adapting to life without two starters. Against the Bears, Detroit started Cornelius Lucas at left tackle and Travis Swanson at right guard. Lucas, a rookie out of Kansas State, was signed as an undrafted free agent. Detroit selected Swanson, another rookie, in the third round of this year's draft.
"They're smart guys, and they work hard during the week to prepare," center Dominic Raiola said. "We can trust them when they're in there. There hasn't been one week when we were worried about who's playing in there."
And, considering the presence of two untested youngsters, the Lions looked good on Thanksgiving. Running back Joique Bell finished with 91 yards and two scores on 4.0 yards per carry, and quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked only twice for seven yards.
"The young guys did pretty well," Caldwell said. "You can always go back and look at the film and find some instances where they didn't do as well as you'd like. That's kind of the nature of the position, but overall, when you look at that, both young guys hung in there and did a pretty nice job."
NOTES: Caldwell was asked if the Lions would consider signing RB Ray Rice, whose indefinite suspension was lifted last week by the NFL. Caldwell said: "We haven't considered that at this point" and added: "I'm not really sure what will happen to him in the league. Certainly, I do believe in second chances, as I have mentioned on several occasions. At some point in time, I think he will get one. When that is going to happen, I don't know."