After playing nothing but close games requiring comebacks this season, Sunday was a nice change for the Detroit Lions and their fans. Going into Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the expectation was for the Lions to win and win big. The Lions did not disappoint, as they dominated the Jaguars on Sunday, winning by a score of 31-14. The game wasn't close at all, as this was a completely one-sided affair in favor of the Lions, and the victory got Detroit back to .500 on the season.
This probably won't come as a huge surprise given how previous games have gone this season, but the Lions actually got off to a fairly slow start on Sunday. They didn't open with a three-and-out, but the Lions did have to punt on the game's opening possession. The Jaguars, on the other hand, did go three-and-out on their first possession, but the Lions couldn't take advantage by getting good field position. This is because Stefan Logan didn't catch the ensuing punt and let the ball bounce all the way down to the eight-yard line. It ended up being a 73-yard punt, and the offense was backed up deep in its own end as a result.
The Lions overcame the poor field position thanks to two important plays. The first came on third-and-six. The play was blown dead before the snap because of a delay of game penalty, but Paul Posluszny didn't hear the whistle and ran over Matthew Stafford. This resulted in a 15-yard penalty and gave the Lions a new set of downs. Then, later in the drive, Stafford found Tony Scheffler for a gain of 28 yards on third-and-11. Scheffler stretched out and somehow made the catch with two feet inbounds, and he put the Lions in position to at least kick a field goal. Unfortunately, thanks to an errant pass on third down, the Lions did have to try to kick a field goal, and Hanson's attempt from 47 yards out bounced off the right upright and was no good.
Following another three-and-out by the Jaguars, the Lions again had bad field position because Logan let the ball bounce on the punt. Starting from their own nine-yard line, the Lions offense again shook it off and put together a solid drive. Stafford completed passes to Calvin Johnson for 10, 26 and 18 yards on this drive, and eventually the Lions got down to the seven-yard line, where they had it first-and-goal. Mikel Leshoure got the ball and ran into the end zone for a touchdown, giving the Lions a 7-0 lead shortly after the second quarter began.
It was more of the same on the next two possessions. The Jaguars went three-and-out, and the Lions once again found the end zone. This time they actually did have good field position, and a 38-yard pass to Johnson on third down set up Leshoure for a one-yard touchdown run. The seven-play drive resulted in seven more points for the Lions and made this a 14-0 game midway through the second quarter.
The Jaguars finally moved the chains when they got the ball back, but they couldn't move the ball very far after that. As a result, Bryan Anger came out for another punt, and the Lions took over at their own 19-yard line. Just like the last couple drives, the Lions had little trouble in moving the ball down the field. A penalty assisted them early in the drive, as there was both roughing the passer and pass interference on third-and-four (the Lions took the pass interference penalty for 20 yards), and a 12-yard pass to Johnson helped move the chains again. Stafford found Joique Bell for 12 yards and Titus Young for 17 yards later in the drive, and Leshoure once again was the one who capped off the possession. He juked a Jaguars defender and ran seven yards for his third touchdown of the game, and he gave the Lions a 21-0 lead going into halftime.
To open the second half, the Jaguars had some offensive success, but Blaine Gabbert couldn't sustain it. He threw a poor pass that was intercepted by Erik Coleman for what should have been his second pick of the game. Right before halftime, Coleman intercepted Gabbert, but a penalty on the Lions negated it. This time around the pick counted, giving the Lions their first turnover of the game.
The Lions weren't able to turn the interception into points, and Jacksonville responded by putting together another solid drive. It was clear at this point that the Lions were comfortable with letting the Jaguars move the ball in small chunks since they had a 21-point lead. Jacksonville was taking a lot of time to get down the field, and once again it was all for naught anyway, as Gabbert was picked off. This time Jonte Green came up with the interception on a tipped pass at the Lions' 18-yard line, and he returned it 18 yards to the 36.
The Lions didn't capitalize on the turnover with a touchdown, but they did get three points on a 42-yard Jason Hanson field goal at the start of the fourth quarter. The Lions should have had a touchdown pass to Young on this drive, but he let the ball go through his hands in the back left corner of the end zone. Even so, the Lions were now up 24-0 and were well on their way to victory.
The Jaguars finally managed to find the end zone on their next possession. They had more success moving the ball in small chunks, and they ultimately scored on a five-yard pass to Micheal Spurlock. The Jaguars also converted the two-point try, making this a 24-8 game with 8:36 left on the clock.
In order to make sure things didn't get too interesting, the Lions put the game away with what was perhaps their most impressive drive of the day. It began with an 18-yard pass to Johnson, and after that the Lions mainly moved the ball on the ground with Bell. He had gains of five, three, 11, seven and 10 yards on the ground, as well as a reception for 14 yards. That 10-yard run came at the end of the drive and went for a touchdown, and the Lions were now comfortably ahead by a score of 31-8.
The Jaguars added another touchdown on a 12-play drive that was capped off with a six-yard pass to Justin Blackmon. They went for two again and didn't get it, making this a 31-14 game.
Although there were only 50 seconds left, the Jaguars attempted an onside kick. Mike Thomas, who was traded from Jacksonville to Detroit this week, ended up recovering the onside, allowing the Lions to take a knee twice to seal their 31-14 victory.
While Jacksonville is obviously one of the worst teams in the NFL right now, this was an impressive win by the Lions. It was their first comfortable win of the season, and really it was their first all-around solid effort since 2011. The offense played extremely well, as did the defense. The Lions didn't do a whole lot in the second half, but I think that was by design more than anything considering they went into the second half up 21 points. You don't want to get too relaxed, but Jacksonville wasn't good enough to pull off a comeback.
With this win, the Lions have now won three of their last four games. They are 4-4 on the season and are just outside of the current NFC playoff picture. This is why next week's game very well may be one of the most important they play all season long. The Lions head to Minnesota to take on the Vikings, which lost on Sunday to fall to 5-4 on the season. With a win, the Lions can move ahead of the Vikings in the standings, and more importantly, they can get above .500 and position themselves to make a run for one of the wild card spots. Considering how tough the rest of the schedule is, this is really a game the Lions have to win if they want to return to the postseason.