The Detroit Lions' "dress rehearsal" for the regular season wasn't exactly all that pretty to watch. Penalties were a big issue, and the first-team offense looked a bit shaky at times. Even so, the starters gave the Lions a 7-6 lead to work with at halftime, and the backups did the rest by leading the team to a 13-12 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday night.
The Lions opened this game with the ball, and they got off to a rough start. After moving the chains once, they had to punt following a holding penalty on Brandon Pettigrew and a couple of ugly plays where Matthew Stafford faced pressure and struggled to find anybody open.
The Jaguars didn't exactly do much on their opening drive, and they gave the ball back to the Lions at the 3-yard line on a 49-yard punt that included another Detroit penalty. The Lions quickly got themselves away from their own goal line with a couple runs by Joique Bell, and Reggie Bush got them all the way to the other goal line on the third play of the drive. He cut to the right, found a big hole and used his speed to go 86 yards for a touchdown. Just like that, the Lions took a 7-0 lead.
Following another Jaguars punt, the Lions looked to add to their lead, but Stafford was picked off on the first and only play of their next drive. The Jaguars took over at the Detroit 24, and they had to settle for a 38-yard field goal after going three-and-out. The Lions defense did a good job of limiting the damage from Stafford's interception.
On the Lions' next drive, Stafford looked much better. He shook off his rough start and found Calvin Johnson for 11 and 16 yards, Golden Tate for 18 yards and Eric Ebron for 15 yards. The Lions got all the way down to the Jacksonville 3-yard line, where they faced third-and-1. They questionably tried to get the first down on a shotgun handoff to Theo Riddick, and after that didn't work, they simply gave the ball to Bell on fourth down. They weren't in the shotgun on fourth down, but they once again were unable to move the chains.
Even though it didn't result in points, the Jaguars put together a decent drive after their defensive stand, especially when you consider that it started at their own 3-yard line. Chad Henne found a receiver for 18 yards on third-and-17, and a roughing the passer penalty on Ndamukong Suh gave the Jaguars 15 free yards on the very next play. (Suh will likely be receiving a fine since it was a late hit on a quarterback.) Later, the Jaguars again moved the chains on a 15-yard pass on second-and-14, and they drove into Detroit territory before things stalled following a sack by Devin Taylor. (George Johnson also had one earlier in the drive.)
The Lions took over at their own 9-yard line and nearly got to midfield before having to punt. The Jaguars got the ball back at their own 5-yard line with only 1:43 on the clock, and they decided to give Blake Bortles his first action of the night. He did a good job, driving the Jaguars all the way down to the Detroit 16 before time ran out and they had to kick a field goal. The kick from 34 yards out was good, cutting the Lions' lead down to 7-6 at halftime.
The second half opened with a good defensive stand by the Lions. Jacksonville went three-and-out, and Detroit got the ball back at the Jaguars 45-yard line. They couldn't capitalize on the good field position, though, as the Lions also went three-and-out. They didn't even get a chance for a long field goal thanks to an intentional grounding penalty on Stafford on what turned out to be his final play of the game.
After a Lions punt, the Jaguars quickly moved down the field on a 24-yard pass to Allen Hurns. A Jerome Couplin unnecessary roughness penalty added 15 more yards on to the play, and it put the Jaguars in field goal range. This was important considering Jacksonville was unable to pick up another first down on this drive, but it didn't mean anything from a points standpoint. I say that because Xavier Proctor blocked the Jaguars' 45-yard field goal attempt, which featured a pretty bad hold.
Following the blocked kick, the Lions again were unable to add to their lead, and they actually turned the ball over near midfield on third-and-20. George Winn tried to do too much and lost control of the ball, and the Jaguars made the Lions pay. Bortles found a receiver for 24 yards to open the ensuing drive, and a facemask penalty on the next play got Jacksonville down to the 11-yard line. Two plays later, Bortles found Hurns for 13 yards and a touchdown, giving the Jaguars a 12-7 lead. (They went for two, but the attempt was no good.)
After the two teams traded punts, the Lions took over at the Jacksonville 49. Mikel Leshoure got loose for 30 yards on the first play of this drive, and a facemask penalty on Jacksonville put the Lions on the 9-yard line. This sounds just like the formula the Jaguars used to find the end zone earlier in the half, but the Lions' drive didn't end with points. Instead, on the very next play, it ended with Leshoure fumbling the ball away.
The Lions got a takeaway of their own on the Jaguars' next drive. Nate Ness picked off Ricky Stanzi at the Detroit 37, and the Lions offense made the Jaguars pay. Dan Orlovsky found Ryan Broyles for gains of 25, nine and 10 yards on this drive, and that last completion put Detroit in position to score. It was actually originally ruled a fumble that was recovered by the Jaguars, but Broyles was down before the ball came out. After the play was overturned, Winn scored from a yard out, putting the Lions back on top, 13-12. (The Lions also went for two, and like Jacksonville, their attempt was no good.)
The Lions came up with another interception on Jacksonville's next drive. Jonte Green made a nice play to come away with the ball at the Detroit 40, and he gave the offense a chance to run out the final few minutes of the game. The offense, with Kellen Moore now in the game, basically did just that, and even though Giorgio Tavecchio missed a 51-yard field goal in the final 30 or so seconds, the Lions beat the Jaguars by a score of 13-12.
After improving to 2-1 on Friday night, the Lions will wrap up the preseason with a road game against the Buffalo Bills next Thursday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET.