I don't think it's too far out there to say that the game against the New York Jets was one the Detroit Lions probably would have lost last year. I also don't think it's too far off to say the Lions have finally begun to figure out what it means to be a winning football team. It's more than just winning the game. In 2011, when the Lions made the playoffs, many of their wins were come-from-behind victories that probably shouldn't have been theirs to begin with. Sure, every team needs to come from behind at some points during the season, but to build your platform on it is not a means for consistency or success.
Sunday was the third time this year that the Lions have closed out a game on offense. It's a nice trend to see after so many late-game collapses over the years. Unlike the previous two victories, it was Reggie Bush, not Joique Bell, who ran the ball to finish out the game. Once Bell went down with a head injury late in the third quarter, the Lions struggled to get the ground game going. It wasn't until three straight three-and-out possessions for the Lions that the running game came alive and the Lions sealed the win. Much like I mentioned last week, the Lions haven't always run the ball well this season, but when they've needed to close out a game, the running attack has been more than effective.
After coming up just short on a third down with just under six minutes left in the game, the defense held the Jets to a quick three-and-out. The offense took the ball back with just under four minutes to go and never looked back. Joe Lombardi called a great series of plays on this final drive, each one playing off of the other slightly, luring the defense exactly where the Lions wanted them to be.
The Lions' final drive
1st & 10 (3:41): R. Bush off left tackle to DET 30 for 5 yards
The Lions come out and do something they hadn't done in years -- run power football out of the I-formation with fullback Jed Collins leading the way for Reggie Bush. This isn't the first thing you think of when you talk about the Lions offense, but when you're trying to run out the clock, it's proven to be more than effective.
Here they motion Eric Ebron across the formation to create a balanced set across the line of scrimmage. Bush follows Collins for a nice pick-up of 5 yards on first down.
2nd & 5 (2:57): R. Bush right end to DET 46 for 16 yards
The Lions line up in the exact same formation as the previous play. They even send Ebron on the same motion across the line. This time, however, the Lions run a counter play and the Jet try to send a run blitz to counteract the almost certain run by Detroit. Darrin Walls, who blitzes on the play, actually had a shot to blow this play up in the backfield, but Bush quickly recognizes him coming off the edge and jukes him before gaining 16 yards. Maybe even better than the juke was Bush's veteran move to stay inbounds, forcing the Jets to use a timeout.
1st & 10 (2:38): R. Bush right guard to NYG 48 for 6 yards
Here the Lions line up with Collins in an offset position to the strong side of the formation. Both Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew are next to each other on the line of scrimmage. (Make a mental note of the formation.) Bush runs right up the gut for another solid 6-yard pick-up. This brings us to the two-minute warning.
2nd & 4 (2:00) M. Stafford right end to NYJ 41 for 7 yards
This play is the icing on the cake for the Lions. They line up once again with Collins in an offset position and line up Ebron and Pettigrew together on the line of scrimmage. What looks like another run up the middle turns out to be a brilliant call on Matthew Stafford's naked bootleg. The Jets bite hard again looking for an inside run, and the Lions do a perfect job to sell it. After the 7-yard gain from Stafford, the Lions had the game in hand and knelt down for the final three snaps.
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