Bob Donnan / USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Lions Top Jacksonville Jaguars: Game Notes and Observations

The Detroit Lions moved to 6-4, holding onto first place in the NFC North, by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Keep reading for instant analysis of the game.

The Detroit Lions held on to first place in the NFC North with a 26-19 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.  The win ensures high stakes for this Thursdays tilt against the Minnesota Vikings as both teams enter with 6-4 records – which is tops in the NFC North.

Here are some observations from the win against Jacksonville.

  • The Lions continue to make plays when it matters most.   The flip side of that is they can go stagnant – especially on offense – for stretches in a game.  That is evidenced by this week’s performance, where the offense punted on six of its first eight drives while fumbling and kicking a field goal on the other two. 

  • The offense found life in the fourth quarter – trailing by three and with the game on the line.  Stafford led a 79-yard drive that put the Lions up by four with just over 10 minutes left.  When Jacksonville went three and out, the Lions sensed blood in the water and promptly ate up nearly eight-minutes of clock, leaving the Jaguars with only 22 seconds and no timeouts.

  •  What makes that clock-chewing drive even more impressive is the fact that it largely happened without a running game.  On that drive, the Lions ran 15 plays and gained 55 yards before kicking a field goal.  Of those 15 plays, five were runs that generated a sum of minus-2 yards.

  • The Lions made a concerted effort to run the ball against Jacksonville – a sound strategy against a stingy secondary.  However, the ground game was able to grind out only 14 yards on 21 carries, resulting in a remarkable 0.7 yards-per-carry.

  • The Lions defense has tightened up in the last four games, allowing an average of 18 points and 326 yards per game during that stretch.  In the six games prior, the Lions defense allowed 25.5 points and 379 yards per game, on average.

  • The Lions continue to rotate guys in and out on defense.  This is standard for the defensive line but the Lions are also doing it in the back seven, where players like Johnathan Banks and Miles Killebrew have found themselves on the field in favor of some regulars. 

  • The rotation has yielded mixed results.  Killebrew, who is a safety but plays a more linebacker-type role, made three key third-down tackles in this game, forcing Jacksonville punts.  Banks, who subbed in for Nevin Lawson at outside cornerback during some drives, got beat for a 29-yard sideline catch by Marqise Lee.  On the play, Banks was locked in man coverage with Lee and likely could have made a play on the ball but he simply didn’t turn and locate it, resulting in a relatively easy reception.  The catch put the Jaguars inside the Detroit five-yard line and setup a go-ahead touchdown for the Jags.

  • Statistically, this wasn’t Matthew Stafford’s finest performance.  He finished with 278 yards with no scores and no interceptions.  However, this season has been more about clutch moments than boxscore filling for the Lions signal caller.

  • Stafford engineered fourth-quarter / overtime, game-winning comeback drive No. 26 of his career and leads the league with 24 such drives since 2011 – putting him five ahead of second-placed Tony Romo, Matt Ryan and Eli Manning. 

  • Stafford’s most impressive moment may have been getting the Jaguars to jump on a fourth-and-short to give the Lions a first-down and help ice the game late in the fourth quarter.  Head coach Jim Caldwell confirmed that the Lions did not intend to run a play there and Stafford leveraged a referee’s efforts to allow a defensive substation to lend credence to the Lions’ attempted bluff. 

  • The Lions got a key contribution from Andrew Roberts when he scored on a punt return in the first half.  The play was not only significant due to the Lions offensive struggles but also served as redemption for Roberts, who muffed his previous return.  Caldwell deserves credit for sticking with his return man - not only on that play but throughout the season.  There have been many calling for Roberts to be stripped of return duties - or even released from the team - but the veteran wideout now has two return TDs on the year to go along with a handful of big catches.


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