Winning a game you're expected to win by a large enough margin is often the toughest feat to accomplish in football, a sport where so much can always go wrong. On Sunday, nothing went wrong for the Detroit Lions, who blasted the Jacksonville Jaguars early and often, cruising home with a big win. This week's hunt was literally over before it began, as Jacksonville was buried under an avalanche of points and Lions' momentum. In a game they absolutely had to have, Detroit looked focused and hungry, laying waste to the notion that this was a trap game. Instead, they trapped the Jaguars.
Want to know some more things we noticed as the Lions' winning streak hits two? Here's the complete run down.
Welcome Back, Calvin Johnson. Finally, Johnson had his long-awaited impact game, snagging seven passes for 129 yards and looking engaged early and often despite playing with a couple of bulky knees. He had seemingly his longest catch of the year as well, a smooth pass which went for 38 yards. It was great to see Johnson look like himself again and connect with Matthew Stafford. Jacksonville's secondary was dinged up and bad, but getting him loose could be the key to the offense turning everything around in the second half of the season. Though Johnson didn't reach the end zone, Sunday was a good step in the right direction.
Detroit's Ground Game Isn't Half Bad. In this week's "five things to watch" I had claimed the passing game as the key offensive component to monitor. Evidently, Scott Linehan wanted to prove me wrong, as he decided to jam the ball down the throat of the Jacksonville defensive front with Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell all day long. Both running backs grabbed high yardage totals, as Leshoure rumbled for 70 yards and three touchdowns in the first half (something not even Barry Sanders had done with the Lions), while Bell pounded out 73 yards with one score. How refreshing to see the running game take a game over. Jacksonville's defense is struggling, but the Lions are starting to step up on the ground this year, and that helps benefit the entire offense. 149 rushing yards is nothing to sneeze at.
The Defense Got The Job Done. For the second game in a row, the Lions didn't seem to care that they had a dinged up secondary or plenty of replacement players were having to star in a game. Once again, the defense came out and simply got the job done. Outside of two touchdowns in garbage time, Blaine Gabbert didn't have a great afternoon throwing the ball, and his receivers went over 60 yards on the day. Jacksonville's running game didn't even factor in, and the Lions' defense remained aggressive, collecting one sack, defending four passes and grabbing two interceptions. No matter who you're playing, there's a responsibility to keep good momentum going. It was a positive sight to see everyone flying to the ball.
Finally, A Complete Game! For those longing for the Lions to come out and immediately take over a game, this was your week. There was no fourth quarter comeback because it wasn't needed. The Lions put together their most complete game of the season, and perhaps their most complete game since last year's dominating December win against San Diego. Was it because the Jaguars were so bad? Probably, however, teams still have to execute. Give the Lions credit for doing that start to finish and refusing to be lulled to sleep by a lazy environment.
Lions? Outside of the aforementioned Johnson, Leshoure and Bell, defensively, Jonte Green played great yet again, snagging a key interception and playing sticky defense in the secondary with five tackles. Stepping in for DeAndre Levy, Ashlee Palmer showed his skill. Erik Coleman got the game's other interception from the safety spot, which has felt the strain of injury as well.
Lambs? After a game like this, there doesn't need to be any lambs. We'll give the Lions a week off from this category and let them enjoy the fruits of a big victory.
What About The Five Things? Entering this road game, we said it would be important to watch and see if the receivers could keep the good play going. They didn't need to, but Johnson rediscovered his form and Ryan Broyles had a nice game. The defensive mindset was good, and Detroit took things over on that side of the ball. Blaine Gabbert didn't do well against a dinged up secondary, throwing two interceptions and remaining inaccurate. Mike Thomas wasn't a factor in this game, and the Lions laughed in the face of the sleepy environment, getting the job done early and often.
Stalking The Next Prey: The Lions head far north for their next road game on Sunday, as they call on the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field. The game begins at 1 p.m. on Fox.Ashlee Palmer, Calvin Johnson, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Erik Coleman, Football, Joique Bell, Jonte Green, Mikel Leshoure, NFL, Ryan Broyles