Lions still in 1st after closing out 26-19 win over Jaguars
DETROIT (AP) — By Detroit’s standards, this was a comfortable, drama-free victory.
The Lions beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 26-19 on Sunday , extending a streak in which every Detroit game this season has been decided by seven points or fewer. But the Lions needed no last-ditch passes from Matthew Stafford or long kicks from Matt Prater in this one.
“Our mindset is not that, ‘Keep it close and see if we can win.’ That’s not our mindset,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “But nevertheless, it’s just the way it’s happening, so you have to accept that and find a way to win.”
Detroit took a 23-19 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by Eric Ebron with 10:03 remaining. The Lions (6-4) then forced a punt and took possession with 8:19 to play, and they were able to run out almost all the remaining time.
“You can sit there and say you hope that the defense stops them again and you get the ball back, but as an offense, I don’t think you can ever say, ‘We’ll get another opportunity,’” Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles said. “We knew we had an opportunity up three to go put it away and we didn’t do it, so it’s on us.”
On fourth-and-2 from the Jacksonville 46, the Lions lined up as if to go and drew defensive lineman Sen’Derrick Marks offside. The encroachment penalty with 2:34 remaining gave Detroit a new set of downs.
“It’s a heat of the moment, it’s a physical game and he’s trying to make a play for his team,” Stafford said. “I’ve been on the sideline and seen guys on our team do it before. It’s a tough situation to be in.”
The Lions eventually took a seven-point lead on Prater’s 43-yard field goal with 22 seconds left, and the Jaguars (2-8) didn’t come close to challenging in the final seconds.
Here are a few things learned from Detroit’s victory over Jacksonville:
ALL-PURPOSE THREAT: Detroit’s Andre Roberts can impact the game in many ways. Roberts muffed a punt in the first quarter, giving the Jaguars great field position, but he was terrific after that. Roberts returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, and he caught a 44-yard pass in the third. He also hustled over to throw a nice downfield block on a 61-yard reception by Ebron in the fourth.
NEED TO CAPITALIZE: It’s not enough just to force turnovers. After five straight games without a takeaway, the Jaguars recovered two Detroit fumbles, but managed only three points off them. That was disappointing for Jacksonville, because the fumble by Roberts gave the Jaguars possession at the Detroit 11.
“We said, ‘We need a turnover.’ We got turnovers. ‘We want to play with the lead.’ We got the lead,” Jaguars defensive lineman Malik Jackson said. “I don’t know what to ask for to try to get a better game. These guys are going out here playing hard. We’re playing consistent. We’ve just got to find it, whatever it is.”
NO BALANCE: The Lions are still having a hard time establishing the run. They managed only 14 yards on 21 carries against Jacksonville, and that was part of the reason Detroit had only one offensive touchdown.
NO GIMMES: Extra points aren’t freebies. On a day when kickers struggled all around the league, Prater had an extra point blocked and Jacksonville’s Jason Myers missed one wide to the right. That led to the odd-looking final score in a game that could have easily ended up 27-20.
Myers did make a 52-yard field goal in the third quarter.
SHOWDOWN: Thanksgiving in Detroit should be even bigger than usual. The Lions and Minnesota remain tied for first in the NFC North, and they’ll play at Ford Field on Thursday.
Jacksonville visits Buffalo on Sunday.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL .
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister