Forgive Detroit fans if they rolled their eyes after the Lions took an early 14-3 lead against Jacksonville. On too many occasions lately, those double-digit advantages have slipped away.
Not this time.
The Lions looked recharged after their open date, and on Sunday they did exactly what they needed to against a struggling Jacksonville team. Detroit took an early lead and held it, beating the Jaguars 34-16 in a game that offered some hope for the Lions as they began what looks like an easier stretch in their schedule.
Detroit was particularly impressive against the run — an area that's been a problem for the Lions. Jacksonville managed only 44 yards rushing. Detroit rookie D'Andre Swift had more than that on one play.
“I think they tried to step up to a challenge that we knew was going to be difficult against Jacksonville's run game. I thought they executed well in those situations," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "We had some good fundamental plays on tape, which was nice — definitely some things that we had been working on the last couple weeks that showed up.”
The win was big for Patricia, who is in his third season and facing questions about the direction of the team. It's hard to evaluate a victory against a weak opponent, but at the very least, this game was a reminder that it's a long season and there's plenty of time left.
“I think that's good for everybody just to have a little bit of confidence in some of the things we were doing and be able to see it — and honestly see what I would call two weeks of work really show up in a game,” Patricia said. “I thought that was really great.”
Defensive end Romeo Okwara said the team needs to be consistent and can't simply rely on momentum from one week to the next. However, there is certainly plenty for the Lions to be pleased with from last weekend.
“It gives us an opportunity to look back at what we did to succeed and how we can build on those things," Okwara said.
After missing the first two games of this season, Kenny Golladay has made a consistent impact since returning. He caught a touchdown pass in each of his first two games back against Arizona and New Orleans — then had four receptions for 105 yards against the Jaguars.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Although Detroit was impressive against the run, the Lions allowed Keelan Cole to catch six passes for 143 yards. Detroit may still be vulnerable when facing the league's better quarterbacks.
Swift ran for 116 yards and two touchdowns, and his 54-yard burst was the team's longest rushing play of the season.
Swift got off to a rough start this season when he dropped what could have been the winning touchdown in the final seconds of the opener against Chicago. But he's been fairly productive on the whole, ranking second on the team with 16 receptions and averaging 6.1 yards per rush.
Matt Prater's accuracy from long distance has covered up a lot of problems for the Lions since they acquired him a few years ago. So it's of some concern that he's now 0 for 3 from 50 yards and beyond this season. Prater was 7 of 8 from that distance last season.
Prater missed from 57 yards Sunday, but remains perfect from inside 50 this season.
Patricia did not have an update on rookie defensive end Julian Okwara, who limped off the field Sunday with a leg injury.
31 — the number of different opponents Stafford has thrown a touchdown pass against. After a TD pass against Jacksonville, he's thrown one against every team in the league except his own.
The Lions (2-3) go on the road again to face an Atlanta team coming off its first victory of the season. The Falcons (1-5) beat Minnesota 40-23, but this is a good chance for Detroit to reach .500.
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
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