Burning Questions: How the Detroit Lions survived and stayed alive despite everything, Eric Ebron's two big plays, a game of give and take, Jaguars challenges and a mammoth mistake by the Jaguars that helped the Lions clinch a 26-19 victory on their final possession:
Question: Does the outcome overshadow how the Lions won a game when there were stretches when they played their worst ball of the year?
Answer: Absolutely it does. No question. No doubt. Turn the question around. If you're a player or coach, would you rather walk off the field with a 45-42 loss that would let a bunch of players feel like they played well, or leave the stadium Sunday with a victory and know you have to player better?
The answer's easy. Take the victory, and work on the mistakes in practice to get ready to play the Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving Day.
That's what you would do anyway – win, lose, tie or forfeit.
Q. The difference: What was it for the Lions, and what does it mean?
A. First things first. What it means is the Lions are set up with a showdown for first place in the NFC North with the Vikings on Thanksgiving Day.
How the Lions got there is they made more game-deciding plays than Jacksonville. They had a punt return for a touchdown by Andre Roberts, an interception return for a touchdown by Rafael Bush, and they benefitted from an incredibly bad penalty against Jacksonville on the final possession that let the Lions take more time off the clock before Matt Prater kicked a field goal in the last 30 seconds to close out the scoring.
Q. Big play, offense: How did Ebron get so far open?
A. It was improvisation on both ends – the quarterback, Matthew Stafford, and the receiver, Ebron – in a situation teams practice all the time.
On third and long, Stafford was flushed out of the pocket. He rolled left, and up. Downfield, Ebron did what he's supposed to do – find a hole in the secondary to make him available if the quarterback can find him and have time to throw the ball.
Ebron was open in a hole in the coverage. With his size, speed and power, he was able to run down the left sideline for a 61-yard gain to the eight. He wound up scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a one-yard run. He lined up on the wing to the left, cut to his right to take the handoff and ran around right end for the score.
Q. Big play, defense: What was it?
A. Bush's 39-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the second half broke a 9-9 tie and gave the Lions a 16-9 lead. With the offense struggling, the defense provided a spark that the Lions needed.
Q. Big play, special teams: What was it?
A. In addition to every punt by Sam Martin, Roberts' 55-yard punt return for a touchdown was another lift while the offense was unable to move. It gave the Lions a 6-3 lead in the second quarter. Prater missed the extra point. For Roberts, it made up for a fumbled punt that put the Jaguars in position to kick a field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Q. Big penalty, Jaguars: What was it?
A. It's hard to figure why it could happen. The Lions had fourth and two at Jacksonville's 46 with 2:34 left. It was a classic time when an offense tries to draw the opposing defense offside.
Stafford was barely into his count when Jaguars lineman Sen'Derrick Marks jumped offside. That gave the Lions an automatic first down. They eventually held the ball until Prater kicked a field goal with 22 seconds left.
Q. Describe the first half. Was it as bad as the 9-9 score indicated?
A. Worse, and not just because of the low score. A game doesn't have to be high-scoring to be exciting, and it's not always bad if it's low-scoring.
But the first half had too many misplays and bad plays on both sides. The Lions' offense didn't have any semblance of rhythm until the last possession of the first half. Then it drove 67 yards on 10 plays to set up a field goal by Prater with 19 seconds left to make it 9-9.
Q. Ones of a kind: Before the final possession of the first half the Lions had one first down, one lost fumble, one fumble recovery, one TD and one missed extra point. How would you describe that?
A. One-derful – and that's far from wonderful.
Q. Early challenge, Jags: Head coach Gus Bradley threw the challenge flag on the Lions' first play – a completion to Anquan Boldin, who fumbled after being tackled. After viewing replays, the call on the field was upheld. Right call by Bradley?
A. Nothing wrong with it. Going into the game the Jaguars hadn't gotten a turnover in five straight games. There was no harm in looking for an edge for a team with a 2-7 record.
Q. Thanksgiving Day: What kind of atmosphere can fans expect on Thanksgiving Day?
A. It might be the loudest crowd since the Lions moved to Ford Field in 2002.