We should have taken Marvin Jones Jr. at his word when he pledged to do better this year.
That's one of the things we learned from his performance in the Detroit Lions' 30-17 road win over the Green Bay Packers.
There wasn't a single star who carried the Lions. Matthew Stafford spread the ball around enough to keep all of his receivers happy in a flawless 361-yard passing performance. The defense made key plays, and the offense was efficient enough that punter Sam Martin didn't have to punt.
The bottom line: We learned something – or at least had our memories refreshed – from the play of Anthony Zettel, Darius Slay, Glover Quin and Stafford in what was a genuine team effort. And there was a lesson for the running game – the attempt to run, anyway – and how it doesn't seem to matter where the Lions play.
Jones was a key player. He had seven catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns to continue his trend upward in what promises to be a bounce-back season. He started strong and faded last year in his first season as a Lion, and he vowed to do better this year.
His arrow is pointing skyward in that regard. He has 25 catches in the last four games for 385 yards and three touchdowns. For the first eight games he has 33 catches for 515 yards and four TDs.
"Obviously, I want to be the guy that's going to make the plays – make all the plays I need to help this team," he said.
He did not shy away from talking about the importance of the game, although he did joke about sounding like head coach Jim Caldwell in saying that the game was important because it was the next one. Getting to 4-4 was a must for the Lions to have serious playoff hopes.
"We really needed this win to kind of catapult us into the last half of the season," Jones said. "Obviously, it was a big win."
What else we learned includes the following:
Stafford – being healthy: He confirmed after the game what has been apparent in the two games since the bye, that he needed the break to recover from the bumps and bruises he took from opposing pass rushers in the first six games. His arm is as strong as ever, and he has his mobility back.
"He can sling it anywhere, and you just have to be there to catch it," Jones said.
Quin's football IQ: He read a misdirection play that technically was a pass when the Packers went for it on fourth and two near midfield in the fourth quarter. Quin dropped Randall Cobb for a three-yard loss. With the Lions holding a 17-3 lead, that kept the Packers from closing the gap.
"It was at a pivotal point," Caldwell said.
Quin's play did not surprise linebacker Tahir Whitehead, who cited Quin's "football IQ" for helping him stop the play.
Containing Packers QB Brett Hundley: Hundley had a decent game passing – 26 of 38 for 245 yards without a TD or interception – but he ran only four times for 22 yards and a TD on a sneak. Hundley's long run of 12 yards was on Green Bay's first possession.
Anthony Zettel had a sack, and did his job as part of the plan to keep Hundley from being able to use his legs. In an important game for the Lions, every small play added up to a big advantage.
"I think this can kick start us," Zettel said. "It can get the team going in the right direction."
Darius Slay covering Jordy Nelson: Twice in a three-play sequence Hundley tried to hit Nelson with deep passes. Slay had him covered on both plays, forcing a pair of incompletions. The Lambeau crowd wanted an interference call on the first pass. On the second one, Nelson looked like he didn't want to see Slay again anytime soon.
Running the ball: The Lions had an even split of runs and passes – 33 of each. The yards were not even, though. Stafford's passes gained 361 yards. The 33 runs gained 64. Do the math – that's a 297-yard differential.
Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter is committed to running the ball. And if it keeps the pass rush off Stafford, it has value.
Home sweet anywhere: The Lions are 3-1 on the road this year and 1-3 at home – with three straight losses at Ford Field. They've won two games in domes – one at Ford Field, one at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings home stadium. And they've won two games outdoors – vs. the Giants and Packers.