The Detroit Lions found the perfect cure for ailing star receiver Calvin Johnson: Just take the week off from practice and show up on game day.
That’s what Johnson did leading up to Sunday’s game in Jacksonville, not practicing because of an injured left knee, and he was back to being his dominant self.
It was all part of a near-perfect day for the Lions, who won back-to-back games for the first time this season with a 31-14 rout of the reeling Jaguars.
After getting off to a 1-3 start, the Lions have won three of their last four to even their record at 4-4 at the midway point of the season.
“It was a big game for us, gets us back to .500,” coach Jim Schwartz said during his post-game radio interview.
There was considerable concern throughout the week about how effective Johnson would be, but he quickly put those worries to rest.
Johnson, who had a total of six catches for 80 yards the previous two weeks, finished with seven receptions for 129 yards. It was his third-best day of the season statistically.
Almost all of his damage came in the first half, when he had six receptions for 111 yards.
Johnson didn’t score a touchdown and still has only one this season — none thrown by Matthew Stafford — but he did plenty to help put the Lions in position to score.
After a 38-yard reception, the Jaguars tackled Johnson at the 1-yard line, setting up a Mikel Leshoure touchdown on the next play.
With his team’s comfortable lead, Johnson was able to spend his share of time on the sideline in the second half.
“He’s a great player, he affects the game,” Schwartz said. “We’ve got to turn all those ones that he’s got caught, tackled at the 1-yard line, into touchdowns.”
Leshoure scored three touchdowns on runs of 7, 1, and 8 yards as the Lions put the game away with a 21-point spurt in the second quarter.
Leshoure is the only running back in Lions history — including Barry Sanders — to score three touchdowns in the first half.
“We were just sort of methodical,” Schwartz said. “The rushing game carried us today.”
Backup running back Joique Bell finished off the blowout with a late 10-yard touchdown run, giving the Lions four rushing scores.
That’s right. They ran for four scores and passed for none. Go figure.
Despite being without four defensive starters — safeties Louis Delmas (knee) and Amari Spievey (concussion), linebacker DeAndre Levy (hamstring) and cornerback Bill Bentley (shoulder) — the Lions shut down the inept Jacksonville offense.
The Jaguars (1-7) didn’t even get a first down until there was 7:07 remaining in the first half.
Lions rookie cornerback Jonte Green made the first interception of his NFL career. Safety Erik Coleman also recorded his first interception since 2008.
“We’ve had some injuries there, but the guys have done a good job stepping in,” Schwartz said of the much-improved, surprising defense. “That’s what life in the NFL’s all about.”
Consider these first-half statistics: The Lions had 285 offensive yards to the Jags’ 57, 18 first downs to three, and controlled the ball for about 14 more minutes.
Jacksonville finally broke the Lions’ bid for their first shutout since 1996 with 8:36 left. The Jags added another meaningless touchdown in the final minute.
Otherwise, it was total domination by Detroit, and ineptitude from Jacksonville.
The Lions, nonetheless, remain in last place in the NFC North, which appears to be the league’s best division.
Chicago is in first place with a 7-1 record, followed by Green Bay (6-3), Minnesota (5-4) and then Detroit.
Chicago, Green Bay and Detroit won their games Sunday by a combined score of 113-51.
The Lions’ next two games are against division foes — next Sunday at Minnesota and then at home vs. Green Bay.
Stafford became the second-fastest in NFL history to reach 10,000 passing yards in his career. Kurt Warner accomplished the feat in 36 games, Stafford in 37.
Stafford, 24, is also the fourth-youngest to 10,000.
… The FOX studio analysts took some shots at the Lions during the pregame show.
Talking about coaches under fire, Terry Bradshaw said, “The Schwartz guy, he better get it in gear in Detroit, (or) he won’t be around long either.”
Jimmy Johnson then summed up the NFC North this way: “Who are we kidding? This is a two-team race — Chicago and Green Bay. Minnesota and Detroit will be lucky to win eight games.”