Despite a rough start, the Detroit Lions are in position to move back to .500.
The visiting Lions again look to post back-to-back victories for the first time Sunday against the Jaguars, who hope to avoid their second five-game skid in as many seasons.
Backed by a high-scoring offense, Detroit (3-4) won its first five games and was 6-2 halfway through its 2011 playoff season. Though the Lions rank second in the league in total offense, averaging 407.6 yards, they scored one first-half touchdown in the first six games before finding the end zone twice in the first two quarters of Sunday’s 28-24 home win over Seattle.
Still, Matthew Stafford needed to hit Titus Young from 1 yard out for the winning score with 20 seconds left. The Lions’ three victories have been by a combined 11 points, with two decided in the final 20 seconds of regulation and the other in overtime.
“That’s life in the NFL,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “You have to live in the moment. You have to win that game. You have to persevere through things.”
Detroit has done that, winning two of three since losing three straight.
“You want to keep clawing away to try to get even,” defensive end Cliff Avril told the Lions’ official website. “We can take steps forward.”
If that is to happen, the Lions might want to find ways to get star Calvin Johnson more involved. Johnson set career highs with 96 receptions, 1,681 yards and 16 TDs last season, but has three 100-yard games and one TD this year.
Constant attention from opposing defenses has limited the All-Pro to six catches for 80 yards in the last two contests, though he’s also contributed to Detroit’s 22 drops through Week 8 - tied for the most in the NFL.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with how many balls he gets,” Schwartz said. “He knows football. He just wants to win. Any player in our locker room will sacrifice personal performance for a win.”
Young has benefited from the attention paid to Johnson by catching 15 balls for 181 yards and two TDs in the last two games.
Johnson caught two passes for 92 yards in Detroit’s 38-14 home loss to Jacksonville in 2008.
The Lions have dropped three straight to the Jaguars, including both all-time meetings in Jacksonville. However, the 2012 Jaguars (1-6) are in danger of losing four straight at home for the first time since 2008.
Jacksonville’s last two losses came on the road, but they’ve been competitive despite falling 26-23 in overtime at Oakland on Oct. 21 and 24-15 at Green Bay last Sunday.
Even with star Maurice Jones-Drew sidelined with a foot injury, the Jaguars totaled 341 yards - 105 more than they averaged coming in - against the Packers. Embattled quarterback Blaine Gabbert threw for a season-high 303 yards and a TD.
Jacksonville also held the potent Packers offense to a season-low 238 total yards.
“If we continue to progress in certain things that we’re doing, that we know we’re capable of doing, I think wins will come with it,” coach Mike Mularkey said.
The Jaguars, however, dropped nine passes at Green Bay, fumbled in the red zone and had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown.
“The things that are not allowing us to win these games when we have chances, it’s got to stop,” Mularkey said.
Mularkey hopes to see more production from Rashad Jennings who fumbled Sunday and has gained 103 yards on 38 carries in place of Jones-Drew the last two weeks. Jones-Drew has been ruled out against Detroit as well.
Second-year receiver Cecil Shorts continues to emerge after recording 12 receptions for 195 yards and a score in the last two contests.
Shorts’ play and the commitment to rookie Justin Blackmon are big reasons the Jaguars traded fourth-year receiver Mike Thomas to the Lions for an undisclosed draft pick Tuesday. Thomas, who could suit up against his former team, had 13 receptions for 80 yards this season in Jacksonville.