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Lions swat away Jets comeback attempt to improve to 3-1

Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford


In the past, defenses have been able to keep the Lions from doing much damage in the air when Calvin Johnson isn’t a factor.

That’s why the Lions signed Golden Tate this offseason and the move paid off on Sunday. Johnson was a non-factor because of an ankle injury, but Tate caught eight passes for 116 yards to help the team improve to 3-1 with a 24-17 victory over the Jets.

One of Tate’s best catches came when he juggled and then secured the ball on third-and-10 in the third quarter to keep the Lions driving after the Jets had closed within 17-10. Matthew Stafford would convert two other third downs to other receivers and then run the ball into the end zone from one yard out to build the lead back to two touchdowns.

The Jets closed again when Chris Johnson showed his first real spark of the season on a 35-yard touchdown run, but they squandered two other possessions when Geno Smith threw an interception and fumbled the ball away in close succession. That left them with one last chance from their own 16-yard line with 4:36 left to play, but they went three-and-out when Chris Ivory couldn’t hold onto a Smith pass on third down.

Stafford was 24-of-34 for 293 yards and two touchdowns, numbers that look all the better given the lack of Johnson and a strong Jets pass rush for much of the afternoon. In addition to his touchdown run, he iced the game after the two minute warning with a bootleg run for a first down that ended the hopes of a Jets miracle.

The Jets have now lost three straight games, all of them to NFC North opponents and all of them leaving the team with good reason to feel like they let a winnable game get away. The schedule isn’t getting any easier with the Chargers, Broncos and Patriots on tap, which could make things very ugly in New Jersey before the first trick-or-treaters put on their costumes.

Stopping those winnable games from getting away is going to take a lot more from the offense. Smith can’t be blamed for several drops during the day or for some disconnected play calling after a good start to the game, but those things also can’t wipe away the mistakes and bad throws that continue to be a major issue every week 20 games into his NFL career. Rex Ryan may not be back if the Jets can’t get some wins on this tough stretch, we’ll see if he keeps hitching his future to the chances of a rapid progression from Smith.