JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Matthew Stafford didn’t even need Calvin Johnson to carve up the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Stafford completed 11 of 15 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Lions beat the Jaguars 22-17 in a preseason game Friday night.
“He’s been pretty sharp for us,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said.
Detroit (2-1) trailed most of the night, but rookie Zach Zenner’s 3-yard touchdown run with 1:41 remaining was the winner.
Johnson sat out his third consecutive game as a precaution, but Stafford found other options. He threw a perfect deep ball to Golden Tate for a 62-yarder in the second quarter and then hooked up with Corey Fuller for a 4-yard score.
Zenner had a 41-yard scamper that set up Fuller’s TD. The undrafted rookie finished with 85 yards on eight carries, continuing his push for a roster spot.
Blake Bortles was the story again for Jacksonville (1-2). He completed 20 of 29 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 38 yards, including two third-down scrambles that kept scoring drives alive.
“I think Blake is playing with a lot of good poise right now,” coach Gus Bradley said.
The second-year pro continued his strong preseason, looking every bit like the franchise quarterback the Jaguars have spent more than a decade searching for. Bortles has completed 39 of 60 passes for 461 yards, with a touchdown and no interceptions, in the preseason. He also ran for a score in the exhibition opener.
Maybe the most encouraging sign: Bortles and the first-team offense have managed eight scoring drives in 11 preseason possessions. Against the Lions, the starters had 17 points, 317 yards and went 10 of 12 on third-down conversion.
“I think everything is just slowing down,” Bortles said. “Getting more reps, feeling more comfortable. I think we’ve done some good stuff.”
Observations from the game:
The Jaguars may have lost another starting defensive lineman. Already without first-round pick Dante Fowler Jr. and tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, end Andre Branch injured his left knee and will have tests Saturday. “Fingers crossed,” Bradley said. Branch left the locker room on crutches.
Lions: Second-round draft pick Ameer Abdullah carried three times for 8 yards. He looked really good when he bowled over safety Craig Loston on a 21-yard reception.
Jaguars: Fellow second-rounder T.J. Yeldon made his NFL debut as a starter. He ran eight times for 10 yards, including a 1-yard scoring plunge. Yeldon jumped and got met in midair by Travis Lewis and Stephen Tulloch. Yeldon fumbled on the play. But one official ruled Yeldon crossed the goal line for a touchdown. The call was upheld upon replay.
So what did Yeldon take from his first game?
“Never to jump again,” Yeldon said. “It was a welcome to the NFL. But I still got a touchdown.”
On one of Bortles’ four runs, defender James Ihedigbo was penalized for hitting the quarterback in the head after he slid. It was clearly a penalty, but the officials missed Bortles flip the ball into Ihedigbo’s stomach, which could have been called unsportsmanlike conduct.
Lions CB Rashean Mathis, a Jacksonville native who spent his first 10 seasons with the Jaguars, had an up-and-down homecoming. Mathis called the coin toss correctly for Detroit, but then got beaten by Allen Hurns for a touchdown on Jacksonville’s opening possession. He later got flagged for pass interference in the end zone, giving the Jaguars first-and-goal at the 1. Yeldon scored two plays later.
The teams had a combined 27 players ruled out, including several starters. The Lions played without defensive linemen Jason Jones, Caraun Reid, Ziggy Ansah and Haloti Ngata. LB DeAndre Levy and G Larry Warford also sat out. The Jaguars were without TE Julius Thomas, WR Marqise Lee, RB Toby Gerhart and S Johnathan Cyprien.
Lions: Detroit left Jacksonville unscathed, almost unheard of in an NFL game.
Jaguars: WR Allen Hurns sat out the second half because of hip tightness. WR Allen Robinson briefly left the game with a shoulder injury, but returned. Right guard Brandon Linder left with a toe injury on his left foot.