Yes, the Detroit Lions are for real. The best part? They can get even better

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Lions were rolling.

Ripping off touchdowns, answering every challenge; and their defense was suffocating the Jacksonville Jaguars; and first-round draft pick Jameson Williams played in his first game, although he didn’t really do much — but Lions fans were so giddy that they cheered anyway; and Aidan Hutchinson got a sack, a moment that screamed: you can have Travon Walker, that’s fine!

And most surprising of all, the Lions stayed in the hunt for an NFC wild-card spot, as crazy as that would have sounded a month ago.

And… and… and… it just kept getting better.

This is what has been missing all these years. This must be what others across the NFL get to experience: actual, tangible progress.

It’s stunning, really, to see it up close. Lions 40, Jackson Jaguars 14.

The Lions have beaten better teams and had more impressive victories under coach Dan Campbell, such as beating the New York Giants on the road, 31-18.

But this was their most complete, decisive win in Campbell’s two-year tenure, because it was never in doubt. The defense shut down the Jaguars, and the offense did whatever it wanted without any kind of let up.

This was an entire team asserting its will over another team and saying: We are better than you, we are dominating you, and there’s nothing you can do to stop us.

For years, that was the Lions on the other side of that equation.

The Lions have now won four of their last five, and the only loss was against the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving. To get to the playoffs, the Lions can probably lose only one the rest of the way.

Probable? Ah, who cares about the odds.

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They have several winnable games left on the schedule. Win the games you are supposed to win, and steal one against the New York Jets or Vikings, and they just might make the playoffs.

This is getting fun.

This was a game the Lions needed to win, not just to keep their playoff hopes alive. But to prove the rebuild is continuing.

And they certainly did that.

This was a yardstick game; both teams seem so similar.

The Jaguars were 3-14 in 2021 and got the No.1 pick; the Lions were 3-13-1 and picked second.

Of course, that set up a little drama on the Hutchinson one-game revenge tour: Why didn’t you draft me? Hey, whatever it takes to get motivated. Just as long as he gets to the quarterback — like he did on Sunday.

But this game was bigger than any one player.

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What did we want out of this season?

∙ To be interesting; this team was certainly interesting on Sunday.

∙ To show improvement; there is no question it is showing improvement.

∙ For young players to grow; and bingo. We saw that, too.

∙ And to win games it should win — and that’s what feels different. That’s what this team is doing now that it is getting healthier and more experienced.

Finally, the Lions had just about everybody healthy and on the field.

The Lions came into this game saying: You can’t stop our passing attack. And the Jaguars couldn’t. Jared Goff completed 18 of 23 passes for 204 yards. In the first half.

In this yardstick game, the Lions came up huge, on the long end of encouraging. Just playing meaningful games in December is shocking, if not fun as heck.

Just seeing them handle a team that is so much like themselves is encouraging. They held a big 23-6 halftime lead and kept their foot on the gas pedal.

As impressive as the Lions’ offense was, their defense was just as good.

After building a 30-3 lead, it was the Jaguars who were piling up empty yards. It looked like the Lions under Matthew Stafford.

Reason to be giddy

Now, word about Williams, who saw his first action. Williams played sparingly and was mostly a decoy or blocker. So be it. He got on the field, got his first taste, and that’s progress, too.

Truth is, the Lions really didn’t need him in this game. But late in the third quarter, Williams lined up on the right side of the formation.

He took off on a go route and Goff lofted the ball to him. This is the moment Lions fans have been waiting for since he was drafted — a chance to see that blazing speed.

Alas, they couldn’t connect, and the PA announcer said: “Goff’s pass, intended for Jameson Willilams, incomplete.”

But still, that felt like progress, too. Just to see him on the field. And Lions fans broke into widespread applause.

Because Williams represents another toy, another offensive weapon, and another reason why this team can get even better.

Yes, it was a giddy day in Ford Field. And it feels like it can get even better.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.

To read his recent columns, go to www.freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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