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Lions’ offense stays the course to keep ahead of Chargers

By Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — Often this season, the Lions’ offensive has either started fast and then sputtered or fallen behind early and surged late.

Neither was the case Saturday at Ford Field, when the offense played steadily and established several single-season team records in a 38-10 victory over the San Diego Chargers.

The Lions raced to a 24-0 lead by halftime on Matthew Stafford’s touchdown passes to Brandon Pettigrew, Kevin Smith and Calvin Johnson, and Jason Hanson’s 50-yard field goal.

The Chargers responded with a touchdown on their second possession of the third quarter. As the teams lined up for the kickoff, the Lions’ offensive players grabbed their helmets. But after the Chargers successfully recovered their onside kick, the Lions’ offense had to return to the bench.

The Lions’ defense held San Diego to a field goal, which whittled the Lions’ lead to 24-10 with 4:53 left in the third. This could have been the point in which the game turned in the Chargers’ favor.

“They’re a good team,” receiver Nate Burleson said. “They’re going to score, they’re going to make plays. So we’ve got to have an understanding that at any point this thing can go bad for us.

“I remember (receivers coach Shawn Jefferson) saying, ‘Can you feel the momentum starting to shift?’ And I said, ‘Yeah,’ and he’s talking about it shifting in their favor. So when you get in that huddle, make sure the guys realize we’ve got to go down there and get some points on the board, and we did.”

On their next possession, the Lions’ offense came out firing. They gained 38 yards on the first two passes to Burleson and Johnson, and Smith capped the drive with a 6-yard touchdown. That score put the Lions ahead, 31-10, and set a team record with the 51st touchdown of the season.

“It felt great,” said Pettigrew, who caught nine passes and broke his own tight end record with 76 catches. “The matchups were there. They tried to cheat up a lot and for the most part, Matt just eyed me.”

VOCAL ADRENALINE: The fans got in their cheers and jeers. Midway through the fourth quarter, they started chanting “Playoffs! Playoffs!” Fans then booed when a scoreboard message warned of potential arrests of fans who jump on the field. The public-address announcer emphasized the point by saying, “And you will not be spending Christmas at home.”

FORD FIRST: Owner William Clay Ford celebrated in the locker room with the team after the victory and he received a game ball. “He got a game ball, yeah,” center Dominic Raiola said. “He didn’t really talk. We broke it down (with), ‘Ford tough!’ “

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