DETROIT, Mich. (Detroit Free Press) -- Calvin Johnson and Ziggy Ansah made their exhibition-season debuts tonight against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Ford Field.
But the game was defined more by the Jekyll-and-Hyde performance of Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who started off stone cold before he got white hot.
Stafford and the starting offense played one series into the third quarter. He began going 1-for-5 and throwing a bad interception to Andre Branch on a deep throw he was forcing to Johnson down the left sideline.
Then Stafford seemed to find his rhythm, mixing in shorter, quicker passes and some runs plays to keep the defense honest. It paid off and Stafford followed his 1-for-5 start with a 9-for-11 finish for a total of 98 yards and one interception.
To be fair, Stafford did not attempt a touchdown pass in the red zone while the Lions tried to get their running game some work. Stafford, who remains the focal point of the offense, the team and the season, 1star0-for-16 with the one pick.
The offense highlight came when running back Reggie Bush flashed that familiar blazing speed and opened the scoring in the first quarter with his 86-yard touchdown run.
Bush and Joique Bell provided a nice 1-2 punch in the run game. Backed up to their 3-yard line after a holding call on punt return, Bell gained 11 yards on two straight handoffs. On first down from the 14, Bush took the handoff from Stafford, moved left, cut quickly to his right and with the help of two strong blocks by Eric Ebron and Corey Hilliard, broke loose and ran untouched down the sideline as the Lions took a 7-0 lead at 7:50 off the first quarter.
"Yeah, certainly (good) to see him get along with the guys," coach Jim Caldwell told WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) at halftime. "(He) still has a lot of get up and go. We were pleased to see that."
In the end, the Lions held on for a 13-12 win, thanks to a George Winn 1-yard touchdown plunge with 7:12 to play.
Johnson, who had off-season surgery on his knee and finger, played four series and finished with two catches for 27 yards.
"I think we were able to move the ball pretty good," Johnson told WXYZ. "We had a turnover there, but overall I think that we are doing some good things and we're going to be able to get the ball up and down the field."
The starting defense kept the Jaguars' offense under control and held them to two first-half field goals. Ansah debuted as a substitute, with Devin Taylor getting the start at right defensive end. Ansah looked good playing on third-down sub packages and the starting rotation of the defensive line was impressive.
The Lions entered the game with an NFL-worst one sack in the exhibition season. But George Johnson and Taylor netted first-half sacks. Linebacker Ashlee Palmer added a sack in the third quarter.
Ndamukong Suh was his usual big, bruising self and had some big hits — none bigger than the massive late hit he put on Henne that drew a personal foul and could cost him a league fine.
"Well, there was some good," Caldwell told WXYZ-TV. "Reggie's explosive play and the running game gave us a spark there.
"Then, you also saw our defense get some sacks, they went and put some pressure on the quarterback, which we hadn't gotten up to this point. But (we were) a little sloppy, too many penalties and gave them too much yardage, in terms of penalty yardage. We've got to get that tightened up."
The Lions took a 13-12 lead with 7:12 left in the fourth quarter when Dan Orlovsky and Ryan Broyles connected on three passes for 44 yards. Winn, who had fumbled earlier for the second time in the exhibition season, atoned for his mistake by punching it in for a touchdown from the 1-yard line.