Barry Sanders played 153 games, rushed for more than 15,000 yards and scored 99 touchdowns for the Detroit Lions. He never accomplished what Mikel Leshoure did Sunday.
Leshoure burned the Jaguars for three first-half rushing touchdowns, becoming the first player in franchise history to accomplish that feat ([si_launchNFLPopup video='3208eea60e16403fadeb25deba7b64f7']see all three scores[/si_launchNFLPopup]). The second-year running back (Leshoure missed all of 2011 with an Achilles injury) had just one career TD before getting to work Sunday.
All three of Leshoure's TD came in the second quarter -- and all three came from eight yards or closer, as he served as the closer for a Lions' offense that found a groove early in Jacksonville.
His first two TDs (a 7-yarder and 1-yarder) came straight ahead; his third saw his jump-cut around a defender in the backfield, then turn on the jets to get to the corner. His only score prior to this outburst came back in Week 3 against Tennessee, Leshoure's NFL debut following a two-game suspension.
Detroit had just six rushing touchdowns prior to Week 9, three by Matthew Stafford. They entered the week averaging 97.1 yards per game, 22nd in the league, and haven't had a 100-yard rusher yet on the season, struggling to find a reliable attack on the ground.
Sunday was about as close to perfect as we've seen Detroit's offense in a long time. Stafford hit 22 of 33 passes for 285 yards, with Calvin Johnson making seven catches for 129 yards. The run game pitched in 151 yards (73 and a TD for Joique Bell, 70 and three for Leshoure).
The Lions' 31-14 win moved them to 4-4 on the year, and though victories over the hapless Jaguars won't move the needle much, they could be clicking just when they need to most.
The next four weeks will be a crucial stretch for Detroit: After visiting Minnesota next Sunday, the Lions return home for three straight (Green Bay, Houston, Indianapolis). To continue bouncing back from a 2-4 start to the season to get in the playoff mix, the Lions need their offense to lead the way.
Leshoure's emergence can only assist there. Detroit has to hope that Sunday was just a sign of things to come.