DETROIT (AP) After nearly a decade as Thanksgiving pushovers, the Detroit Lions have started playing their best in their holiday showcase.
Matthew Stafford threw for five touchdown passes - three to Calvin Johnson - and the Lions routed the Philadelphia Eagles 45-14 on Thursday. It was Detroit's third consecutive victory on Thanksgiving after nine straight losses.
''One of my favorite games to play in every year,'' Stafford said. ''It's a big-time tradition being a Dallas kid growing up. I always watched football on Thanksgiving. I had a vested interest in it - it was a different team, but Thanksgiving football was always a big deal to me and my family.''
The Lions snapped their run of Thanksgiving futility in 2013 when they beat Green Bay 40-10, outgaining the Packers 561-126. This game against the Eagles (4-7) was similar. Detroit (4-7) scored 38 consecutive points and cruised through most of the second half with the outcome all but assured.
Johnson came into the game with eight receiving touchdowns on Thanksgiving, the most in league history. He added three to that total in what was easily Detroit's most complete performance of the season.
''This is an unusual day, this is not a typical day,'' Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. ''Most games in this league are decided by a touchdown or less, and that's the norm.''
Caldwell's future has been uncertain ever since the Lions got off to a 1-7 start. They fired their general manager and team president and have won three in a row since.
The Eagles may be facing some changes of their own if they don't recover from this skid. They've lost three games in a row, allowing 45 points in each of the last two.
''I just think we got outcoached today and didn't do a very good job,'' Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly said.
Here are a few things we learned from Detroit's rout of the Eagles:
Ziggy Ansah has become one of the game's top pass rushers. He had 3 1/2 sacks for the Lions and now has 11 1/2 on the season.
''The whole team came out here to play,'' Ansah said. ''Defensively, we stopped them on the run, offense moved the ball, special teams gave us great field position, so overall I think it's a great team win.''
Theo Riddick is somebody Detroit's opponents now have to account for. The unheralded RB caught five passes for 62 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles after a solid performance in a win over Oakland last weekend.
Quarterback isn't the only position where the Eagles are dealing with health problems. Sam Bradford sat out a second straight game with a shoulder issue - Mark Sanchez played instead and was sacked six times. Philadelphia also lost CB Nolan Carroll to a broken ankle, and T Jason Peters hurt his ankle in the first quarter.
The Eagles were only a game out of first place in the NFC East coming into the day, so their season isn't over, but this is not a team that looks ready to make any kind of December run. Philadelphia plays at New England next.
''It is getting late,'' S Malcolm Jenkins said. ''There are a lot of things that we need to get corrected and the road is getting no easier from here on.''
Detroit is 3-0 since its front office shakeup and 3-1 since firing offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and putting Jim Bob Cooter in that role.
''Jim Bob and I have a good relationship,'' Stafford said. ''He's a smart guy, he communicates well with the guys in our offense. He's young in this job, but he's not afraid, he's aggressive and that's fun. That rubs off on guys when a guy's aggressive and trusts us as players to go out and make those decisions.''
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