Matthew Stafford dropped back and perfectly lofted the ball where only Calvin Johnson could catch it.
Johnson leaped to come down with the 25-yard pass in the end zone for the first of a career-high-matching three touchdown receptions, Stafford tied a personal best with five scoring passes, and the surging Detroit Lions kept the Philadelphia Eagles reeling with a 45-14 rout Thursday.
“When we’re on point like that, it’s hard to stop,” Johnson said.
The Lions (4-7) have won three straight since firing their team president and general manager, and three in a row in their annual Thanksgiving game.
“That’s as complete a victory as we’ve had since we’ve been here,” said Jim Caldwell, who won 11 games last season in his first year as Detroit’s coach.
The Eagles (4-7) have lost three straight. They have allowed at least 45 points in two straight games in one season for the first time, according to STATS, and have lost by at least 28 points in consecutive games for the first time since 1971.
“We all take accountability,” Coach Chip Kelly said. “I’m a coach, not a player, so it starts with me. I’m not pointing fingers at anybody, and I don’t think anybody points fingers at anybody.”
Stafford threw for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns without a turnover by halftime for the second time in his career, according to STATS, to help the Lions lead, 24-7. He finished 27 for 38 for 337 yards and threw five touchdowns for the fourth time in his career.
“Our quarterback is comfortable in this offense,” Caldwell said. “And when that happens, it gives you opportunities for your playmakers to do things.”
After not throwing to Johnson much early in the game, Stafford started connecting with the star receiver. The Eagles couldn’t do much about it, especially when starting cornerback Nolan Carroll left in the second quarter because of a broken right ankle and was replaced by rookie Eric Rowe.
“At the end of the first quarter, I realized we hadn’t gotten 81 the ball yet, so we dialed up some plays for him,” Stafford said. “We started getting aggressive, and that opened up a couple routes for him.”
The quarterback seems to be clicking with plays called by offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who replaced the fired Joe Lombardi a month ago.
“I love that he’s so aggressive,” Stafford said. “That rubs off on the players because it is fun when he’s giving you chances to make big plays.”
Taking advantage of Johnson in one-on-one coverage, Stafford threw four- and three-yard touchdown passes to Johnson in the third quarter.
“We’re attacking the defense, and not playing defense on offense,” Johnson said.
Stafford started the scoring barrage with an eight-yard pass to Theo Riddick, who made a sharp move to the inside to get away from linebacker Mychal Kendricks late in the opening quarter. Stafford threw a go-ahead, two-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter to Golden Tate, who lined up as a fullback and went to the flat where he caught the ball and stopped, letting safety Walter Thurmond run past him.
Mark Sanchez started in place of Sam Bradford, who was inactive because of a shoulder injury. Sanchez completed 19 of 27 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. He connected with Brent Celek early in the second quarter on a two-yard pass to help Philadelphia pull into a 7-all tie and with Jordan Matthews for a relatively meaningless, 24-yard touchdown late in the game.
Sanchez was able to connect with receivers when he had time, but that didn’t happen very often.
Detroit’s Ezekiel Ansah had a career-high 3 1/2 sacks, one of which forced a fumble by Sanchez that the defensive end recovered.