By: Will Burchfield
The Lions were never going to snap it.
When they lined up on fourth-and-2 from the Jacksonville 46-yard line with 2:34 remaining, a four-point lead in their hands, they had no intention of running a play. Everyone at Ford Field knew it.
Except for Sen'Derrick Marks.
The Jaguars' defensive tackle fell for Matthew Stafford's hard count, jumped across the line of scrimmage and was flagged for encroachment. The resulting first down all but sealed the Lions' 26-19 victory.
"He was a little antsy," center Travis Swanson said of Marks, "and it showed. It just depends on the D-lineman that's in there and kind of his mental state at the time and if he understands the situation."
Marks did not.
Indeed, Jim Caldwell confirmed the play was based purely on pretense. Had the Jaguars remained onside, the Lions weren't going to hike the football.
"No," Caldwell said. "It did exactly what it was designed to do."
Afterward, Stafford explained the Jaguars have shown a tendency to jump offsides on film. And he credited one of his quarterback counterparts for inspiring the hard count.
"They've done it before on tape, so I saw it. Phillip Rivers did it and it worked, so just that kind of a heat-of-the-moment call," Stafford said.
Jim Caldwell praised his quarterback for selling the snap.
"He did a real nice job with that," said the coach. "He got them to the line and put some pressure on them. Certainly used his voice inflection to get it done.
"I think Matthew, he's a veteran player. He does a lot for us. A lot of things that go unnoticed just in terms of what he does in and out of the huddle, getting things straightened away and solving problems as he goes along."
When Stafford approached the line, one of the referees was standing over the football. Stafford quickly gestured for him to move.
"He was standing over the ball and we didn't sub. Normally when you sub, they have to stand over the ball and let the defense sub. So I don't know, it probably helped with the theatrics that I was getting in his ass a little bit and telling him to move out of the way," Stafford chuckled.
"But it worked for us. It was a big play. Just helped us chew up more time and get a little bit closer for a field goal."
By the time the Jaguars got the ball back, following a 43-yard field goal by Matt Prater, only 26 seconds remained on the clock. Stafford's ability to draw Marks offsides ultimately cost Jacksonville over two minutes of possession time.
"I think it's important to try and use things like that to keep the defense off rhythm," said left tackle Taylor Decker. "Every now and then, we're able to get some free plays out of it which is good."
Was it the best acting job of Stafford's career?
"I'm not sure because I can't see him. I can only hear him," said Swanson. "He did sell it pretty good though."
On top of the Lions' obvious intentions, it was surprising to see Marks jump offsides given his status as an eight-year NFL vet. Surely he's seen that type of call before.
"2009 draft class, tough, tough times. That's what it is, I guess," laughed Stafford, also a product of that year's draft. "No, it's a heat-of-the-moment. It's a physical game and he's trying to make a play for his team.
"I've been on the sideline and seen guys on our team do it before. It's a tough situation to be in. I was really proud of our guys for executing it. A lot of plays in this game, that was just one of them."
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