Whatever playoff chance the Detroit Lions have this year is directly linked to the comfort of their Pontiac Silverdome. As Dorothy said, there's no place like home.
A 31-20 victory over the New York Jets today ran the Lions' home record to 6-0 and overall record to 7-6 to maintain a slight hope of grabbing a wild-card berth in the playoffs.
Among those victimized at the Silverdome this season are the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers.
"We win at home a little easier than we do on the road," said Detroit Coach Darryl Rogers. "At least it seems that way. But we've progressed as a team and hopefully we can do that on the road. We can't do any better at home."
The Jets remained atop the AFC East with a 9-4 record, one-half game ahead of Miami and New England.
"We just didn't play," said dejected Jets Coach Joe Walton. "The whole team didn't play."
"This is not a very happy Thanksgiving for me," said defensive end Mark Gastineau who had the Jets' only sack. "I'm glad I had my turkey yesterday because I don't think I'd be able to eat it today."
The Lions combined an awesome pass rush with a productive passing attack to keep the Jets in a hole throughout the game. New York's Ken O'Brien, the league's top-rated quarterback, was sacked seven times, three times by William Gay. O'Brien completed 23 of 35 for 281 yards passing, including touchdowns of 35 yards to Al Toon and eight yards to Mickey Shuler. Shuler's touchdown came with only 56 seconds remaining.
"The reason our passing game worked so well was because we ran at Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko," said Rogers. "When you run at them, it occupies them more. I want to occupy those rascals. If we don't, they'll come in and hit our poor quarterback something fierce."
The Lions' Eric Hipple completed 19 of 29 attempts for 269 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Leonard Thompson caught touchdown passes of 25, 8 and 44 yards. Mark Nichols, the other wide receiver, hauled in a 38-yard touchdown pass.
"This feels very gratifying," said Thompson, who caught seven passes for 115 yards. "At my age (33) you see all those young kids on the field and you want to show them you still have the moves."
The Jets played without running back Freeman McNeil, out with a sore ankle. His replacement, Johnny Hector, ran for a career-high 114 yards on 23 carries.
"This was really a must game for us," said Hipple. "We can't look at the long picture of this. We just have to take one game at a time.
"I really feel like I'm playing the best ball of my career," Hipple said. "That's why we caught them off guard. I was able to call audibles and everybody picked them up. We just dinked and dunked them all the way down the field."
The Lions converted two fumbles by O'Brien (both as he was sacked) into a field goal and touchdown. The first came on the Jets' opening possession and Ed Murray kicked a 19-yard field goal to give the Lions a 3-0 edge with 8:30 left in the quarter. O'Brien's second fumble resulted in the 38-yard touchdown pass from Hipple to Nichols with 6:36 left in the half for a 17-3 lead.
The Jets never came closer than 11 points after Pat Leahy's 27-yard field goal made it 24-13 with 7:07 left in the game.