DETROIT (AP) — Justin Tucker kicked three field goals in the second quarter to give the Baltimore Ravens a 9-7 halftime lead over the sluggish Detroit Lions in a crucial Monday night matchup with playoff implications in both conferences.
Reggie Bush ran for a 14-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but the Ford Field crowd had little to cheer about after that. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford went 8 of 15 for 70 yards in the half, and he was hurt by a pair of uncharacteristic drops by Calvin Johnson.
Tucker kicked field goals of 29, 24 and 32 yards — the third one on the final play of the half. Two of the field goals were set up by Detroit penalties on what could have been deep incompletions by Baltimore's Joe Flacco.
Both passes were intended for Marlon Brown. The Lions were called for pass interference on one, giving the Ravens the ball at the Detroit 10-yard line and setting up the field goal that made it 7-6.
The more damaging penalty came on third down in the final seconds of the half. Detroit safety Louis Delmas was called for a personal foul for hitting Brown on a pass that fell short of the receiver. The penalty moved Baltimore into field-goal range and kept that drive alive.
The Lions took advantage of a pair of early misplays by Baltimore rookie safety Matt Elam. It was Elam who caused a stir in the week leading up to the game by saying that Johnson "is pretty old."
Elam gave the Lions an early first down with a personal foul penalty — he hit Stafford as the Detroit quarterback slid short of the marker on a third-down scramble. Elam also missed badly on a tackle, allowing Nate Burleson to gain about 10 extra yards on a dump-off by Stafford.
Bush eventually gave the Lions a 7-0 lead when he scampered around left end.
For his part, Johnson may have cost the Lions at least a field goal when he dropped a third-down pass near the Baltimore 30-yard line on Detroit's second possession. Late in the second quarter, Johnson dropped a pass near midfield, costing the Lions what could have been about a 20-yard gain.
Johnson did have two catches for eight yards in the half, becoming the first player to reach 5,000 yards receiving in a three-season span.
The Lions were trying to remain tied with Chicago atop the NFC North — Detroit holds the head-to-head tiebreaker — and Baltimore was hoping to pull within a game of first-place Cincinnati in the AFC North.
Bush missed Detroit's previous game at Philadelphia with an injured right calf, but he was back for this one. The Lions were without cornerbacks Chris Houston and Darius Slay because of injuries.
Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil was active after missing the previous game with a sprained left ankle. The reigning Super Bowl champions are playing significant games in December as usual, hoping for a sixth straight postseason berth.
The Lions, meanwhile, are trying to avoid a late-season collapse that would keep them out of the playoffs for the 13th time in 14 years. Detroit entered Monday's game having lost three of four — and the Lions blew fourth-quarter leads in each of those setbacks.
Detroit hasn't won a division title since 1993.
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