DETROIT -- The best thing the Detroit Lions had going for them on Sunday was their opponent's knack to self-destruct.
Fresh off a bye, the Lions rushed for 14 yards, fumbled twice and didn't throw a touchdown pass. Still, they kept a share of first place in the NFC North by virtue of punt and interception returns for touchdowns, plus a crucial encroachment penalty against the Jacksonville Jaguars that extended their final scoring drive.
Detroit emerged with a 26-19 victory over the Jaguars at Ford Field heading into a first-place showdown on Thanksgiving against Minnesota, which defeated Arizona 30-24 on Sunday.
"During the course of a season, you're going to have to win football games a lot of different ways," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "It can't just be the offense. Sometimes, it's going to be the defense, sometimes it's going to be the kicking game combined with it. We found a way to win with some mechanism other than the strength of our offense."
Andre Roberts returned a punt 55 yards for Detroit's only touchdown of the first half. Safety Rafael Bush had a 39-yard interception return early in the second half.
The Lions (6-4), who have trailed in the fourth quarter of every game this season, finally got some production out of their offense in the final 15 minutes. Tight end Eric Ebron scored on a 1-yard run for the go-ahead score and Detroit took nearly eight minutes off the clock on its last drive while protecting the lead.
"We started doing our job a little bit better than we did before," said quarterback Matthew Stafford, who threw for 278 yards. "We were hurting ourselves. Negative runs, negative plays, sacks, missed throws, drops, whatever it was. Any way we could have a negative, we had it."
Stafford got defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks to commit an encroachment penalty on a fourth-down play from the Jacksonville 46 with 2:34 left to keeping milk the clock.
"They've done it before on tape," Stafford said. "(San Diego quarterback) Philip Rivers did it. It was kind of a heat-of-the-moment call."
That wasn't the only mistake that Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley was lamenting afterward.
"The game's four quarters," he said. "There's plays throughout that game that we're going to look at and wish that we had back. There's plays throughout that we have to get corrected."
A glaring one was the special-teams breakdown that allowed Roberts to score his second touchdown on a punt return this season.
"I wasn't too happy at the time," Bradley said. "It's a frustrating thing when you've got guys covering and you don't make plays in the open field. It's one thing to protect but there's a second part -- you've got to cover."
Blake Bortles threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns but was also intercepted twice as the Jaguars fell to 2-8. Bortles has been picked off 13 times this season.
Detroit moved ahead in the opening minute of the second half on Bortles' first giveaway. Cornerback Nevin Lawson deflected the pass intended for Marqise Lee into the hands of Bush, who slithered down the sideline to give the Lions a 16-9 lead.
Jason Myers' 52-yard field goal cut Detroit's lead to four. The Jaguars moved ahead later in the third when Lee, who snared a 29-yard pass moments earlier, managed to stay inbounds on a 3-yard touchdown grab that put Jacksonville ahead 19-16.
Detroit responded early in the fourth quarter. Ebron caught a 61-yard pass from Stafford on a third-and-long situation. On second-and-goal, the tight end took a handoff while in motion and scored from one yard out, giving the Lions a 23-19 lead.
Matt Prater kicked a 43-yard field goal with 22 seconds left to stretch the lead to seven points.
"Wasn't perfect," Caldwell said. "A lot of flaws but winning never is pretty, at least for us these days. We'll take it."
The teams were tied at 9-all at halftime.
NOTES: Lions DT Tyrunn Walker was inactive despite making eight starts this season. LB DeAndre Levy (knee) and RB Justin Forsett (healthy scratch) were also inactive. LB Dan Skuta (back) and DE Chris Smith (eye) were among the players who didn't suit up for the Jaguars. ... Jacksonville CB Aaron Colvin exited in the first quarter with a concussion. ... The teams had only five previous meetings, with Jacksonville holding a 3-2 edge. Detroit won the last matchup, 31-14, on Nov. 4, 2012. ... Detroit's Matthew Stafford was playing his 103th career game with the franchise, surpassing Eric Hipple and Greg Landry for the most appearances by a Lions QB. ... Jacksonville has a road game against Buffalo next Sunday.