Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Packers; plus prediction

Lions haven’t won a game since Oct. 1

ALLEN PARK — It’s all in the details.

In the Lions’ loss to Pittsburgh last week the details fell short, way short.

Tonight the corrections have to be made in the key divisional game at Green Bay.

It’s huge for both teams.

“We’re really close to doing some good things this past game, but close doesn’t really matter in this league. I think Bill Parcells said, ‘You are what your record says you are,’ and that’s sort of true as a team. And I think offensively we can sort of look at points scored, at the end of the day 15. 15 is not enough usually to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, that’s a good team we were playing and we got to score touchdowns down there in the redzone,’’ offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said.

Here are five things to watch on Monday night;

1. After going 0-for-5 in the Red Zone in the loss to the Steelers, obviously it’s a point of emphasis. Matthew Stafford and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter agree that it’s not just one thing that went wrong. “I think it is just execution and detail oriented. I don’t think there’s any massive scheme over all. We’ve got good players. We just got to go out there and execute. Sometimes, we just got to make plays,’’ Stafford said. “I mean we were extremely close on a couple, a couple balls that I could maybe throw a little bit better, a couple that maybe their defenders made some really nice plays on, or we could come down with whatever it is. We just got to find a way to get it in.”

2. Stafford had a cleaner pocket and more time against the Steelers than he had in previous weeks and despite a formidable Steelers’ pass rush he was only sacked twice. Brian Mihalik will get his second start at left tackle. “I think he did a nice job playing against guys that he had sort of been with, worked with in training camp, worked with over the offseason. He held up well, he fought,’’ offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. “Wasn’t perfect, could have been a little cleaner technique wise, but I thought it was an admirable performance and I thought he showed himself pretty well. He’s got to keep coming, keep getting better. We’re going to count on him moving forward in whatever role he has.” The best news for the offensive line is that Taylor Decker returned to practice this week after shoulder surgery in June. He won’t get back into action on Monday but he is close.

3. Defensively the Lions just need a little more consistency. A few hiccups last week against the Steelers were costly but overall they held Le’Veon Bell to 76 rushing yards and Antonio Brown to 70 receiving yards. Look for more pass rush against quarterback Brett Hundley who might get more rattled than a veteran.

4. The run game still lacks consistency and the ability to pick up short yardage. Dwayne Washington was the power back last week and struggled. Washington has that role due to  “size, power, things like that’’ according to Cooter. It’s one of the reasons the Lions have struggled in the red zone. Even though Matthew Stafford is the second leading rusher with 68 rushing yards on 13 carries, but they rarely call a quarterback sneak.

5. The Lions have been outscored 40-20 in the first quarter and 102-74 in the first halves. It’s a concern. It would be more of an issue if the Lions had not outscored opponents 102-67 in the second halves. “We talk about it. We try to emphasize it, those kinds of things. But I really do think that the basic rudiment of it all is just to play better,’’ Caldwell said. “If you performing better, if you’re executing better, those kinds of things will take care of themselves and we haven’t done that as frequently as we’d like to.”

PREDICTION: Lions 27, Packers 17

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Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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