Five things to know as Detroit Lions open home season against L.A. Chargers

Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia

No such thing as a must-win game in the second week of the NFL season, but this is close.

The Lions open their home season against the Los Angeles Chargers at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Ford Field. Detroit is coming off a fourth-quarter collapse that led to a 27-27 tie with the lowly Arizona Cardinals to open the season.

Less than 13 percent of NFL teams that start 0-2 make the playoffs. Not sure about 0-1-1 starts but it can’t be good.

“I feel very confident right now that the team is in a good mental space as far as preparing for the Chargers,’’ Patricia said this week.

Much of the start-of-the-season optimism about this bunch of Lions disappeared with that tie. Patricia wasn’t hired to tie games.

Onward.

Five things to know about Sunday’s game:

1. Matthew Stafford seems unrattled about the whole trust issue that was apparent when a timeout was called from the sidelines while the game clock was ticking down. If Stafford felt a timeout was needed, he would have signalled for one. Stafford downplayed the incident this week as did Patricia. Stafford is a pro who has been through a myriad of bad situations in his 10-plus seasons in Detroit. This should not affect his play one bit. He said he was over it while the media had not let it go.

2. The defense must find answers for the fourth-quarter collapse against the Cardinals. While solid in first three quarters, they appeared to let up in the fourth even though that’s been denied. If Jarrad Davis returns after missing the opener, that certainly could help boost the whole defense but Davis didn’t do much at Friday’s practice and is listed as questionable for Sunday. It’s quite a different scenario going against veteran quarterback Philip Rivers compared to rookie Kyler Murray. “Last (week) we went into that thing kind of blind, not knowing what was going on. But Philip has seen everything, he’s seen every coverage, every defense, there’s not going to be anything you can do to fool him,’’ safety Quandre Diggs said. “We’ve just got to be on our Ps and Qs and be ready to go.’’

3. Phillip Rivers is still Phillip Rivers after passing for 333 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in the overtime win against the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday. He will be without tight end Hunter Henry who is out for the season after suffering a tibia plateau fracture to his left knee in the opener. Henry had four catches for 60 yards in that game. Rivers’ two biggest targets are wide receiver Keenan Allen and running back Austin Ekeler who had a pair of touchdown catches in the opener. Allen earns top praise from Patricia who calls him an unbelievable athlete with great route-running ability: “His ability to cut to release off the line of scrimmage to really kind of move the defenders at the line to get open, get into space. His top of the route quickness – he’s got some subtleties in there. His head-turns, his shoulder-leans, and some of the ways he skips off the line of scrimmage he has some unorthodox releases too that are just extremely difficult to defend against.’’ 

4. The offensive line, in particular Taylor Decker must play better. Patricia was asked about Decker’s game on Friday and replied, ““I think the team had a tough day.” Sunday the offensive line will be facing pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram who each had a sack in the opener. It will also help if the Lions can establish a run game early. Kerryon Johnson averaged just 3.1 yards per carry (16 for 49 yards) in the tie. Decker was limited in practice this week with a back injury and is questionable for Sunday. Not much depth at left tackle so would expect to possibly see Tyrell Crosby or Kenny Wiggins start on the left side if Decker is out.

5. Coaching is key once again. Patricia and his team have to do better. Be aggressive and attack for four quarters, not three. Make adjustments throughout the game. It’s Coaching 101, but sometimes it’s not so apparent to those not on the sidelines. Patricia said there is no extra pressure this week to see if his team can bounce back from a tie. “Nope. Every game – we’ve got 16 of them – they’re all high anxiety games,’’ the coach said.

PREDICTION: Lions 27, Chargers 24. (Wouldn’t bet the house on it, but Lions are at home, Chargers playing at 9 a.m. their time. Both sides of the ball and special teams have to prove they are better than their fourth-quarter showing last week.)

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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