Five things to watch as Lions face Falcons

Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia

The Detroit Lions have a chance to win their second straight game on Sunday for the first time since games 2 and 3 of the 2019 season.

The Lions (2-3) face the Falcons (1-5) at Atlanta at 1 p.m.

Coach Matt Patricia said stacking wins is the goal, looking at each Sunday as a one-game season.

“Certainly, I think there is a mentality about that where, OK, when you come off of a win and you played a game that is positive, that you learn from whatever mistakes may have showed up, and obviously we’ll learn from the good things that you did, and then carry that over into the next week to build on it and kind of – we say stack them together or build on top of each other – and I think that’s how you show your growth and your improvement,’’ Patricia said this week on a Zoom call.

The Falcons, who already ditched head coach Dan Quinn and are playing under interim coach Raheem Morris, are coming off their first win.

Five things to watch:

1. Don’t give up on the run. The Lions’ run game has been a standout so far averaging 117 rushing yards per game. In the win at Jacksonville last week they ran for 180 yards (116 by D’Andre Swift). This has been an issue for the Lions for years, but seems to be looking up. “Certainly gameplan-wise, it opens up some stuff for you. I think (Matthew) Stafford does a great job of utilizing all of those different runs that we have and mixing with the play passes, the misdirection plays, the boot plays, things like that. So I think it just helps us be able to reach the ball into different areas of the field,’’ Patricia said.

2. Keep an eye on Matthew Stafford and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan.  Stafford ranks second in NFL history with an average of 274.4 passing yards per game, and Ryan is 3rd with a 271.9 average. Stafford has more yards this season per game (248) but it’s not all about the two quarterbacks who happen to be great friends. Stafford got off to a bit of a slow start this season but has improved. Had his best game in win at Jacksonville last week.

3. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones returned last week and had his best game this season with eight catches for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns. “Obviously offensively for them, it starts with the quarterback, with Matt Ryan, but Julio Jones – his return, his play, his speed, his strength, his power, his run after catch, all of it – just showed in its full form, and I think that you just see on tape how dominant he is as a receiver, how great of a player he is,’’ Patricia said. “It’s like I say all the time – when you’re that great of a player, and everybody knows you are, try to do everything you can to limit what you can do, but you still go out and do what you do every single game. It’s pretty amazing.’’ He’ll be a handful for the Lions secondary who will be without CB Desmond Trufant (hamstring).

4. Detroit can’t overlook Atlanta due to its 1-5 record. “I think for all of us, you just look at their players and you can see how dangerous and how good they are. Certainly, from our standpoint, I think we know that it’s 60 minutes of football in the NFL. Sometimes it’s more. That’s just what it is. Like we talk about all the time, I think it’s 67 percent of the games are one possession (games) or seven points-or-less, and 34 percent are three points-or-less. I think you’re seeing that in the NFL this year,’’ Patricia said.

5. The Lions are healthy with the exception of Trufant. It’s been rough early in the season due to injuries, although that’s no excuse. Patricia is not big on momentum but was very happy last Sunday when they were able to see their two weeks of work (with the bye) show up on the field. “I thought that was really great,’’ Patricia said.

PREDICTION: Lions 28, Falcons 24

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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