Five things to watch as Lions face Washington

Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia

Riding a two-game losing streak, the Detroit Lions (3-5) have a chance to win their first game at Ford Field in more than a year. That win against the Giants on Oct. 27, 2019, seems like a very long time ago.

On Sunday the Lions  face Washington (2-6) which has lost six of its last seven.

“We know how dangerous they are; they’ve got some great players. Just like every week, they’ve got a lot of good guys out there.,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said.

Washington quarterback Alex Smith, the best comeback story in the NFL this season, will make his first start since 2018 when his leg was brutally broken. He fought infection and went through multiple surgeries to get back to football. He’s made appearances this season (including last week when he threw 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions), but this will be his first start.

“I think, obviously, Alex Smith is an amazing story. Everything that he’s been through and his ability to battle through all that and step out onto that field and perform, it’s pretty amazing,’’ Patricia said.

This is a big game for both teams to try to get back on track.

Here are five things to watch:

1. The Lions offense struggled last week without wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hip) and they will be without him again on Sunday. It could be a double-whammy with tight end T.J. Hockenson (toe) who is questionable to play. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can step up in different situations, and certainly, a lot of guys that can produce. … Whatever the design is will be for whether we have them or don’t have them, and then we’ve just got to go out and execute those plays,’’ Patricia said.

2. For the good news, Matthew Stafford was able to practice this week unlike last week when he was quarantined after being exposed to COVID-19. He’s thrown three interceptions in the past two games which has to stop and he knows that.

3. The Lions run game has been inconsistent all season, although seemed to bounce back in the loss last week at Minnesota. Rookie D’Andre Swift ran for 64 of the 129 total. “Running the ball is great. It’s a great part of this game. Certainly it’s something we want to do. We didn’t do it well a couple weeks ago. I thought we got back on track a little bit last week with it, and that’s where we have to continue to go,’’ Patricia said.

4. Stopping the run just did not happen last week. Part of it was the magic of Dalvin Cook (22 carries, 206 yards), but much of it was on the Lions’ defense which didn’t appear ready even though they knew what was coming in Cook. The Vikings finished with 275 rushing yards. Enough said. Washington’s run game, led by Antonio Gibson, should not be as much of a threat. He had just 6 carries for 20 yards last week in the loss to the Giants.

5. Coaching has been an issue and it’s not just Patricia. Defensive coordinator Cory Undlin took full credit for having 10 players out on the field on defense in each of the last two games. “So when you have 10 guys out there that – obviously there was some miscommunication at some point on somewhere down the line and that’s it. It’s poor coaching,’’ Undlin said this week. “I met with the whole defense (Monday), and I told them exactly the same thing. We’re trying to be critical of these guys, we put a lot of pressure on these guys all the time. Then when we as coaches can’t get 11 guys out there – that’s on us.’’

PREDICTION: Washington 28, Lions 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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