Five things to know as winless Lions face Philadelphia Eagles

Lions coach Dan Campbell

Still looking for their first win, the Detroit Lions might have a fighting chance on Sunday facing the Philadelphia Eagles (2-5) who have lost five of their last six games.

A win any week would be welcome, but perhaps the timing of this one would provide an extra benefit. After Sunday’s game at Ford Field, the Lions will have their bye week.

“It would be big. It would be. Knowing that you get a win and now we’re going to be able to heal up and rest and kind of reset our clock if you will, get everything back mentally, physically, emotionally, I think it would be big,’’ coach Dan Campbell said on Friday.

This bunch — those who have remained healthy — could use a boost after a few close calls in the first seven weeks. Going into the bye week with a win is always a goal no matter the team’s record.

“I think you kind of – you’re turning over a new leaf if you will. It’s validating what you’re doing and where you’re going. So, certainly it would be big, but this isn’t some easy opponent. This is a good football team. They still have good football players over there,’’ Campbell said. “… This is not going to be easy, but to answer it, yeah, it would be huge.”

Five things to watch:

1. Darius Slay will be making his return to Detroit as the Eagles top cornerback. Now that Matt Patricia has moved on, Slay is eager to come back to the Motor City. You’ve got to imagine he’ll be extra fired up. Slay has two interceptions this season, both against the Panthers.  “He’s playing good ball, man. He’s playing at a high-level,’’ Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn said. “You can see why he’s a two-time Pro Bowler and all of that. He is everything that you want in a corner.” Too bad Patricia didn’t like him. 

2. The defense can’t let quarterback Jalen Hurts out of the pocket — he’s the Eagles’ leading rusher with 361 total rushing yards. He’s also been efficient with 10 passing touchdowns against just four interceptions. “You’ve always got to make sure you’re on your toes with this player. Even if it’s a close game, he’s one of those guys that has the potential to pull it off. We have to make sure that we’re all good in that area and understand who he is and what he’s done over his career,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “The second thing is his ability to run with the ball. You just said it, he has over 350 yards rushing, so we have to be able to contain that and make sure that he doesn’t get out of the pocket.’’

3. Jared Goff has completed 66.1% of his passes but most of them are short, not many downfield. “If you’re not getting those opportunities, you have to figure out other ways to generate explosives. Up until the Cincinnati game, we were one of the top-10 teams in the League in explosive plays,’’ Lynn said. “There are other ways you can generate explosives other than throwing it down the field, but there is something that can back people up a little bit and give us a little more space underneath if we can get that done.”

4. Wide receiver Kalif Raymond has stepped up in recent games with six catches in each of the last two contests. Lynn said he didn’t know much about Raymond before he was signed. “But when we got him in training camp, he’s impressed us from the first day he got here. We were like, ‘Why are the Titans letting him out of there?’ But, he’s done nothing but just make the most out of his opportunities,’’ Lynn said. Keep an eye on him to get even more targets. “Just his route savvy and his ability to get open and he doesn’t let his size come into play at all because he separates so well,’’ Lynn said.

5. Special teams play has been solid but really stood out at the Rams with two fake punts and an onside kick. Teams coordinator Dave Fipp gets much of the credit but he tested positive for COVID-19 this week even though he is vaccinated. While unable to be with the team, Campbell said Fipp has been coaching from home with Jeff Modkins (special teams assistant) and Don Muhlbach (assistant special teams) filling in. “It’s a good core unit, and so they take it serious and they kind of regulate themselves a little bit, too. Like, you can tell there was a little bit more ownership in it like, ‘Alright, look man, Fipp’s not here. Let’s get this right.’ It’s been good. It still stinks, especially this weekend I know for Fipp. I’m sure he would want this, but yet he’s still here in spirit and he’s up there,’’Campbell said.

PREDICTION: Lions 28, Eagles 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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