Five reasons the Lions lost to the Bucs; extend losing streak to 7 games

DETROIT — Matt Patricia’s survival as coach of the Detroit Lions may be in more peril after Sunday. The Lions’ defense made quarterback Jameis Winston look like a Hall of Famer in waiting, in Tampa Bay’s 38-17 win at Ford Field.

It was the seventh straight loss for the Lions who drop to 3-10-1.

“I think the one thing that’s consistent, the team fights, they work hard, really regardless of who’s out there,’’ coach Matt Patricia said.

Is that enough? Apparently not, but wide receiver Danny Amendola agrees with Patricia.

“We got a lot of guys who are beat up, banged up and injured and we got guys rolling in, next man up, trying to step up, trying to make plays. Everyone here is trying their best, everybody is fighting,’’ Amendola said. “I love how everyone comes to work, I love how we fight on game day and whatever the situation may be, we are going to get out there and fight for our brothers. So that is what I love about this team.”

He said they have to find an edge.

“We have to believe, we have to roll into each game thinking we are going to win,’’ Amendola said. 

They have two games left this season to figure it out.

Five reasons the Lions lost:

1. Winston had a monstrous day thanks to Detroit’s defense which was beat again and again and again on deep crossing patterns. Winston was 28 of 42 for 458 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Darius Slay dropped what could’ve been an interception. Detroit’s secondary just plain got beat time after time. On Breshad Perriman’s first touchdown (for 34 yards) cornerback Rashaan Melvin was about 5 yards behind the play. Trey Flowers muffed on a sack. Overall the Lions’ defense didn’t look prepared. One highlight was Jahlani Tavai’s first interception, but the Lions offense could not score afterward.

2. The Lions fought back in the second half. Down by just a touchdown (24-17) with five minutes left, Detroit’s offense had the ball but quarterback David Blough’s pass intended for Danny Amendola was intercepted by Sean Murphy-Binding and returned 70 yards for a touchdown. “Can’t do it. Obviously it’s the play that will come back, we’ll look at as ultimately the dagger in the game. Danny ran a good route I left it a little behind him, the guy made a good play and went the other way with it,’’ Blough said. “You can’t do it playing quarterback in this league you have to value the football first and foremost. It’s frustrating it happened there after the guys fought so hard to battle back. I’ll take it it’s on me, it’s frustrating.’’ Blough was 24 of 43 for 260 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

3. The bad start was a killer. The Lions were down by three touchdowns with 8:13 left in the second quarter. “The slow start was not really what we want to do against an explosive team like this,’’ Patricia said. “Obviously, detrimental. They can score extremely fast, they’re a very aggressive defense, they have good players on both sides of the ball you have to do a better job to start the game.’’ The defense gave up three first-half touchdowns and the offense was stuck in neutral. At the end of the first quarter the Lions’ offense had 1 net yard (the Bucs had 236). At halftime it was up to 56 yards. 

4. The fourth quarter was a disaster again. This season the Lions have been outscored 122-84 in the final stanza — it’s on the offense for not getting it done and the defense for letting the opponent march down the field. Again on Sunday they were outscored 14-7 in the fourth. Patricia said it is not a result of conditioning. “I don’t think you ever want to put frustration into words because it never comes out right, so I would say for us we understand, we just look at it from the standpoint of why, what are we doing and how do we improve it,’’ Patricia said. He did not offer any more specifics.

5. Injuries have really hit the Lions hard, especially in the last few weeks. Within the last seven days they’ve put four players on injured reserve (Da’Shawn Hand, Marv Jones Jr., Jarrad Davis and Joe Dahl). Wes Hills, the starting running back on Sunday (replacing the injured Bo Scarbrough), was playing in his first NFL game. He had a slow start, but finished with two rushing touchdowns becoming just the third Lions player to rush for two touchdowns in his first career game, along with Jahvid Best (2010) and Billy Sims (1980). Ten Lions who started in Week One were not available on Sunday (that includes Quandre Diggs who was traded). The others were injured or on injured reserve. That’s a ton.

BONUS: Bucs wide receiver Breshad Perriman finished with three receiving touchdowns — he had two in the first 11 games. He’s just another opponent that the Lions’ defense made look like a Pro Bowl player. He had five catches for 113 yards. Curiously enough, Breshad’s dad, Brett, played for the Lions for six years (1991-96) and never had a three-touchdown game.

NEXT UP: The Lions play at Denver at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 22. The Broncos (5-9) lost 23-3 to the Chiefs on Sunday.

Bo Scarbrough, Christian Jones among the injured Lions inactive vs. the Bucs

DETROIT — It’s a beat-up Lions squad that takes the field today to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field.

Running back Bo Scarbrough (ribs) is out along with linebacker Christian Jones (shoulder). Jones was working with trainers on the sidelines nearly three hours before kickoff, but obviously wasn’t ready to play.

Five Lions were ruled out on Friday: Quarterback Matthew Stafford (hip/back), linebacker Jarrad Davis (ankle/knee), left guard Joe Dahl (back/knee), defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson (shoulder) and right tackle Rick Wagner (knee). 

Dahl and Davis were placed on injured reserve on Saturday. Running back Wes Hills and offensive tackle Dan Skipper were signed to the active roster from the practice squad.

The other inactives are cornerback Michael Jackson and guard Beau Benzschawel. 

Ten of the Lions’ starters for Week One won’t be on the field today. Nine due to injury and also Quandre Diggs who was traded.

The Lions (3-9-1) have lost six straight and are 2-4 at home this season, while the Bucs (6-7) have won their last three.

David Blough will get his third straight start at quarterback for Detroit.

Five things to watch as Lions limp into contest against Tampa Bay

ALLEN PARK — Ndamukong Suh returns to Ford Field on Sunday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Detroit Lions.

It’s kind of an interesting angle to a game between two lower-echelon NFL teams. The Lions (3-9-1) have lost six straight while Tampa Bay (6-7) has won its last three.

Suh, who left the Lions after the 2014 season, isn’t the biggest threat on the Bucs’ defensive line. That honor goes to Shaq Barrett who has 15 sacks this season compared to 1.5 for Suh. It doesn’t mean Suh is ineffective — his work doesn’t always show up in the stat line but he’s a presence that can’t be overlooked.

“He’s one of the dominant players in the NFL, and I look forward to playing against him,’’ Lions quarterback David Blough said. “I know a lot of the guys (know) he was here and a great player while he was here, and we’ll have our hands full, but we trust our guys, too. So it’ll be a good opportunity for us to block him up and try to throw the ball.”

Five other things to watch:

1. Don’t sleep on the Bucs who started the season 3-7. They’ve won three straight (over Falcons, Jaguars, Colts). “We’ve started to win some close games that we lost earlier in the year because I don’t know if we thought we could actually win them,’’ Bucs coach Bruce Arians said on a conference call. “I think they’re learning how to win.”

2. Quarterback Jameis Winston may be turnover prone with 23 interceptions, but he’s passed for 29 touchdowns this season. “So we have to make sure that we get (touchdowns) stopped first and then just capitalize on those opportunities if we get any of them from that standpoint,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “Certainly, we always work on the fundamentals with that stuff, whether it’s the ball out on the ground, how do we recover it? Are there bodies around? Is it an open space? When the ball is up in the air, high-pointing the ball, how we’re going to catch it, kind of some of those different details of the fundamentals of trying to turn the ball over. Certainly, our first and foremost job will be trying to prevent those big plays that they are hitting downfield.” 

3.  The Bucs own the third-best offense in the NFL, averaging 392.8 yards per game. With Tampa’s Mike Evans likely out, the Lions catch a break but Chris Godwin is the leading receiver with 1,212 yards and nine touchdowns. Tampa averages 298.2 passing yards per game, second in the NFL. Bucs’ running backs Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones could give the Lions’ defense headaches. Between the two of them, the have 11 rushing touchdowns so far. “They’re explosive, and we know that. We trust our guys to put us in a good position on offense, and the offense will be ready to do our part too,’’ Blough said. “I feel like we let our defense down last week. We’ll be ready to go that’s for sure.”

4. David Blough should be feeling more comfortable in his third start. “I think it’s something you get in a routine of. I was Matthew’s (Stafford) and then Jeff’s (Driskel) backup, you know, you prepare the same way every week, so that’s kind of what I try to take in,’’ Blough said. “I try to do the things Matthew did and Jeff did. You just have to lead, be yourself, be genuine, and the guys follow. It’s been great to have their support and them lifting me up and trusting me. I’m learning along the way.”

5. Another game without Stafford, but he’s not the only key player out with injuries. Linebacker Jarrad Davis, guard Joe Dahl, right tackle Rick Wagner and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson are out. Da’Shawn Hand and Marv Jones Jr. were placed on injured reserve this week. The Lions have been beat up physically. It’s time for the younger guys to show what they have.

PREDICTION: Bucs 31, Lions 17 (The Lions’ players need a win to help morale, just not sure they’ll find a way to get it done.)

Lions Matt Patricia: We’ve got 2 things, the game and each other

ALLEN PARK — Matt Patricia is not looking big-picture.

The Lions have lost six straight, compiled a 3-9-1 record and are 0-5 in the NFC North.

Instead the Lions coach is focused on Sunday’s opponent, the Tampa Bay Bucs (6-7).

“We talk a lot about purpose .. I think the best thing for us as a team and what we told them is the two things we’ve got right now, we’ve got the game and each other. So that’s what we’re focused on, we’re focused on the game and on each other,’’ Patricia said on Monday, following the 20-7 loss at the Vikings.

So while scores of Detroiters wonder about next season — will Patricia and GM Bob Quinn be back — that is not a conversation Patricia can be pulled into. He was asked if he had discussed his future with ownership and declined (like he always does) to go into detail about discussions with the Ford family.

“I’m trying to do everything I can to coach as hard as I can for the guys in that room, those guys work really hard, they’re trying to do everything they can, they’re competitive, they’re fun to coach,’’ Patricia said. “We just have to go out and execute better and do things better on Sundays.’’

Like any good coach in a bad situation, the focus remains on winning and not on draft position.

“I mean that’s the goal for us, we’re always trying to win, I think it feels good to win, that’s what we’re trying to do, go out there,” Patricia said. “We want to feel good about it, we want the fans to feel good about it and certainly that’s our motivation is to go out and win and really play well in all three phases and show the stuff that we’re seeing and try to do it consistently.’’

 

Lions lose sixth straight, a look at five reasons why it happened

Minnesota Vikings win 20-7

In the first dozen games, at least the Lions had a chance. They only won three of them, but they held leads in all 12.

As former Lions coach Wayne Fontes would say, “At least we’ve got that going for us.”

Well, not so much on Sunday in the 20-7 loss to the Vikings at Minnesota.

A pre-game photo showed owner Martha Ford Firestone on the sidelines prior to the game with a grim look on her face and her arms folded. Her body language screamed displeasure. Can’t imagine what she was thinking when the clock ran out and the dust settled.

Not sure that wholesale changes in the staff would be the cure-all especially at this point with just three games left in the season.

But if Mrs. Ford was thinking about the immediate futures of coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn, certainly Sunday’s performance (or lack of it) could help shape her decision.

The Lions lost their sixth straight, fell to 3-9-1 and are now 0-5 in NFC North contests.

Five reasons the Lions lost:

1. David Blough looked more like a rookie quarterback in this game than he did during his first start on Thanksgiving in the loss to the Bears. He was 24-40 for 205 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Look, this loss is not all on him but he made a few mistakes that were costly. Late in the first half, instead of throwing the ball away on third-and-2 from Minnesota’s 15, he was sacked for a loss of 12 yards. That pushed the field goal attempt to 45 yards instead of 33. Matt Prater kicked it wide right. No word on when or if Matthew Stafford will return this season. 

2. The defense could have been worse, but Kirk Cousins was 12 of 12 for 114 yards and a touchdown on play-action in the first half. This has been an issue with Detroit’s defense all season. Cousins completed 80 percent of his passes (24-30) for 242 yards and one touchdown.The Vikings finished with 354 total yards while the Lions had 231. On a positive note, the Lions’ defense held the Vikings to just 3 second-half points. 

3. Blough was sacked five times, three of them by Danielle Hunter. The fault lies in three places – the offensive line, tight ends (particularly Jesse James on one of the Hunter sacks) and Blough for holding the ball too long. It was a good day for the sack-happy Vikings’ defense. Trey Flowers had Detroit’s only sack. 

4. Coaching. Matt Patricia will take some of the blame, he always does. This team didn’t look prepared to start the game. That’s on coaching. The Lions looked a little better in the second half on both sides of the ball, but obviously it was not enough.

5. The Lions are dealing with injuries. Matthew Stafford’s absence is key, but the defense is hurting (literally) too. A’Shawn Robinson did not play, Jarrad Davis was among those injured during the game. Still, it’s that time of year in the NFL. Injuries are an issue for most NFL teams – dealing with them separates the losers from the winners.

BONUS: Lions now hold the fifth pick in the NFL draft.

NEXT UP: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Minnesota Vikings

ALLEN PARK — Focus is key in this late-season NFC North contest between the LIons and the Minnesota Vikings.

The Lions (3-8-1) are out of the playoffs heading to Minnesota where the Vikings (8-4) are still trying to scrap together meaningful wins.

“I think for all of us we know how important the division is, that’s the first and foremost, but within each week that game is the most important. It’s a critical game because it’s our next game,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “That’s certainly how we approach it and things for next year always change. You can’t predict what’s going to happen as far as next year is concerned, from your team to other teams and across the League. What’s most important for us is this week.”

The Vikings won the first matchup, 42-30, on Oct. 20. After a tie at half-time, Detroit was outscored 21-9 in the second half.

Minnesota owns just a 1-2 record in the NFC North which is better than Detroit’s 0-4 mark.

Minnesota is coming off a loss at Seattle on Monday night. Coach Mike Zimmer is not afraid of losing focus because they’re facing a team that has lost five straight. 

“I don’t think so. It’s a division game, it’s important to us. We lost last week. We have to win games, and we have to go out and execute and do the things we have to do to win games,’’ Zimmer said on a conference call. “Trust me, we have all the respect in the world for the Lions and what they’re able to do and the players that they have.”

Five things to watch: 

1. The Lions defense has shown some improvement against the run in recent weeks. They need to maintain that against Vikings running back Dalvin Cook who gashed the Lions for 142 yards in their first meeting.  Cook has been injured but is expected to play.

2. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been dangerous this season with 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He’s thrown just two picks in the last 10 games. In the first game, he threw four touchdown passes against the Lions’ defense. “I would say they’re doing a great job of calling plays that fit right into his strong points,’’ Patricia said. “Obviously, the run game sets up a lot for the play-action, and the move out of the pocket sort of plays that they’re able to kind of get him out there and get him in space.’’

3. Protect quarterback David Blough in his second start. Even though the Lions lost to the Bears, the rookie was impressive in his debut on Thanksgiving. Stafford was sacked twice by the Vikings in their first meeting, both coming in the second half.

4. Let Bo Scarbrough run. The running back, who kind of came out of nowhere and has averaged 4.5 yards per carry with 53 touches for 236 yards in three games. Against Chicago, in key situations Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic got the ball when it was Scarbrough who was having success.

5. It’s up to Patricia to keep the team pumped up the rest of the season. It might be even tougher going into a tough environment like U.S. Bank Stadium where the Vikings are 5-0. The Lions are 1-4-1 on the road. 

PREDICTION:  Vikings 40, Lions 24

Finishing is issue for Detroit Lions who have led in all 12 games but won just 3

ALLEN PARK — In a few weeks when the Lions obituary is written for this season, not finishing games will be one of the causes of an early exit from playoff hopes.

The Lions (3-8-1) have led in all 12 games but won only three of them.

It gets worse. They have led or been tied in the fourth quarter five times, losing four of them.

Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni is optimistic about improvement.

“We’re a play or two away from being in position to hold those leads that we’ve had. We’ve been very fortunate, we’ve held a lead in a lot of games – probably all of them, maybe,’’ Pasqualoni said. “We just have to make another play. We’re a couple of plays away. I think it’s important that we’re playing well against the run, which gives you a chance to at least have an idea they’re going to through the ball, so you’re not always kind of in between what they are doing. I think the guys are playing really hard. I’m really pleased with how hard we play. I think we play really, really hard and I think we have a lot of guys that are going in and out of the game.’’

He thinks some of the young guys have responded “pretty well.”

“We just have to take care of some little things and get a little bit better and just make a few more plays. It’s a game of inches, you know I’ve always said that this game is a game of inches and I really believe it is a game of inches,’’ Pasqualoni said.

It’s on defense for not making stops and offense for not getting the big play when it most matters. The Lions have been outscored 105-70 in the fourth quarter.

If it continues on Sunday at the Vikings, put another one in the loss column. 

In their first meeting — a Vikings’ 42-30 win on Oct. 20 — the Lions held an early 14-7 lead, tied at the half and then were outscored 21-9 in the second half.