Lions without Kerryon Johnson, Mike Roberts; Teez Tabor inactive again

Nick Bellore misses first game

DETROIT >> The Detroit Lions (4-7) will face the Los Angeles Rams (10-1) today without top running back Kerryon Johnson who misses his second straight game with a knee injury. Expect LeGarrette Blount to pick up more carries like he did against the Bears on Thanksgiving.

Fullback Nick Bellore (ankle) and wide receiver Brandon Powell (calf) were also declared out on Friday. Tight end Michael Roberts (shoulder) was doubtful and is out.

Cornerback Teez Tabor will miss his second straight game. He’s healthy —  it’s a coach’s decision.

Wide receiver Bruce Ellington (back) and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (neck) were questionable but are active.

Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.

Other inactives: Linebaker Trevor Bates and defensive end Kerry Hyder.

 

 

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Five things to watch as Detroit Lions host the Los Angeles Rams

Ndamukong Suh makes first return visit to Ford Field

A young coach, a balanced offense with a solid quarterback and a defensive line featuring Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. The combination has spelled success for the Los Angeles Rams and why wouldn’t it? Any NFL team would like to have some or most of those components.

That includes the Detroit Lions (4-7) who will host the Rams (10-1) on Sunday.

“They’re a very balanced offense and I think something we talk about all the time, that when you can be balanced on offense, it’s very difficult to defend and they’ve done a great job of that all year,’’ coach Matt Patricia said.

The Lions will have their hands full in all three phases.

“One of the things that’s really important with this team is just understanding how good they are on special teams and how good they are defensively. I think John Fassel does a phenomenal job on special teams. It’s one of the most dominant units in the league,’’ Patricia said. “They’re very consistent and they really make big plays.’’

Five things to watch:

1. Somehow, some way the Lions must get their run game going even without running back Kerryon Johnson who will miss his second straight game with a knee injury. LeGarrette Blount was the workhorse in the Thanksgiving loss to the Bears with 19 carries for 88 yards. “I think for our guys, we’re always on the program of whoever’s out there playing, we’re expecting everybody to do their best and go out and perform at a high level. We’ll do the same this weekend,’’ Patricia said.

2. Can’t overlook the Lions’ passing game either. Marvin Jones is out for the season, leaving Kenny Golladay, Bruce Ellington, TJ Jones, Theo Riddick  and the tight ends to pitch in. Matthew Stafford needs a better game, but he also needs his receivers to get open and run the right routes. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said the shortcomings on offense are all on him. “It’s a team game. We have 11 guys out there. We all have to execute and be on the same page. A lot of that stuff’s on me. You guys at home don’t always know exactly what’s going on on the field. I’m accountable for everything that happens on this offense. Bad things that happen, things that don’t happen right, whether it’s a decision or being in a different spot, or some sort of decision somebody out there on the field is making that maybe isn’t even seen on the TV copy of the game. That stuff’s all on me,’’ Cooter said this week.

3. Stop running back Todd Gurley, the NFL’s second most prolific back. The Lions run defense has been one of the few units that has improved this season, holding teams to a total of 148 rushing yards combined over the last three games. (See blog below.)

4. Pressure quarterback Jared Goff (26 touchdowns, 6 interceptions) who has been sacked 24 times. He’s got a flotilla of solid receivers in Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. “They’re a very explosive team. They do a great job with the scheme. Coach (Sean) McVay does an outstanding job of controlling the game on the offensive side of the ball with tempo. They use different tempos, they probably have about three or four different tempos that they can use offensively to dictate the game. So, we just have to do a good job of being really sound fundamentally and making sure that we’re doing a good job with our reads and our eye control.

5. Ndamukong Suh will return for his first game at Ford Field since he signed as a free agent with Miami in 2015. He and defensive tackle Aaron Donald are a powerful inside force that could present problems for the Lions’ offensive line and Stafford.

PREDICTION: Rams 35, Lions 17

 

Ndamukong Suh returns to Detroit as Lions take on first-place Rams Sunday

His first visit to Ford Field since left as free agent

ALLEN PARK >> Ndamukong Suh returns to Ford Field on Sunday for the first time since he signed with Miami as a free agent in 2015.

The defensive tackle returns with the Los Angeles Rams who are 10-1. While the sad-sack Lions have fallen to 4-7 in Matt Patricia’s first year.

Suh told the Los Angeles media he was looking forward to returning to Detroit. He loves the city and the fans but refrained from commenting on the organization that drafted him with the second overall pick in 2010.

Suh, who has started 110 straight games, had a few issues in Detroit. He was suspended for two games by the NFL for stomping the Packers’ Evan Dietrich-Smith on Thanksgiving in 2011. Through his time with the Lions he was fined eight times for a total of $255,375 by the NFL and gained a reputation for being one of the NFL’s dirtiest players.

He has been a good fit with the Rams.

“All I can speak to is my experiences with him and he’s been nothing but great. He’s an extremely mature player,’’ Rams coach Sean McVay said. “I always appreciate the dialogue we can have where he’s got such a great perspective based on his experiences. But then he’s also extremely intelligent with how he looks at the game.’’

Suh and Aaron Donald offer one of the biggest defensive line one-two  punches in the NFL.

They will be a handful for the Lions’ offensive line which is responsible for some of the 22 sacks of Matthew Stafford in the last five games.

“I think those two play off each other really well. And Ndamukong’s versatility has been something that’s really been impressive to us as an organization,’’ McVay said. “I think he’s an extremely smart player. Clearly, he’s had an extremely productive career. And his presence has definitely been felt by our football team in a variety of positive ways and I think he and Aaron what’s unique is just watching those two kind of the give and take that occurs and the mutual respect that exists between to perennial All-Pro players. And we feel very fortunate to have Ndamukong here with us.”

They certainly will provide a challenge for the Lions’ offensive line.

“I think Donald, just in general, he’s a tremendous player. This guy has explosiveness off the ball, he has violent hands, he has great change of direction, short space quickness. I think there are a lot of situations where he takes great advantage of offensive linemen that have underset him or overset him,’’ Patricia said. “He really can read the offensive linemen when they set to the spot and try to put themselves in between the quarterback and the defender. He does a good job of manipulating those guys, moving them, maybe getting the overset, countering back underneath or getting them to underset, freezing them and getting back to the edge. And his quickness just really allows him to be able to do that.’’

In just 11 games, Donald owns a career-high with 14.5 sacks. Most of those (10.5) have come in the last five games. He’s also got 28 quarterback hits and 16 tackles for loss.

“And certainly, now with Suh inside and even with (Dante) Fowler on the edge, and like I said with (Michael) Brockers, it’s hard to kind of distribute help everywhere. Those guys are taking advantage of those opportunities where they do become one-on-one in those situations, and they’ve been able to capitalize (on) them in a big way,’’ Patricia added.

Detroit Lions run defense faces next challenge in Rams’ Todd Gurley

Damon Harrison’s presence beneficial against the run

ALLEN PARK — While the Detroit Lions have struggled, losing four of their last five games, their run defense has been the one bright spot.

Their next challenge is Todd Gurley and the Los Angeles Rams (10-1) on Sunday at Ford Field.

Gurley ranks second in the NFL with 1,043 rushing yardsm averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He’s scored 13 rushing  touchdowns and has also caught 43 passes for 441 yards and four more touchdowns.

“Todd Gurley is one of the best backs in the League. This guy’s phenomenal. So, it’s a big challenge for us. And then obviously, the other skill players that they have,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said.

In the past three games the Lions’ defense has given up just 148 total rushing yards. In that span they haven’t given up a run of more than 10 yards. They played solid running teams — Chicago twice with Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard and Carolina with Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey.

“It’s been a great job and all those games we’ve for the most part given ourselves an opportunity to win. That’s always the goal to stop the run game,’’ safety Glover Quin said.

A number of factors play into the improvement.

“We’ve tackled well, we’ve had great play up front. Our D-line has been playing phenomenal, our linebackers have been playing phenomenal. As a secondary we’ve made tackles when we had to,’’ Quin said. “You look at a lot of the games we played in … we’ve been playing great in the run game and then we give up one run for 60 or 70 yards and it kills all the averages. We’ve been playing solid run defense for a while this year, these last few weeks we haven’t given up any big runs.’’

There is another major difference too.

His name is Damon “Snacks” Harrison. The veteran defensive tackle was acquired in a trade with the Giants on Oct. 25. In his five games with the Lions, he has 2.5 sacks, 26 tackles and four quarterback hits.

“I think he makes a difference, he’s a big-time player in the middle, he’s a big-time run stopper. So when an offense knows they have to block him a certain way or put a certain amount of guys on him that frees up other guys to get one on ones in different situations,’’ Quin said. “So pretty sure he changes the clocking schemes for a lot of those teams, when they don’t block him or when they try to single him he makes the plays.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Patricia notes that it’s a team effort but does agree Harrison has made a difference.

“I would say with Damon, (he’s) obviously done a great job for us helping us inside and really, just seeing a guy that has great experience be in the middle. (He’s) seen a lot of different blocks, has seen a lot of different schemes, and maybe helps settle some things down for some of the younger players that we are trying to play with out there and some of the new guys with the scheme,’’ Patricia said. “Harrison’s familiar with the techniques that we use because he’s been coached similarly in the past with some of the same techniques. So, from that standpoint, it’s been beneficial to have his experience out on the field.”

Five reasons the Detroit Lions wasted a perfect chance to defeat Chicago Bears

Another Thanksgiving Day game to forget

DETROIT — It was the perfect time to get a win over the NFC North leading Chicago Bears who were without starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and coming off a shorter week than the Lions.

Perfect.

Except the Lions did not get the job done. They lost 23-16 and fell to 4-7 in Matt Patricia’s first season. That matches the total number of losses from 2017.

No one has the answer on how to get the season back on track. They all take blame and say they have to work harder but they now have lost four of their last five games.

“Obviously, not the way we wanted that thing to end. It’s a good team over there, Chicago. They’ve done a good job all year. Played us tough all the way to the end and made some plays when they needed to at the end, which were critical for their football team, and we didn’t,’’ Patricia said. “So, we have to get back at it and go back to work. So, we have a lot to do, a lot to improve on, and things that we’re continually trying to get better at. There’s not a lot of time to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves.’’

Five reasons the Lions lost:

1. Matthew Stafford had a lousy day. He’s missing Marvin Jones Jr.,  and Kerryon Johnson who both have knee injuries; and Golden Tate who was shipped to the Eagles. It is not all on the quarterback. Some of it rests squarely on the shoulders of offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and Stafford’s teammates who have to be in the right position. Stafford was intercepted twice in the fourth quarter. The second one was on a pass intended for tight end Mike Roberts. “I was thinking Mike was going to be in a different spot, but you know, that’s cutting the ball loose and hoping sometimes that you’re on the same page,’’ Stafford said. “And obviously it didn’t work out in our favor tonight.” When pressed he said Roberts was not supposed to be deeper. “He’s not supposed to be anything, it’s a feel thing,’’ Stafford said.

2. Cooter called a conservative game of quick routes. He didn’t open it up until later in the third quarter. With a quarterback like Stafford, it didn’t seem to make much sense. Although Stafford was sacked six times in the loss to the Bears on Nov. 11 and didn’t want a repeat of that. :They played a lot of two high safeties, some off corner. You know, these guys are good, good defense. To get guys down the field you got to hold the ball and holding the ball against these guys is not a good recipe for success,’’ Stafford said. “So we tried to get the ball out as quickly as we could.”

3. Quarterback Chase Daniel was starting just his third career game, yet he played just fine going 27 of 37 for 230 yards, and two touchdowns. He was sacked four times but had enough composure to get the job done when needed. His touchdown passes to Taquan MIzzell and Tarik Cohen were right on the money. Never a doubt.

4. The Lions got the ball back with six minutes left and down 23-16. Stafford leads a hurry-up offense as well as anyone. But there was nothing hurry-up about the slow pace of the drive that ended with the Lions at the Bears’ 11 and Stafford being intercepted by Kyle Fuller in the end zone. “”So, it wasn’t a situation where I felt like we had to score quick and try to get the ball back. It’s an explosive offense, they have great players, too. So, definitely a strategy there, as far as — we felt like we were doing things well to move the ball and not be in a panic situation, just go down and try to score,’’ Patricia said. “Use all the clock if we have to, and if we needed extra clock, use extra clock. So, that’s really about it.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

5. Ziggy Ansah got the start and looked like his old self with a sack, two quarterback hits and three tackles. He wasn’t the only solid player on defense. Glover Quin got a rare sack and DeShawn Shead forced a fumble that was recovered by Jarrad Davis in the second quarter. Detroit’s defense held the Bears to 38 rushing yards, well below their average of 122.9 rushing yards per game. “We didn’t do enough. Their defense scored a touchdown and we didn’t. They’re defense scored a touchdown and we didn’t, so we didn’t do enough,’’ Quin said. All three units have to play well for these Lions to win. They need to play complementary football and it didn’t happen on Thursday.

NEXT UP: The Lions (4-7) host the Los Angeles Rams (10-1) on Sunday, Dec. 2.

Lions LeGarrette Blount won’t point fingers after home loss to Bears but says everyone has much work to do

Loss drops Lions to 4-7, with Rams coming upu next

DETROIT — The Lions’ offense appeared to take a step backward in Thursday’s 23-16 loss to the Chicago Bears at Ford Field.

Yes, they were without wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., and running back Kerryon Johnson. But Chicago was forced to lean on quarterback Chase Daniel who hadn’t started a game since 2014.

That’s a wash.

No excuses.

Detroit running back LeGarrette Blount had a good day (19 carries for 88 yards). He was in no mood to celebrate. He didn’t even know his touchdown earned him a $350,000 bonus for his fifth touchdown of the season.

Blount has won three Super Bowl rings playing for the Patriots and the Eagles. He knows what it takes to be a winning team.

“I’m a Detroit Lion right now so that’s all I’m focused on. I think there’s a lot of things we need to fix in order for us to be a successful team,’’ Blount said. “There’s a lot of things that we’ve got to do that we haven’t done to put ourselves in position to win games like this. When it’s close games like this we have to finish them off. We’ve got to close them out and we didn’t. That’s our fault.’’

Quarterback Matthew Stafford had a rough day, throwing two interceptions in the fourth quarter with one returned for a touchdown by Eddie Jackson.

“I don’t like to point fingers and I don’t think it is his fault. I think as a team we’ve got to do better and I don’t think you should put all the blame on Stafford. Obviously he’s an elite quarterback. I think he’s one of the best in this league. I don’t think it’s his fault, I don’t think it’s fair for us to put it all on him,’’ Blount said. “You can go on and on about that. Like I said, he’s a great quarterback, he’s really good at what he does, he’s great at his craft. There’s no quarterback that’s going to go into a full season and not make any mistakes, he’s human he makes mistakes, I make mistakes, we all make mistakes and a lot of mistakes give you an ‘L’.’’

Blount also wouldn’t put the blame on offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter who called a conservative game except for a touchdown drive in the third quarter that feature a 43-yard pass play to Kenny Golladay.

“Our play caller calls plays but we have to go out there and execute the plays. Whether we’re doing it right or wrong, people may not know, but he does and we do,’’ Blount said. “It’s just minor details we have to fixed. Whenever we have those minor details that don’t get fixed, you have bad plays and you have plays that stall your offensive drive. We have to get back in the lab and be more detailed at what we do, pay a lot more attention to our craft and try to get this thing back on pace.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The Lions dropped to 4-7, matching their loss total for all of the 2017 season. Next up are the Los Angeles Rams who own the best record (10-1) in the NFL.

“We’re competitors, we’re warriors, we’re not going to go out there and lay down for anybody,’’ Blount said.

Lions Marvin Jones, Kerryon Johnson out; Bears will start Chase Daniel at QB

Different looks for teams that met 11 days ago

DETROIT — The Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears are different teams today than when they met 11 days ago.

Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who lit up the Lions’ defense with 355 passing yards and three touchdowns, is inactive today due to a shoulder injury. Chase Daniel, whose last start was in 2014, gets the nod for the Bears.

The Lions will be without wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., for the second straight week with a bad knee. Kenny Golladay became Matthew Stafford’s main target  In the win over the Panthers on Sunday. Look for more of the same.

Also, rookie running back Kerryon Johnson, who has sparked the run game, is out with a knee injury. Look for Zach Zenner to get more work along with LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick.

Another difference from that first match-up, which the Bears won 34-22, is that cornerback Darius Slay is back in the lineup. He missed that game in Chicago and his absence was noticeable.

Special teams has changed up too with veteran Don Carey, who was re-signed on Tuesday, active today.

DE Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder) , WR Bruce Ellington (back), DT Damon Harrison Sr. (shoulder), TE Michael Roberts (shoulder), DT A’Shawn Robinson (ankle) and Slay (knee) were listed as questionable on Wednesday’s injury report, but all are active.

Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (neck) was questionable and is inactive.

Other inactives: Cornerback Teez Tabor, wide receiver Brandon Powell, defensive end Kerry Hyder and offensive lineman Andrew Donnal.