Five things to watch as Detroit Lions wrap up the season at Green Bay

A battle for last place in the NFC North

When the NFL schedule was released in the spring, this matchup between the LIons and Packers was teaming with possibilities. Perhaps it would even determine the NFC North title or a battle for a wild-card berth.

What a difference seven months can make.

The Lions (5-10) play the Packers (6-8-1) at Green Bay at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Ending the season on a win is dandy but not all that important in the long run for either team.

Don’t tell that to the players, though.

“They’re a good football team. Anytime you go to Lambeau Field, it’s a big challenge. I think they’re a talented, young football team and we’ll have our work cut out for us,’’ quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “Obviously, Aaron (Rodgers) is doing a great job this year playing at a high level and scoring a bunch of points. As an offense, that’s a big challenge for us, knowing that we’re going to have to go out there and score some points. And then obviously, a big challenge for our defense anytime you’re facing a guy like Aaron and a team like that.”

Five things to watch on Sunday:

1. Stafford has been limited in practice for a few weeks with a bad back, but was a full go this week. It’s been a tough season for the quarterback who is in his 10th season. “I just wish we won more games, that’s the biggest thing. I’m fighting for these guys in this locker room. The guys are working to try and win every Sunday,’’ Stafford said. “When you don’t win, everybody feels it. We wish we could and are doing everything we can to try and win, we just haven’t done it enough this season. So, that’s tough to swallow.”

2. The Lions have gotten some quality run production out of Zach Zenner in recent weeks. Give him the ball, let him show what he can do. LeGarrette Blount has been good in spurts but not consistent. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter takes pride in the fact that they have improved the run game this year. “We kind of came into the year saying, ‘Boy, we have to run the ball better. We have to run the ball more effectively.’ We made a big point of emphasis on that, and by and large, I think we did a lot of those things,’’ Cooter said. “Not that it’s a done deal at this point, but I think we made some strides running, blocking, all those things.’’

3. Green Bay wide receiver Davante Adams is expected to play despite being on the injured list this week. He burnt Detroit’s defense for 140 receiving yards and a touchdown in the first game against the Packers. Expect Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay to be prepared, but he could have his hands full with the Pro Bowl wide receiver.

4. The Lions pass rush has been mostly anemic all season, but they did sack Rodgers four times in the first game. Pressure is key on Rodgers who has had a good season statistically, but just hasn’t been able to pull out the wins on his own. Amazingly he’s thrown just two interceptions while tossing 25 touchdowns and 4.416 yards.

5. It’s a nothing game but it’s one of just 16 so the Lions should be prepared. Some weeks it looks like they are, some weeks not. The Lions and Packers played on Oct. 7 so it’s not like they don’t know what to expect. The Lions won that one 31-23 at home. HIstorically Detroit has been lousy at Green Bay where they are 12-32-3 at Lambeau Field.

PREDICTION: Packers 24, Lions 16

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Lions Matt Patricia says Matthew Stafford is his QB, quells trade speculation

Says he has utmost respect for the QB

ALLEN PARK — Matt Patricia said today that Matthew Stafford is the Detroit Lions quarterback and there are no plans to move on from him.

“I have the utmost respect for him and everything that he does every single day and how he works. He’s my quarterback, we’re grinding every single day to get better,’’ said the coach whose Lions are 5-10.

Patricia was asked about trade speculation about Stafford who has had an off year.

“Like I’ve said before, Matthew Stafford is an unbelievable quarterback, he’s our quarterback,’’ Patricia said on Friday. “He’s been fighting, battling and leading this team throughout the entire course of the season. We’ll obviously just keep working and progressing and trying to get better next year and hopefully we can do some things to help him.’’

The Lions’ offense has struggled this season, but it is not all on Stafford. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and Patricia are working together for the first season and have changed the offensive philosophy. Also, wide receiver Golden Tate was traded on Oct. 30 and Marvin Jones Jr., was placed on injured reserve missing the final half of the season.

Stafford, in his tenth season, is unlikely to reach the 4,000-yard passing yard mark for the first time since 2010 when he played in just three games. He’s at 3,511 with Sunday’s game at Green Bay to finish the season. He’s thrown 19 touchdowns which is the lowest since the 2010 season when he had six.

In 2017, Stafford threw for 29 touchdowns, had 10 interceptions while passing for 4,446 yards when the Lions finished 9-7.

“We’re in a situation where Matthew Stafford is our quarterback, that’s what it is. I think the world of the guy. I think he’s an unbelievable competitor, I think he’s a great player,’’ Patricia said.

The coach does not question Stafford’s leadership.

“I think his leadership and the way he approaches every single week and his drive at the game, his demand of excellence that he has for himself, the players and the people around him is everything you want,’’ Patricia said.

Five reasons the Lions lost, 27-9, to playoff-bound Minnesota Vikings

Plenty of frustration, not many answers

DETROIT  — The Lions have gone five straight games without scoring more than 17 points. Not surprisingly four of those were losses including Sunday’s 27-9 beatdown by the Minnesota Vikings.

Coach Matt Patricia is big on talking about improving not just game to game, but also day to day in practice. If it’s happening, it’s not showing on Sunday.

The Lions dropped to 5-10. It’s their worst record since 2012 when they finished 4-12 in Jim Schwartz’s fourth season. It’s the fourth season since 2008 when the Lions finished 0-16 that the losses have been in double digits.

You can wrap it up and put a bow on it but there’s nothing pretty about this season. And, it’s not over yet. The Lions play the Packers at Green Bay next Sunday.

It’s been another season of frustration for all involved. The crowd gave up early on Sunday, leaving Ford Field en masse in the second half.

Perhaps Matthew Stafford summed up the frustration best. The quarterback can’t tell you one thing that is missing from this team.

“I think you look at each game as different. That’s part of the frustrating part, it’s not one thing where you say, ‘OK, let’s go fix it and we’ll be fine,’’’ Stafford said. “It’s tough to win games in the National Football League and, for one reason or another, execution and play-making we haven’t done enough of.’’

Five things to know about Sunday’s loss:

1. The offense struggled against a solid Vikings’ defense. The three field goals in the first half were dandy, but they needed to get in the end zone and could not do it. “Just didn’t execute well enough, had some chances, got down in the red zone the one time and didn’t execute I can give Kenny (Golladay) probably a better ball on that one down the sideline there,’’ Stafford said. “Got into field goal range a few times and had some negative plays — a screen that went for minus, a couple runs that went for minus and against that defense it’s tough. You have to stay ahead of the chains and we weren’t able to do it. You get third-and-long against those guys it’s tough.’’

2. The defense was solid stuffing the Vikings’ run game and preventing them from picking up a first down until late in the second quarter. But once the damn burst, it was trouble. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins connected with Adam Thielen for 40 yards on a third-and-17 at Detroit’s 49. Two plays later he found Stefon Diggs in the end zone for their first touchdown. One minutes and 33 seconds later, Cousins threw a 44-yard Hail Mary touchdown to Kyle Rudolph. Putting the Lions in a 14-9 hole at the half. “We just have to get a little bit better from an alignment standpoint, we have to get some of those guys in better position,’’ Patricia said about the Hail Mary. “Get the guy who caught the ball boxed out and get him out of there. So, a couple details there.”

3. While it appeared that those back-to-back touchdowns sucked the life out of the defense in the second half, Patricia said it wasn’t so. “We were out there trying to battle nonstop. I think those guys, even when the ball got put in some tough field position standpoints, everybody’s out there fighting real hard,’’ Patricia said. “So, it’s a tough game and that was a good team. They have a lot of good players. Our guys fight hard.”

4. Plenty of talk about needing to execute better from everyone involved. It’s the same thing that’s been said since Week One. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon, but it’s kind of a head-scratcher. “We just didn’t execute and do the things we needed to do to get off the field and get the ball back to our offense,’’ said cornerback Nevin Lawson who had his first career sack. Execute is the word of the season.

5. The play-calling on offense continues to be an issue. On third-and-13 in the first quarter from the Vikings’ 37 Theo Riddick’s sweep loses 4 yards. Two plays earlier LeGarrette Blount had lost 3 yards on a first-and-10. So effectively those two plays took the Lions out of field goal range. Earlier, on the third play of the game, running back Zach Zenner scampered for 29 yards. He’s their best running back at this point of the season, but they won’t stick with him. They keep going back to Blount and Riddick who are not getting the job done. Zenner averaged 5.9 yards per carry on Sunday while it was 2.6 yards per carry for Blount and minus-0.7 for Riddick. Go with what’s working. It’s a mystery, the same as when they repeatedly throw short passes in long-yardage situations. They want to protect Stafford, but the coaches (Patricia and  Jim Bob Cooter) have to unchain his handcuffs.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

Detroit Lions: No surprises among inactives; Treadwell out for Vikings

MInnesota still in playoff hunt

DETROIT >> While the Lions (5-9) are out of playoff contention, today’s game at Ford Field has playoff implications for the Vikings (6-7-1). If they win and the Eagles lose or tie with the Texans, Minnesota earns a wild-card berth.

No surprise that quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has a back injury, will start his 127th consecutive game. Stafford was limited in practice again this week. The Vikings sacked him 10 times in their meeting on Nov. 4 which was won 26-9 by Minnesota.

Cornerback Jamal Agnew (knee), who has not played since Oct. 7, is active against the Vikings while Teez Tabor is inactive after playing last week.

Running back LeGarrette Blount (calf), wide receiver Kenny Golladay (chest), defensive tackle Damon Harrison Sr. (ankle) and linebacker Devon Kennard (hip) were listed as questionable on Friday but all are active.

On Saturday the LIons placed WR Bruce Ellington (hamstring) and S Charles Washington (hamstring) on injured reserve and and signed WR Chris Lacy and CB Dee Virgin to the active roster from the practice squad.

Other Lions inactives: Linebacker Nicholas Grigsby, DE Kerry Hyder, C Leo Koloamatangi, OL Andrew Donnal, CB Dee Virgin and WR Chris Lacy.

Vikings inactives: WR Laquon Treadwell (healthy), QB Kyle Sloter, CB Craig James, RB MIke Boone, LB Eric Kendricks, G Danny Isidora and DE Tashawn Bower.

Kickoff at 1 p.m. on FOX with Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston and Laura Okmin.

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions host Minnesota Vikings; plus prediction

Vikings still in wild-card hunt

ALLEN PARK — While the Detroit Lions have eliminated themselves from the playoffs, the Minnesota Vikings have control of their playoff destiny.

If the Vikings beat the Lions on Sunday at Ford Field and the Eagles tie or lose to the Texans, Minnesota will earn a wild-card playoff berth.

This game does mean something, just not to the Lions.

Technically, coach Matt Patricia says the LIons are still trying to improve over the final two games. So the game means something moving forward.

“(The Vikings are) a team that formed extremely well last week against the Dolphins and in all the changes that they had up there. They obviously played the game exactly how they wanted to and they’re in a great position and trying to come down here and keep working towards the rest of their season,’’ Patricia said. “So, we have a big challenge in front of us and we have to do a great job of going out and trying to give ourselves a chance to win. It’ll be a good week for us to go out and try to get better.”

Five things to watch:

1. Protect Matthew Stafford. In the Vikings 24-9 win on Nov. 4, he was sacked 10 times. That came at the hands of the starting five — Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner. Lang and Wagner are out, likely to be replaced again by Kenny Wiggins and Tyrell Crosby. Stafford’s sacks are not all on the offensive line but the percentage is high. “Plenty of really good rushers, good cover guys, kind of a really unique defensive scheme that creates problems with their blitzes. The challenge level is very high for us, that’s a big part of the game,’’ offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. “Obviously, last time I did not do a good enough job of putting our guys in a good position to sort of play these guys.’’ He said the Lions won’t win every matchup against the Vikings but they have to scratch and claw to win each one.

2. Keep feeding the ball to Kenny Golladay. Seems like a no-brainer but it doesn’t always happen. Stafford has to trust the big guy, Golladay has to keep coming down with the ball and Cooter and Matt Patricia must get him involved in the game from the get-go. Golladay had a career high 146 receiving yards in the win at Buffalo on Sunday. Since he’s had more targets with Marvin Jones Jr., out, the defenses have focused in on him. “That could be coverage type, that could be two defenders finding their way near you a little more often than other times, or maybe a certain corner that’s a really good player finding his way to cover you more often,’’ Cooter said. “Kenny’s been competing and battling, and stats are stats, but at the end of the day Kenny is competing really hard to improve and get better. We’re seeing those strides.’’

3. Stop Vikings running back Dalvin Cook and the run game. In the previous match-up, the defense did a good job containing Cook except for one breakout run of 70 yards. Other than that he had nine carries for 19 yards. They’ve improved their run stopping and much of it started with that game with the addition of Damon “Snacks” Harrison who has made his presence known on the defensive line.

4.  Along with stopping the run game, they have to control quarterback Kirk Cousins and the passing game. They were semi-successful in the first game holding Cousins to 164 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception. The Lions were successful in holding wide receiver Adam Thielen to four catches for 22 yards in the first match-up. “Since then and really, almost every week now, Adam’s drawn an awful lot of attention with some double coverages and things like that. So, we’re going to have to figure out a way to help him out,’’ Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said on a conference call.

5. Don’t look for players to sit just because the Lions are out of the playoffs. “I think the thing is the NFL is a violent sport and when you step in between those white lines, it’s something that every player that’s out on the field has to deal with and they understand that there’s a risk of injury,’’ Patricia said. “But, we’re certainly never going to put somebody out there and put them in an injury situation where they can’t perform and put themselves in a situation where they can’t protect themselves if that was an issue. So, for us, if a guy is ready to go and they’re healthy and they can go out and perform and help us win then that’s what we’re going to go try to do.’’

Prediction: Vikings 28, Lions 17

Lions’ CB Darius Slay excited for second straight Pro Bowl trip

His kids may even be happier

ALLEN PARK >> Darius Slay’s kids are so excited that their dad made the Pro Bowl for the second straight year, that they created a “Daddy Made the Pro Bowl” dance.

The three kids display quite the moves on Slay’s Instagram My Story. It’s not that their dad has been voted as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, as much as that it’s in Orlando and a trip to Disney World is part of the package.

“My kids are already hyped up … They’re ready. They’re already packed,’’ Slay said on Wednesday.

He is hyped too. Now in his sixth season, Slay longed to make it to the top echelon of NFL cornerbacks since he was a rookie. Back-to-back Pro Bowl nods show that others have noticed.

“It was a great honor, felt good, let me know folks are watching film and understanding and, like I said, I was excited and ready,’’ Slay said.

His numbers are down from last season when he had eight interceptions and 26 pass defenses. This season, with two games remaining, he has three interceptions and 15 pass defenses.

“My play been good, I had a couple few plays here, a few plays there, I had a few plays last year too,’’ Slay said. “Other than the picks, I think I played pretty well. Competing all the time at a high level.’’

Also this season, he scored his first touchdown returning an interception at Arizona two weeks ago. He was holding that football when he talked to the media on Wednesday and said it was going in a special place with his other memorabilia.

Slay has kept up his energy despite the Lions’ 5-9 record so far.

“Got great guys in the room I’ve got to go to war with, I enjoy going to war with, have fun doing it,’’ Slay said. “That’s how I keep it up.’’

He’s also happy that teammate Quandre Diggs has been voted as a Pro Bowl alternate.

“I thought it should be more but that’s how everybody sees it. Quandre is playing at an elite level and at 5-2 1/2 so that should give him more nod,’’ Slay said. “I’m proud of him, he works hard, One thing I know he’s going to go 100 percent every game.’’

Slay enjoys making fun of Digg’s height. He’s officially listed at 5-foot-9. He gets the job done with two interceptions, one touchdown, seven pass defenses and 55 tackles so far this season.

The Pro Bowl will be played on Jan. 27, the Sunday before the Super Bowl.

The Vikings, who are fighting for a wild-card playoff berth, are the next challenge for the Lions. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. on Sunday in the Lions final home game this season.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five things to know about Lions WR Kenny Golladay after his career game

Second-year receiver surpassed 1,000 yards for season

ALLEN PARK — Kenny Golladay’s personal goals this season, are so personal he wouldn’t even tell his mom what numbers he set for himself.

The Detroit Lions wide receiver had a career game in the 14-13 loss at Buffalo on Sunday with 146 yards which tipped him over the 1,000 receiving yard mark (1,005) for the season.

“That’s huge you come into the season with goals and once you pass a goal, or try to break that. We’ve got two games left and just trying to add on to it,’’ Golladay said on Monday.

The second-year receiver said his goals were set before Golden Tate was traded to the Eagles and while Marvin Jones Jr. was still healthy.

“It’s different the goals I did set. I kind of blew those out of the water, which is good. It just gives these coaches an opportunity to see what I can do myself without the help of other guys around me,’’ said Golladay who still sets the bar high for himself.

Five things to know about Golladay:

1. He is trying to take advantage of being the No. 1 receiver.  “Really I just look at it like this, with Marv being out it was just more for me to prove to these coaches, like I am able to produce without those guys being the main focus for the defense. With me being pretty much the No. 1, I’m just happy to make the plays that they call,’’ Golladay said.

2. Because he’s the top receiver, he’s been able to develop more chemistry with quarterback Matthew Stafford. “Actually I think it’s pretty good, it kind of brings us together. He trusts I’m going to be in the spot that I’m supposed to be in and I’m going to be in the spot I’m supposed to be in,’’ Golladay said.

3. Several of his seven catches at Buffalo came with defenders as close as they could be to him without getting called for interference. But he wouldn’t say he needs to work on getting separation. “A catch is a catch, it really doesn’t matter,’’ Golladay said. “You’re not going to get much separation in the NFL. To say creating separation is something I need to get better at, I went 7 for 8 (targets).’’

4. He can’t pinpoint one thing that he has improved on this season it’s more his overall game. “All-around pretty much, just having one year under my belt, this is Year 2,’’ Golladay said. “Really just staying on top of my body. I’m fortunate to have not missed games, I want to keep that going.’’

5. Even though the Lions are out of the playoffs, they have two more games starting Sunday at home against the Vikings. In the final two games he said the offense has to stay together. “The season isn’t going how we wanted it to at all. Do it in these last two games, pretty much try to do it for next year, that’s pretty much what you have to do and run up the scoreboard,’’ Golladay said. “We’ve showed flashes good and bad, but we have to continue to work.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)