Five things to watch as Lions face Broncos

The Lions, absolutely decimated by injury, are out to break their seven-game losing streak at Denver today. It will be a tough assignment.

The Broncos (5-9) have won two of their last three, while the Lions’ roster features 16 players on injured reserve including Matthew Stafford, Jarrad Davis and Marvin Jones Jr.

It’s not anywhere close to the lineup that started the season, but it gives the younger, inexperienced players a chance to prove their worth.

Still, the Lions are out to win just like every week.

Running back Kerryon Johnson will return from injured reserve. Will be interesting to see how effective he can be along with Bo Scarbrough who is expected to return from his rib injury.

With Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia getting the vote of confidence for another season, it’s a different scenario than in recent weeks when there was speculation that the duo could be shipped out due to the mounting losses. 

Five things to watch:

1. David Blough will get his fourth start with the absences of Matthew Stafford and Jeff Driskel. In the first three, the rookie quarterback threw for three touchdowns and five interceptions. Last week in the loss to the Bucs, he threw two picks (one returned for a touchdown) and no touchdowns.

2. Wide receiver Danny Amendola appears to be the go-to receiver for David Blough. He needs 49 receiving yards in these final two games to surpass his season best of 689 (in 2010 with St. Louis). Amendola, who is not used to losing so many games, still gives it his all. “I think it’s pretty easy to see Danny on the football field on game day, how tough, how hard he plays. He just continually works all 60-minutes of the game. He is definitely one of those guys that maybe – he’s not necessarily sure when his number is going to be called or when the ball is going to come his way, but he’s going to run everything like it’s going to be his way every time,’’ Patricia said. “Certainly, he does a lot of dirty work in the run game too. He’ll go in there, and he’ll throw his body around and try to make some really difficult blocks in both the run and the pass game if we’re asking him to do that stuff. I think that’s just the mentality that you love to have as a coach.’’

3. With Davis out, more is on the plate of rookie linebacker Jahlani Tavai. “His confidence in knowing what the calls are, knowing what the responsibilities are, getting that communicated to the rest of the defense, handling the adjustments and the changes,’’ Patricia said. “It’s certainly, through playing the course of a season, that kind of experience that goes along with that. I think he’s handled that really well. The biggest thing for me with him is just, he’s been consistent since Day 1.’’

4. Detroit’s defensive secondary, ranked 10th in the NFL, goes against the Broncos’ 30th best offense. Too bad “on paper” doesn’t count. Quarterback Drew Lock, who has started the last three games, completed just 45 percent of his passes last week against the Chiefs’ defense. “I think he’s a guy that has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. He’s a competitive guy, which you love,’’ Patricia said. “I think he feels that he’s out there every single snap trying to prove something. I think he’s fearless in his play. He’ll really put the ball up and trust his guys to go make some plays for him, and he’ll throw his body around. From that aspect of it, you can see that, kind of maybe a little bit of that juice, that fire that he brings to that offense right now.”

5. It’s not so much the Xs and Os for the coaches, it’s finding a way to keep the Lions motivated when nothing is on the line — even Patricia’s job. “There is just a younger age bracket of guys that are playing in the NFL. Certainly, there are the highs and the lows that they can get trapped into, and understand they’re certainly more, I would say, accessible or aware of maybe the things that are going on outside of our world. Sometimes that stuff affects them, and I try to do the best I can to just keep it consistent, keep the message consistent, keep our environment consistent, so that there is some sort of just constant that they can always rely upon,’’ Patricia said.

PREDICTION: Broncos 31, Lions 17. 

Lions Darius Slay on Pro Bowl, contract situation, Matt Patricia and more

ALLEN PARK — Darius Slay said it doesn’t get old being named to the Pro Bowl, even for the third time.

“I told my kids the other day we were going to DisneyWorld,  free too, we love that,’’ the Detroit Lions cornerback said on Wednesday.

Slay appreciates that he wasn’t in the top 10 of fan voting, but the players and coaches know his value so they put him over the top.

“Coaches watch film enough, players do as well. I appreciate the respect they gave me because I go out there and work hard. I compete at a high level,” Slay said.

Five more thoughts from Slay:

1. Slay, whose contract expires after the 2020 season, was much more open to talking about the Pro Bowl than his contract situation. He sat out the offseason workouts last spring aiming to get a new deal from the Lions without any results. Will he sit out again? It’s up to him and his agent but he didn’t have an answer ready. One thing is for certain, when he signs a new contract — no matter which team it’s with — Slay has his eye on a Rolls-Royce truck. He joked he might even have a driver bring him to practice on the first day. When asked what three-time Pro Bowl corners make, Slay had a short answer: “Hoo-hoo-hoo!”

2. Slay didn’t have much to say about the announcement on Tuesday that Matt Patricia will be back next season. “II thought it was already automatic,’’ Slay said. He added that the players don’t worry or talk about it. “Not really that’s their personal business. I just play. He could be up and gone, I could be up and gone.’’

3. The expectations from ownership next season are that the Lions are a playoff contender. Slay said he thought that was the goal of every team. “Some of us have been here with Patricia for two years going on three, we’ve got a better understanding of him as a coach and his program that’s basically where we’re at,’’ Slay said.

4. The cornerback said the key to improving is finishing and he puts that on the players not the coaches. “We’ve been in there every game, fourth quarter get in there, don’t finish. Definitely on the defensive end we have to finish,’’ Slay said. “Coaches doing a good job putting us in the predicaments at practice, we’ve just got to execute as players. I’m mean we’re out there. They tell us the play, obviously it’s mostly on us, it’s a team effort. As a player and me personally I take it to the chest, I feel like it’s out on the field, so we’re the ones who could fix it.’’

5. Slay was wearing a chain with a pendant photo of his grandmother. “My baby, my heart and she raised me. Yes, it’s so nice, it’s my angel,’’ Slay said.

Lions’ Matt Patricia forges on; focuses on final 2 games not his future in Detroit

ALLEN PARK — Matt Patricia is focused on the Lions’ final two games this season more than his immediate future.

With the Lions at 3-10-1, there is no guarantee the coach will return for a third season.

“For me, one of the things that you realize pretty quick when you get in the game of football – college, NFL, it doesn’t really matter what it is – coaching is a tough profession. Playing is a tough profession. It’s a mindset that you probably just develop early on,’’ Patricia said on Monday following the 38-17 loss to the Bucs on Sunday.

“When I was in other places and worked at other places, part of the thing that just makes me, me, is that I go into work every single day trying to earn my job that day. I would go in and make sure that my key card worked, and I was in the building and I was OK,’’ he added.

Patricia, who often spends the night at the Lions facility, even showed a little sense of humor in his reply.

“It’s most of the reason why I don’t leave the building because they’re going to have to throw me out, like I’ve said before,’’ Patricia said. “From that aspect of it, that’s all you can control is just your effort that day and your drive that day to be better as a player, as a coach, as a team, and that’s all I really worry about.”

He was seen talking at length on the sideline prior to Sunday’s game to owner Martha Firestone Ford and her daughter Sheila Ford Hemp but he never discloses the content of their discussions. If he knows his future with the team, he is not saying.

 “I just expect to be here every day until they tell me not to. Hopefully, that’ll be a long time,’’ Patricia said.

The Lions went 6-10 in his first season and have fallen on hard times this season. They’ve been hit with a ton of injuries. When they placed Kenny Wiggins and Mike Daniels on injured reserve on Monday they joined a dozen other teammates in that classification.

Despite seven straight losses, Patricia always emphasizes that the team continues to fight. The toughness and competitive spirit of the players is a foundation for building a perennial winner.

 “I think that’s where you need to start, and I would say that’s where we’re at right now,’’ Patricia said. “We obviously need to add some pieces, and we need to get better, and we need to improve, and hopefully stay a little bit more healthy than where we’re at right now. I think those things will build on top of each other from there.”

The Lions play at the Denver Broncos (5-9) on Sunday and then wrap up the season against the Green Bay Packers (11-3) at Ford Field on Sunday, Dec. 29.

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.’’