Five things to watch as Lions face Cards, look for first win

If the Lions are going to turn around their young season after an 0-2 start, Sunday at Arizona would be a good time.

Since 1980 only 3.4 percent of NFL teams that have started 0-3 have made the playoffs.

Coach Matt Patricia, the coordinators and players this week seem focused and certainly not panicked or despondent.

“We treat everything as a one-game season. I mean, that’s what it is. We have 16 one-game seasons from that standpoint,’’ Patricia said in a Zoom conference call on Friday. “We reset. We do a good job here I think of resetting every Monday and making sure that when we get done with the game from the previous week, that we push forward, and we understand what we have to do to improve, and we go to work.”

The Cardinals are off to a 2-0 start, defeating San Francisco and Washington.

Five things to watch: 

1. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay is expected to make his season debut after being out with a hamstring. Of course, he’ll add another dimension to the offense which has struggled with the deep ball. He’s not Superman but he should help spark the inconsistent offense. “We’ve got a lot of really good skill players out on the field. Just one guy doesn’t make the entire team – everyone else has to go out and execute at a high level,’’ Patricia said. “We have full confidence in those guys to do that – maybe in different forms or different positions. We still expect those guys to go out and perform.”

2. Matthew Stafford hasn’t played his best so far. It is not all on him, but the offense needs him to be almost perfect. “I think he’s been solid, but I do believe that there’s some plays that we’d like to have back and we’re continuing to work on those things,’’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “He’s his own hardest critic, which is always good, particularly at that position, but we can play better.”

3. The run defense needs to take a step up after two pitiful performances giving up 149 rushing yards to the Bears and a whopping 259 yards to the Packers. “We’ve got to do a better job coaching it, and we’ve got to do a better job executing it. That’s it,’’ defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said. “We could go round and round and talk about what’s disappointing or what I saw – it doesn’t really matter at this point. It’s my job to get in the meeting room, point it out. It’s my job to get the players to believe in it and go out and execute it better.’’

4. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is red-hot. He’s completing 66.7 percent of his passes and has rushed for 159 yards in two games, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. He converted a third-and-17 on the ground against the 49ers. “When you have that ability on your call sheet because the players that are on the field, that is a whole other level of difficulty that you have to try and defend against,’’ Patricia said. “I mean, third-and-17, you’re thinking you’re walking off the field and making them punt, but not with him. He’s too dangerous.’’ Of course, the Lions quarterback pressure is lacking (I’m being nice) so Murray will pose a huge challenge.

5. For a few years the Lions run game has been pathetic, but they’ve taken a step up in the first two games this season. The addition of Adrian Peterson is huge. Rookie D’Andre Swift will just get better and Kerryon Johnson looks healthy. In the opening losses the Lions have rushed for 138 yards against the Bears and 89 at Green Bay. Peterson, who has 138 rushing yards and 6.4 yards per carry, has been beneficial so far.

Prediction: Cardinals 41, Lions 27

Lions Reggie Ragland: All that separates the NFL is from the neck up

Reggie Ragland knows a little about winning. The Detroit Lions linebacker is coming off the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl win in February. In 2012 he won the national championship playing for Alabama.

The difference between winning and losing?

“All that separates this league is from the neck up, it ain’t nothing else,’’ Ragland said on a Zoom call on Monday.

The Lions (0-2) are coming off a 42-21 loss at Green Bay and no one, including Ragland, is happy.

“I’m not used to it, I’m not going to lie,’’ Ragland said. “We’ve got the pieces. It’s a long season, we’ve got to go out there and just play. It ain’t about how you start it’s about how you finish. We’ve got the pieces to finish strong and have a good team. We have to believe that as a whole, we can’t unravel.’’

While fans and pundits seek answers for the 11-game losing streak and setting an NFL record with four straight losses after leading by double digits, Ragland seems to think the solution is relatively simple.

“Nothing is missing. We’ve just to go out there and play (expletive) ball, we’ve got to stay together, we can’t unravel when things are not going our way,’’ Ragland said. “We’ve got all the dag-gone pieces, we’ve just got to go play. Excuse my language, we’ve got the pieces. People that say otherwise they aren’t in here, we’ve got the pieces we just have to go show it.’’

Detroit plays at the Arizona Cardinals (2-0) at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday.

Lions collapse early, lose 42-21 at Green Bay Packers

After a 14-3 start, everything went downhill for the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on Sunday. 

When it was mercifully over, the Packers won, 42-21. It seemed like it was even worse.

It’s amazingly easy to pin the blame because it is on most everyone. It starts with coach Matt Patricia but it is not all on him. Six injured starters sat out, but in the NFL that is no excuse. 

Detroit’s defense gave up 488 net yards — 259 of them on the ground. 

Matthew Stafford looked sharp in the first quarter when the offense moved the ball with a good mix of passes and runs and scored touchdowns on its first two possessions.

Let’s take a closer look at the second quarter, which is where the collapse started. Specifically the final two minutes of the half and then the first four minutes of the third.

The Lions get the ball on their own 7-yard line with 1:45 left in the second quarter off a Packers’ punt. Detroit is leading 14-10.

So you might think they’d run the ball, be happy with a 4-point lead to go into the locker room at the half. You would be wrong.

After a 3-yard scamper by D’Andre Swift, Stafford is sacked for a 10-yard loss. Facing a third-and-16, Adrian Peterson gets the ball. The Lions punt.

Green Bay gets the ball with 1:00 left in the half and on their third play Aaron Rodgers throws a 11-yard touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan down the middle to take the Packers first lead of the game, 17-14.

Detroit gets the ball back with 14 seconds left. Matt Praters misses a 57-yard field goal attempt wide right.

The Packers get the ball to open the third and on the first play from scrimmage Aaron Jones runs up the gut and 75 yards down the field for a touchdown. The Packers led 24-14.

Wait, it gets worse. With 8:37 left in the third, Stafford throws a pick-six on the first play of the series on a pass intended for Danny Amendola. The Packers go up 31-14.

The Lions (0-2) will say they just need to execute. Patricia will say it starts with him. It’s all about the details. They need to play for 60 minutes. You know the script. It’s all been said before. It’s just that the outcome has not changed.

Next up: At the Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. next Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions. )