Five things to know about Matthew Stafford as Lions prepare for Bears

Stafford has completed 82.2 percent of passes in last 2 games

ALLEN PARK >> Matthew Stafford seemed a bit thrown off by one question on Tuesday morning.

Reporter: Do you mind throwing the ball a lot?

Stafford: “No, I mean that’s part of our job description is throwing the ball. A lot of other stuff goes into as well, but being successful throwing the ball is a big part of it, and I’m happy to do it.”

Why wouldn’t he love to throw? Stafford has completed 82.2 percent of his passes in the last two games —  a win at Tampa Bay and a loss at Baltimore. In Sunday’s win over the Bucs, he was working with a bruised throwing hand that was so serious he was not a lock to play in the game.

Stafford has the third-most passing yards in the NFL with 3,683. He’s behind Tom Brady (3,865) and Ben Roethlisberger (3,744).

Stafford and the Lions (7-6) face the Chicago Bears (4-9) at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at Ford Field. In the first meeting on Nov. 19, the Lions won 27-24 but it wasn’t easy.

Five things to know about Stafford:

1. Try to trick him into answering if he’d like to throw more. Go ahead and try it because he won’t bite. “I think the biggest thing is taking it week to week. And like I said, I mean, certain weeks you got a bunch of yards and not that many completions because you’re having a bunch of big gains, big plays,’’ Stafford said on Tuesday. “I don’t look too much into actual number of pass attempts. It’s more combined completions with the run game and all that kind of stuff, how many times you hand it off. Those are usually bigger indicators of success than anything.”

2. In the first meeting with the Bears, Stafford was 21 of 31 for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Lions were held to 65 rushing yards (shocking, I know). Stafford is 5-1 at Ford Field against the Bears with the only loss coming in 2012.

3. He won’t take credit for his gawdy numbers in the last two games. “I think it takes everybody. Our guys outside are doing a great job of winning and making some tough catches,’’ Stafford said. “Our guys up front our keeping me clean, and I’m putting the ball in some decent spots every once in awhile. So, I think just like everything on offense, it takes all 11. Run game, pass game, it takes all 11, and through the year, minus a couple decisions I’d like to have back, we’ve been pretty good the last couple weeks.”

4. Memories of having a 100-yard running back in a game are starting to fade. The last time it happened was Reggie Bush who ran for 117 yards on Thanksgiving in 2013. Stafford is not worried about that. “I just go play the game. Every game unfolds different, and sometimes we’ve had big games running, sometimes we haven’t, and you just go try to win a game. If that means giving me the ball to throw it around a bunch of times, I’m all for it. I want a ‘W’ at the end of the day however we can get it,’’ Stafford said.

5. Stafford feels bad for Carson Wentz whose season ended early with a torn ACL. “He was having a hell of a year, had that town going man and had that team going, they were playing great. I’m sure those guys will rally around whoever’s in next and go,’’ Stafford said. “Just tough to see guys around the league get injured. He’s an athletic guy running around, making a play for his team and it hurts.’’


Five reasons the Lions topped the Bucs to keep playoff hopes alive

Matt Prater won game with 46-yard field goal

The Lions kept their playoff dreams alive with a 24-21 win against the Buccaneers on Sunday in Tampa. They move to 7-6 for the season. They face the Chicago Bears (4-9) on Saturday at Ford Field.

It was not easy and, at times, it wasn’t pretty either.

Detroit held a 21-7 edge at the half, but the Bucs came back to tie it in the fourth quarter at 21-21. Matt Prater kicked a game-winning 46-yard field goal with just 20 seconds left.

“It’s always been kind of a hallmark of ours, we look to battle at the end, our guys show great resilience, they don’t get nervous in tough situations at the end of games, they find a way to win it,’’ Caldwell said. “It might not always be pretty. We’ve always been like that, but we lost quite a few this year just the opposite side of that — Atlanta and Carolina were close at the end and we weren’t able to finish them. We had been uncharacteristic for a portion of the season, we’re going to see if we can be a little bit better this week.’’

The Bucs turned the ball over five times (three lost fumbles, two Jameis Winston interceptions) while the Lions had three turnovers. The Bucs were the 12th NFL team to turn the ball over five times in a game this season and the 12th to lose the game.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Here’s a look at five reasons the Lions won:

1. Give plenty of credit to Matthew Stafford who was 36 of 44 for 381 yards. Yes, he threw two interceptions, but he was able to come up with big plays when needed. Stafford was officially questionable for the game with a bruised throwing hand but it didn’t seem to bother him. Afterward he took full blame for the two picks saying they were a result of bad decisions, impatience and also being too aggressive. His 36 completions were the most for any quarterback in the NFL this season.

2. Tight end Eric Ebron had a rough start to the season drawing plenty of boos at Ford Field. But since the bye week he’s played well. Ebron finished with 10 catches for 94 yards. Both of those numbers are career highs for Ebron. He wasn’t perfect he lost a fumble. But overall it was a solid game. “When we get production out of him like that it’s big for our offense,’’ Stafford said.

3. Cornerback Darius Slay made his case yet again to be sent to the Pro Bowl. He  intercepted Jameis Winston for his fifth interception this season. He recovered a fumble in a play that the officials could not get right until a challenge by Caldwell. They got it right in the end. Slay leads the Lions with five interceptions which is career high for a season. His top previously was two in a season three times.

4. Running back Theo Riddick finished with two rushing touchdowns and 93 total yards from scrimmage. The Lions run game was only good for 53 yards but those Riddick touchdown runs of 2 yards in first and 18 yards in third were obviously key. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter mixed it up more and ran it less with just 18 carries. In his second game, Tion Green had five carries for 15 yards. Ameer Abdullah and Dwayne Washington were inactive.

5. Detroit may have won, but it was so close at least in part due to eight penalties for 105 yards. If the Lions had lost this one, the spotlight would have been on these turnovers. Caldwell likes to say when you win you’re not as good as you think and when you lose you’re not as bad. Well these penalties could have been killers. And it wasn’t just the number of penalties it’s that they occurred in key situations. Five of the penalties were on the offensive line including two for T.J. Lang.

As expected, Lions Matthew Stafford to start at Bucs; Ziggy Ansah active

Ameer Abdullah, Dwayne Washington sit

Matthew Stafford will start against the Buccaneers at Tampa Bay today, as expected. The Lions quarterback left last Sunday’s game in the fourth quarter with a “nasty bruise” on his right, throwing hand. He had limited practice all week and was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report.

No doubt about it, Stafford is tough. It will be his 109th straight start which ranks third among active NFL quarterbacks. Matt Ryan is first with 128, followed by Philip Rivers with 118.

Dan Orlovsky, the Lions’ backup quarterback from 2014 to 2016, tweeted this morning: “QB’s get bruised hands often. For the Lions fans out there I know Stafford spends a lot of time throughout the year working on grip. Wrist and hand strength. Little thing that goes a long way, Especially in situations like this. I imagine he’ll be able to throw it fine.”

Running back Ameer Abdullah (neck) is inactive for the second straight week. He was limited in practice all week and also was declared questionable on Friday. Ian Rapoport from the NFL Network, reported this morning that Abdullah is healthy enough to play but it’s a coach’s decision to sit him.

Rookie Tion Green, who made an impressive debut last week, is active for the second straight week. Running back Dwayne Washington, who is not injured, will sit out again this week.

Defensive end Ziggy Ansah (ankle) is active after missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday and being limited on Friday.

Center Travis Swanson (knee) returns after missing last week’s game. Right guard T.J. Lang (foot) who only practiced Friday and on a limited basis is a go.

Right tackle Rick Wagner, who injured an ankle last Sunday, was declared out on Friday.

Returner/cornerback Jamal Agnew (knee) will miss his third straight game.

Other Lions’ inactives: WR Bradley Marquez, LB Nick Bellore and tackle Emmett Cleary.

Inactives for the Bucs: QB Ryan Griffin, S Josh Robinson, CB Vernon Hargreaves III, S T.J. Ward , OL Mike Liedtke, WR Bobo Wilson and DT Clinton McDonald.

Five things to watch as Lions play at Tampa Bay

Fast start at top of list

ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford’s hand might not be 100 percent, but he is expected to start when the Lions (6-6) play at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8) on Sunday. He’s officially listed as questionable.

The Lions still have a slim chance at a postseason wild-card berth so it’s a huge game for them. The Bucs are just looking to wrap up a disappointing season.

Coach Jim Caldwell maintains an even keel whether his team is coming off a win or a loss. That’s the message he gets to the team also.

“Even our first game there’s a sense of urgency, the first game of the season, second, to third. Every single game there’s a sense of urgency. Circumstances may change in that regard, but in how we approach it, those kinds of things, that does not change. And that’s the great thing about coaching really to be honest with you,’’ Caldwell said on Thursday. “This time of the year in certain situations you get a real sense of the essence of the human spirit within you guys, and staff, and those kinds of things. So, it’s a real good challenge and thankfully I got a healthy disregard for what other people might think is impossible, so that helps as well.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Five things to watch:

1. Again, the Lions have to get off to a faster start. They’ve been outscored 36-3 in the first quarters of the past four games. They won the first two and lost the most recent two. They know they need to start fast, they focus on it and talk about it, but have not been able to make it happen.

“Every one is a different story. At the end of the day — Coach (Caldwell) has said it a hundred times, I mean, hey, you’d love to be up early. That makes the game a whole lot — you’re in more control of the game and you can go from there. At the same time, pretty much we play ball around here to win the game at the end of the game, so we’re trying to win that, trying to have more points than they do at the end,’’ Cooter said.

2. Again, the Lions need to run the ball better. Last Sunday, rookie Tion Green got his first NFL touches and performed decently. His first carry went for 33 yards, he also had a 6-yard touchdown run. That performance may have earned him an increased role this week.

“Tion had a couple nice runs, some of those were really well blocked which is encouraging to see from a blocking standpoint as well, but Tion I think made the most of those runs,’’ Cooter said. “Had a couple of, sort of, young player mistakes along the way as all the young players do and he’s working on fixing some of that stuff this week. But we’re encouraged by what we saw, I think he pretty much made the most of the carries that he got.’’

3. Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said the defensive end Dwight Freeney played fine in his first game with the Lions last week. They also said the lack of quarterback pressure was not all on him, but it needs to improved. The Lions didn’t sack Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco even once. The Lions have just three sacks in the last three games.

“I think he did OK. But I think overall, I’m looking at more overall, we just didn’t get enough pressure. We didn’t get enough,’’ Austin said. “We did not harass the quarterback enough last week. That’s something we have to do better. So, I’m again, continuing to look at ways to try and improve our rush, to try to improve our ability to get pressure on the passer.”

4. The secondary needs to step up against quarterback Jameis Winston and the Bucs who have the NFL’s fifth-best passing offense averaging 261.6 yards per game. Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson are dangerous at wide receiver. Austin said that Quandre Diggs will start again at strong safety in place of Nevin Lawson. Diggs, typically the nickel back, is clearly a playmaker no matter the position.

“Sometimes when you play up, or you play out as a corner, and then you move back, sometimes things are a little different, but he can handle it,’’ Austin said. “I thought he did a good job last week in his first appearance playing full-time in that position. So, we’ll continue to move forward with it.”

5. Then there’s a laundry list: Hold onto the ball. The Lions have eight interceptions and nine lost fumbles. Giveaways in the first half are one reason they’ve had slow starts. … The Lions have not had an interception in the past three games. …  Wide receivers and tight ends must not drop the ball. … Matt Prater must bust his mini-slump after missing a field goal and extra point last Sunday.

Prediction: Lions 27, Bucs 13

Lions QB Matthew Stafford throws at practice on Thursday

QB’s throwing hand stepped on in loss at Ravens

ALLEN PARK — Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw passes in Thursday’s practice, after not attempting a pass in the portion open to the media on Wednesday.

Stafford had his right, throwing hand stepped on in Sunday’s loss at Baltimore. X-rays showed no broken bones but it is severely bruised. The quarterback, in his ninth season, is known for his toughness.

He has started 108 consecutive games and, if the practice is any indication, it looks like Stafford could start on Sunday when the Lions visit Tampa. The ball looked like it had its usual Stafford zip.

Coach Jim Caldwell offered no clues about Stafford’s possible availability in his pre-practice press conference.

If Stafford can’t go, Jake Rudock will get his first NFL start.

“Obviously we get a chance to see (Rudock) every day. I mean he’s working, and in every area he’s improved throughout the year. And I think that’s what you find with a young quarterback, they just continue to get better and he’s improving in all areas,’’ Caldwell said.

If Rudock is the starter, offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said he’ll have a game-plan that plays to Rudock’s strengths. At the very least there would likely be less downfield shots than Stafford attempts. No slam on Rudock, but Stafford has the strongest arm in the NFL.

Rudock finished Sunday’s game completing 3 of 5 attempts for 24 yards with an interception.

“Obviously any reps you get in the course of a ballgame’s going to help you one way or another. You’re going to learn from it, it gives you a little bit of experience. It kind of gets the nerves out of there a little bit just in terms of getting a guy familiar with his footing, but he’s played preseason games and those kinds of things, but regular seasons a little bit different,’’ Caldwell said. “So, that’s helpful but obviously it’s not much of a sample size for him, it’s just very few, but he’ll be fine.”

Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter said on a conference call on Wednesday, he was aware of Stafford’s hand injury and they would go after it.

Caldwell said he knows Koetter and said that comment “was in jest.”

Lions QB Matthew Stafford ‘not out of the woods’ with bruised hand

Throwing hand was stepped on Sunday in loss to Ravens

ALLEN PARK — While the X-rays on Matthew Stafford’s right, throwing hand were negative after Sunday’s loss at Baltimore, the injury is not insignificant.

It’s unclear if Stafford will be available to start on Sunday when the Lions play the Bucs in Tampa Bay.

Stafford was limited in practice on Wednesday. He did not throw in the portion open to the media, but he worked on hand-offs.

“He’s not out of the woods yet, we have to see what he can do as the week goes on. It’s not some insignificant injury, that’s not the case. It’s something that he’s going to have to work at,  deal with in the course of the week to see where he is. It’s not like he’s out of the woods,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said on Wednesday morning.

Stafford said on Wednesday morning that he will take it day by day this week. He wouldn’t address whether he plans to play on Sunday. He said he’s in less pain than he was immediately after it was injured on Sunday.

Stafford, who has started 108 straight games, has played with hand injuries before. “Yeah, every one of them is different. This one is just the same. So, you got to kind of figure out what feels good, what doesn’t, and go from there,” Stafford said.

At his weekly press conference on Wednesday he was asked to show the media his hand and he said he’d would rather not.

The incident occurred in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game just after Stafford threw an interception. His hand was stepped on in a pile-up. In no way did it appear intentional. He left the game and immediately went to the locker room for X-rays. Jake Rudock took over at quarterback.

Stafford has started 108 straight games going back to Week 1 of the 2011 season.

Lions rookie RB Tion Green had a debut to remember, with a TD and surprise visit from his mom

Green ran for 51 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL game

ALLEN PARK >> Shortly after Tion Green arrived in Baltimore with the Lions on Saturday afternoon the rookie running back got a knock on his hotel room door.

“The security guy says there’s a lady downstairs who says she’s your mom. I’m like, ‘What?’ I go downstairs, my mom is outside in a rental car and said let’s go for dinner. I’m like, ‘What?’ We get in the car, go eat, she said I told you I was coming I keep my promises.’ She came to Baltimore from Florida, we went to PF Changs’ in the city. She said tomorrow you’re going to have a good game, you’re going to score a touchdown. I’m like, ‘Mom you’re crazy. I said it’s ironic I might be playing tomorrow and she said you’re going to score too. And after the game I went up to her and asked, ‘How did you know?’’’

She told him she was psychic.

Green was active for his first NFL game on Sunday and just like his mom said, he scored a touchdown in the loss to the Ravens.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

“My mom is weird, she said maybe four weeks ago, she said, ‘Come Baltimore you’re going to play in your first game, you’re going to make a touchdown and I’m going to be there,’’’ Green said on Monday. “I was like, ‘Mom, you’re talking crazy, what are you talking about. I don’t know when I’m going to be up.’’

Apparently his mom, Leticia Strickland, knows.

She bought her own ticket to the game, bought her airline ticket and somehow found out the name of the hotel and was in the rental car waiting for her son.

“I just see here in the car smiling — she’s got gold teeth — she said, ‘That’s my son,’’ Green said.

Green had 11 carries for 51 yards and a six-yard touchdown run. His first NFL carry was for 33 yards

“She was the happiest woman in the world, that was my happy moment then because my mom my whole life said, ‘My biggest dream, I want you to make it, I just want to come to a game,’’ said Green who was signed as undrafted rookie free agent in the spring.

It was the first game that Green has been active this season. He said he didn’t know until just before gametime.

“Seriously I was warming up, I came back from warm-ups and my jersey was still in my locker so I kind of knew I was playing,’’ Green said.

Just before the Lions’ third series, coach Jim Caldwell walked up to him.

“Bear in my mind, I’m dressed but I just thought I’d be on special teams,’’ Green said. “Caldwell came over ‘Hey young fellow’ and Kenny (Golladay) is standing next to me. I think he’s talking to Kenny. I’m forgetting I’m dressed. ‘Hey young fellow. You ready? You’ve got to get ready you’re going in.’ ‘Kenny or me?’ ‘You,’’ Caldwell said.

At that point right guard T.J. Lang approached him.

“T.J, he hit me pretty hard on (the helmet) and said, ‘We need a spark right now.’ And he head-butted me and he said, ‘Let’s go,’’’ Green said.

He also pointed out the support he got from his fellow running backs and how much that meant to him. There are five on the roster and only three play each week. It’s a competitive situation but they support each other.

Green said he has not been frustrated standing on the sidelines for the first 11 games.

“Absolutely not, I’m in a very blessed position being on a 53-man roster, make active money, hanging out, working out, giving the defense a good look, being a cheerleader. That’s the best position you could be in,’’ Green said. “The thing about life is you have to be patient, patience is key just like running the football you have to be patient. … My whole story from high school to college is patience, patience, patience. I knew eventually I would get my shot whether it was this year, next year, next week or whenever. I knew I’d get my shot but you have to be ready.’’