Five reasons Lions lost 44-20 to Ravens

Stafford’s right hand is not broken, just a nasty bruise

The Detroit Lions showed a little fight in the second half, but once again it was too little, too late.

After falling behind 20-0 at the half, the Lions could not scratch their way back and lost 44-20 to the Ravens on Sunday in Baltimore.

The Lions drop to 6-6 with four games remaining including next Sunday at Tampa Bay. Their playoff hopes are not dead, but they are on life support.

“We’re not playing well enough and I have to do a better job of coaching as well,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said afterward.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The good news, at least for the next few weeks, is that Matthew Stafford’s right hand is not broken. Caldwell said he had X-rays and it’s a “nasty bruise.” Stafford had his hand stepped on late in the game and went into the locker room for X-rays right away.

Five reasons the Lions lost:

1. Another game, another slow start. The Lions have been fallen behind 43-0 in first quarter of last four games. They talk about focus, concentrating on details and it all sounds good but once again they didn’t translate to the field. Matthew Stafford fumbled on a snap on third-and-8 in first quarter. Lions recovered but were forced to punt. That’s on focus.

2. At one stretch in the second half, Stafford completed 20 straight passes, a franchise record. The 20th pass was to linebacker/fullback Nick Bellore for a touchdown. Stafford left the game late in the fourth quarter with an ice bag on his right hand. He wasn’t the whole problem, but part of it. He was 24 of 29 for 292 yards, one touchdown, one interception, one fumble loss and a 105.2 quarterback rating.

3. Stafford was also sacked three times. It’s not a coincidence that the offensive line was a M-A-S-H unit. Center Travis Swanson was out so Graham Glasgow started at center. Corey Robinson then filled in at left guard. Right tackle Rick Wagner (ankle) was injured and couldn’t return so Brian Mihalik stepped in and at one point T.J. Lang was out, but he was able to return with a foot injury. Stafford was pressure all day long by a very solid Ravens front line.

4. The defense was unprepared at times. On a 23-yard pass to  Chris Moore late in the third quarter, the Lions had only nine defensemen on the field. That’s just one example. They gave up too many big plays against the Ravens’ offense which, coming into the game, was averaging 281.1 yards per game which ranks second-to-last in the NFL.  They finished Sunday with 371 total yards (269 passing).  Before Sunday the Ravens ranked dead last in the NFL with 164.3 passing yards per game. Beat that up more than 100 yards. Quarterback Joe Flacco had plenty of time most of the day, he was never sacked. Detroit’s linebackers couldn’t stop the run. That is not news either.

5. The run game was ineffective once again with 78 yards rushing. At least offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter didn’t just stick to his old ways, he added a few twists. He activated rookie Tion Green who had 11 carries for 51 yards and a touchdown in his first game. Also he brought in linebacker Nick Bellore as a fullback. Stafford threw a touchdown pass to him on second-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Ameer Abdullah (neck) was out injured and Dwayne Washington was inactive. And, of course, the banged-up offensive line wasn’t much help either.

BONUS:  Matt Prater missed a 42-yard field goal — the first time this season he’s missed a field goal of less than 50 yards. He also missed on an extra point. Both were wide left. Those four points could have been crucial, although looking at the final score they weren’t exactly. It’s so uncharacteristic of Prater. Again, he was not the only issue but it takes a team to win and he didn’t do his part.

Advertisements

Lions Ameer Abdullah, Dwayne Washington among inactives vs. Ravens

Rookie RB Tion Green active for first game

The Lions run game which has under-performed most of the season will be without Ameer Abdullah today at the Ravens. Abdullah, who has a neck injury, practiced on a limited basis on Friday after sitting out on Wednesday and Thursday. His absence is not a surprise. He was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report.

Also, looks like a shakeup in the run game personnel. Dwayne Washington was not on the injury list, he practiced all week and yet is inactive.

Rookie Tion Green is active for the first game this season.

Look for Theo Riddick to get more carries with Zach Zenner and Green helping out too.

Guard T.J. Lang (foot) will play. He had limited practice on Friday after missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday. He had been listed as questionable.

Center Travis Swanson and cornerback/returner Jamal Agnew were declared out on Friday’s injury report. Both have knee injuries and did not practice all week. Graham Glasgow is expected to take over at center while Corey Robinson could fill his role at left guard.

Defensive end Dwight Freeney will play in his first game for the Lions after he was acquired before the Thanksgiving game. He’s not expected to start, but should contribute. He’s in football shape because he played four games for the Seahawks including on Monday night, Nov. 20.

Other Lions’ inactives: Wide receiver Bradley Marquez, guard G Emmett Cleary and safety Rolan Milligan.

Five things to watch as Lions face Ravens

Starts with playing a better first quarter

ALLEN PARK — When the Lions last played at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium in 2009, it was a miserable day — cold and pouring rain. It was a homecoming of sorts for then-Lions coach Jim Schwartz. It ended with a 48-3 loss.

A few things have changed since that miserable day including the Lions GM, coach and most of the roster. Daunte Culpepper (two interceptions) was the starting quarterback while rookie Matthew Stafford was on injured reserve.

Sunday’s game is crucial in the Lions’ chances for a wildcard playoff berth. At 6-5, Detroit has won three of its last four and owns a  4-1 record on the road.

Five things to watch on Sunday:

1. The last three games they’ve been behind in the first quarter 10-0, 10-0 and 13-0. They’ve won two of those but on Thanksgiving they could not come back against the Vikings. It’s a concern but there is no magic solution. “We’ve turned the ball over a little bit too much early in the game from multiple factors. We do that better, we’re going to be better offensively and definitely better as a team not putting our defense in tough spots. So, that’s the major point of emphasis for us, it’s protecting the ball early,’’ offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said Thursday.

2. It’s a broken record but it’s important. The run game ranks 30th in the NFL averaging 78.3 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry. Ameer Abdullah (neck) did not practice on Wednesday and Thursday but was back at work on Friday. It’s uncertain if he’ll play on Sunday. If Abdullah is out that would give Theo Riddick more carries and Zach Zenner will have more chances. “We’ve seen improvement from him, he’s really working hard at it,’’ Cooter said of Riddick. “And it is our job to evaluate all those guys and sort of figure out who should get what amount of plays in the game, and carries, and all that stuff, sort of how each guy’s game looks like.’’

3. Now that he’s been back for three games, look for Kenny Golladay to possibly get more balls thrown his way. The rookie is a big-play wide receiver who can stretch the field. “A lot of different stats you can throw around in the league, but creating explosive plays is one of those sort of major offensive successful — leads to successful, leads to wins,’’ Cooter said. “Kenny plays a part in that thing, he does a nice job creating those big plays. Whether it’s just sort of a go-route down the field where he goes up and makes the play, sometimes it’s sort of crossing route type things where he’s crossing the field. He’s a talented young player, he’s getting better at a lot of different things. He’s learning a lot this year, we’re going to keep him moving forward and I believe he’s going to keep helping our team win games.”

4. The Ravens run game must be stopped. This has been a big issue the past three weeks when the Lions defense has allowed a combined 559 yards. That’s an average of a whopping 186 yards per game. Alex Collins (4.9 yards per carry) and Terrance West (3.5 ppc) lead the way for the Ravens’ run game. “(Collins) is always trying to make the extra yards. Got really good vision. But I think really when you look at it up front, they do a good job in terms of they have big people in the interior line. They block you. The tight ends are good blockers,’’ defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said.

5. Matthew Stafford had an off game on Thanksgiving. He rolled his ankle late in the game and it did impact his play. He’s fully healthy and has practiced at full speed all week. The quarterback play is not the concern of this offense, but he needs to be better than against the Vikings. If the Lions could ever establish a run game, Stafford’s game would automatically improve.

PREDICTION: Lions 27, Ravens 17

Lions coaches, players jump in on ‘My Cause My Cleats’ initiative

Jim Caldwell, coaching staff join in

ALLEN PARK — Many of the Lions will be wearing specially painted shoes in the game at the Ravens on “My Cause My Cleats” Sunday.

It won’t be just the players who will be identifying their causes on their footwear.

Coach Jim Caldwell said he was given the option and jumped at it along with several coaches on his staff and general manager Bob Quinn.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

“Mine in particular kind of falls in line with my wife and I’s foundation, Jim and Cheryl Caldwell Foundation. My cleats are for the Midnight Golf Program which is one that’s been in here in the Detroit area for quite some time,’’ Caldwell said on Friday. “Reneé Fluker actually started it, and it’s not playing golf at night just in case anybody wants to know. What they use is they use golf to obviously attract young people and kind of teach them how to live their life around the game of golf. But it’s a mentoring, tutoring sort of initiative that really have several thousand applicants, and they choose 250, or 260, or so. And of those individuals, they follow them through their senior year in high school, help them in terms of going on to college with funding. Once they’re in college, it gives them support mechanisms, and then also after college and starting their careers, internships, etc.

“I had an opportunity to go over for the first time and see the young people that have come out of the program, and it was absolutely, unbelievably impressive and so we got involved in it. So, that’s kind of what we’re going to do wear the shoe for the Midnight Golf Program,’’ Caldwell said. “So, it should be a great time I think for all. I know a number of our players are also wearing cleats for different reasons and different causes. So, I think it’ll be certainly well worthwhile.”

Golden Tate will honor veterans with his cleats, while Matthew Stafford will highlight “S.A.Y. Detroit.” Don Carey reps his own foundation while Tahir Whitehead goes with “Downtown Boxing Gym.”

Three things to know about Lions’ defensive changes this week

Jarrad Davis’ snaps decrease in last 2 weeks

ALLEN PARK — If Teryl Austin knew how to get his defense off to a better start each game, they wouldn’t have fallen behind in the past three games 10-0, 10-0 and 13-0.

Searching for answers is fine, but the Lions defensive coordinator is also making a few adjustments that have nothing to do with injuries and one that does.

The Lions (6-5) play at the Baltimore Ravens (6-5) on Sunday. It’s a win Detroit needs to keep its playoff chances alive.

Three things to know about defensive changes:

1. Rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis’ snaps have decreased in the past two games. He started playing 100 percent of the defensive snaps in Week 1, got hurt in Week 2 so he was down to 75 percent. Then he missed Weeks 3 and 4 with a concussion and neck injury. The next five games he also played every snap on defense. Then in Week 11, in the win at Chicago, he was down to 78 percent of the snaps and last week, in the loss to the Vikings, he was at 73 percent.

Austin explained the decision on Thursday.

“I think that the reason it was scaled back is because we thought again like anything, thought Tahir (Whitehead) was doing really well in terms of how he was handling the coverage. So, we wanted to put, like anything, whatever we think is the best for us to win that game,’’ Austin said. “And so, at that point, we’re looking to win the game. At this point in the season we want him to develop, but we can’t have him develop at the chance that we’re setting a guy that could probably do that position better at this particular time.

“And Jarrad will get better because he’s working at it. He’s getting reps in practice. But right now we think in some of those positions that Tahir is going to be a better fit for us right now,’’ he added.

In other words, they are not giving up on Davis, their first-round pick. At this point they have to put guys on the field who will give them the best chance to win.

2. Due to Tavon Wilson being placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, Miles Killebrew will get his third start this season. Killebrew, a second-year safety, has excelled at times playing in certain defensive packages but he appreciated the invaluable experience of starting in Weeks 2 and 3. He’s ready. He said the safeties play a variety of roles during practice so he will be comfortable on the field.

“With a guy who’s a backup and everybody wants him to be the starter, and then when he’s a starter maybe he’s not as effective as you thought he was because now he’s playing 60 plays instead of 20. So, it’s an adjustment,’’ Austin said. “But in Miles’ case he has had a few games when he’s had to start, and he’s had to play a lot of plays. So, I think he’ll adjust to that accordingly.”

3. Expect to see newly acquired defensive end Dwight Freeney get in the game Sunday.

“Since he’s been here, Dwight’s the ultimate pro. Really sharp, understands what’s going on, and we’ll be looking to use him, so the impressions are good,’’ Austin said. “He’s bright, we all know what he’s done in the past. Are we going to get the 24-year-old Dwight? No, but we still think he’s got some juice and the ability to rush the passer.”

Freeney and Austin go back to when Freeney was in tenth grade and attended football camps at Syracuse where Austin was a defensive assistant. Then in Freeney’s  freshman year at Syracuse in 1998 when Austin was still on the coaching staff.

Freeney was acquired last week off waivers from Seattle. Since he had played on Monday night with the Seahawks, he didn’t have enough turn-around time to play on Thanksgiving.

Freeney also goes back with Jim Caldwell when they were both with the Indianapolis Colts.

Lions Matthew Stafford: From china doll to Ironman

Stafford had rough start in first 2 seasons

ALLEN PARK >> Matthew Stafford was injury plagued in his first two seasons with the Lions. As a rookie in 2009 he played in 10 games and the next season was only healthy enough to start three.

It was so bad fans were turning on him (imagine that) and his teammate linebacker Zack Follett called him a “china doll.”

Once he regained his health in 2011, Stafford has 107 consecutive regular season starts.

With Eli Manning’s streak of 210 consecutive regular season starts coming to an end due to coach Ben McAdoo’s bonehead decision to start Geno Smith, that moves Stafford up to No. 3 on the NFL’s active consecutive starts by a quarterback list behind the Chargers’ Philip Rivers (148) and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan (126).

“It’s difficult. I think you look across this league, there’s guys at every position showing up on Sunday and playing and doing a great job that I feel like the normal human being wouldn’t be out there doing that,’’ Stafford said on Wednesday. “These guys are impressive people. I’m just happy to be a part of it. I’ll try to play as many games in a row as I possibly can and play at a high level. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Stafford said his streak means a lot to him.

“I think just coming from my first couple of years in the League and some of the tough times that came with that as far as injuries go and missing games and not being able to be out there with the guys,’’ Stafford said. “So, it’s nice to be able to be out there and have a bunch of games under my belt.”

Stafford’s teammates appreciate his durability.

“We all know what Eli bought to that team and what he brings to the team. Obviously we have an ironman quarterback ourselves and that’s a good thing to have. To know that when it  comes down to it, your guy is going to be out there for you,’’ wide receiver Marvin Jones said.

It extends beyond game day with Stafford to everyday practice. He is always there.

“All of us tip our hats off to him, it’s a lot of meetings and a lot of extra stuff that goes with being in that position. To be able to do that for a long period of time it’s to be applauded,” wide receiver Marvin Jones said.

Stafford gets credit from around the NFL, including Baltimore coach John Harbaugh whose Ravens (6-5) play the Lions (6-5) on Sunday.

“I just think it’s one of the great accomplishments because you’re the target. You’re the quarterback, you’re the target, and this is a rough game. And that guy is a guy that really runs everything. Especially there, I mean Matthew does just an amazing job of running the offense on the field,” Harbaugh said in a conference call on Wednesday. “He operates. Coach (Jim) Caldwell and Coach (Jim Bob) Cooter they have a really good system, and he’s the guy that runs it on the field. So, it’s a really important for him to be out there, and he’s just done a fabulous job of consistency and how well he plays from week to week, and being out there, and overcoming the bumps and bruises that are usually even more than that. He seems like he’s a very tough guy. It’s just been very impressive to see.”

Brett Favre is atop the all-time consecutive starts for a quarterback chart with 297. Eli Manning is at 210 while his brother Peyton Manning sits at 208.

Detroit Lions notes: Eyes on Killebrew with Tavon Wilson out; Dahl returns

Dwight Freeney expected to play Sunday at Ravens

ALLEN PARK — With starting safety Tavon Wilson placed on injured reserve due to a shoulder injury, Miles Killebrew is likely to get the start.

Wilson re-injured his shoulder in Thursday’s loss to the Vikings and could not return to the game.

“It’s just like anything else you know. The guys that, regardless of who it is, the guys that you lose, that you don’t want to lose, but you’re always going to have somebody be able to step up and step in and get it done,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said on Monday. “But obviously, he’s been a vital part of what we do and he’s done a great job for us, so we’ll see what happens.”

Wilson originally injured his shoulder during training camp. He aggravated it in Week 2’s win at the Giants. Killebrew started in Week 3 with Wilson out. Killebrew also started Week 4 but Wilson was able to play about half of the defensive snaps.

Killebrew had seen his playing time on defense decrease, but he had 32 defensive snaps in the loss to the Vikings on Thursday.

“Coming along. You know, he’s making steps forward and he’s coming,’’ Caldwell said of Killebrew.

In other roster moves, guard Joe Dahl returned to practice on Monday from injured reserve. He’s eligible to play immediately.

Wide receiver  Bradley Marquez and safety Rolan Milligan were signed to the active roster from the practice squad.

Also, wide receiver Jace Billingsley and safety Stefan McClure were signed  to the practice squad.

Billingsley has bounced between the practice squad and the active roster. He began the season on the practice squad before appearing in two games with the club on the active roster.

McClure comes to the Lions after most recently playing in seven games for the Washington Redskins this season. Prior to Washington, he spent time as a member of the Indianapolis Colts practice squad in 2016, where he originally entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent out of California.

 

FREENEY’S ROLE NOT YET DEFINED

Defensive end Dwight Freeney, who was acquired last Wednesday off waivers from the Seahawks, is expected to practice this week and play at the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

Freeney and Caldwell know each other from their time together with the Indianapolis Colts.

“Guy that’s been around, he’s still got juice. You take a look, he’s been productive anytime that he’s been on the field, and we’ll expect him to be productive for us as well. How we’ll use him? We’ll make a real good determination of that as we go through the week, but he’ll be able to do something for us,’’ Caldwell said on Monday.

Freeney notched three sacks in four games for the Seahawks this season.