Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford’s 5 thoughts on facing the Giants

Stepping in as a punter crossed his mind

ALLEN PARK >> Every NFL team deals with injuries, but when the Lions lost to the N.Y. Giants last Dec. 18, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was playing with an injured finger on his throwing hand.

Never a good thing. He completed 24 of 39 passes for 273 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. If Stafford had 10 healthy appendages would the result have been different?

“Golly man, I have no idea,’’ Stafford said on Thursday.

The Lions get a chance for revenge of sorts when they play at the Giants on Monday night.

Here are five thoughts from Stafford on the upcoming game:

1. The Giants’ run defense allowed 129 yards in their opening loss at Dallas. “I think they’re a really well-coached defense. There’s not a lot of guys missing gaps and fitting wrong and all that kind of stuff. They’re good tacklers, and they’ve got some guys inside that do a heck of a job,’’ Stafford said on Thursday. “They eat up blocks and let their linebackers run. And then if they’re not eating up blocks, they’re making the plays. So, it’s a big challenge for us this week and something we’re looking forward to.”

2. He likes that the Lions receivers possess various strengths.I think we do a good job of trying to use those guys’ skill sets to their strengths as much as we possibly can. Eliminate them from situations where they might be weak. So, we try to find ways to exploit defenses with those guys and they did a nice job Week 1,’’ Stafford said. Seven Lions each had at least two catches in the win over Arizona. Golden Tate led the way in yardage with 107. Rookie Kenny Golladay hauled in two touchdowns.

3. It’s an advantage to have a dual threat like running back Theo Riddick going up against a stacked Giants’ secondary. “Obviously, he’s a veteran player, has played a bunch of football, played in big environments. He’s really, as we all know, really good out of the backfield catching the ball. Does some things that are really good in the run game as well. So, the more guys we have back there, Theo included, the better we’ll be,’’ Stafford said.

4. Stafford was sacked just once by the Cardinals behind the new-look offensive line featuring T.J. Lang at right guard, Rick Wagner at right tackle and Greg Robinson at left tackle.  “I think every game is different but I think they went out and executed really well the first time. And the first game of the year, those guys rushing the passer on that team were no slouch either, you know, Chandler Jones and No. 44 (Markus Golden). So, this week will be a different challenge, different guys, and we’ll have to go out there and prove it again,’’ Stafford said. “Just because somebody on our team played well Week 1, doesn’t mean they’re going to go out there and play well Week 2. You’ve got to prove it every week in this league.”

5. The Lions were running out of punters on Sunday. After Kasey Redfern injured his knee, knocking him out for the season, kicker Matt Prater punted four times. What if Prater had gotten hurt? Stafford did punt in high school. “I was more of a quick-kick guy from the gun than I was a punter. But I had some decent stats because there’s no returner back there,’’ Stafford said. “Yeah it crossed my mind for a minute, but glad I didn’t have to do it.” (To steal a line from Lions’ writer Mike O’Hara — world’s highest paid punter.)

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Detroit Lions Golden Tate to Giants secondary: ‘Pick your poison’

ALLEN PARK >> First, of all know that Lions wide receiver Golden Tate respects the Giants defense.

“The Giants’ secondary, they’re fantastic. Last year they had 12 turnovers between picks and fumbles. They’re a very dangerous group of guys,’’ Tate said. “We definitely have to be on our game. We can’t come out flat like we did last week. We’re excited about it. Who doesn’t want a challenge?”

That said, the Giants defense will face their own type of challenge, especially with the Lions offense, on Monday night at MetLife Stadium. It’ll be their first time going up against rookie wide receiver Kenny Golladay who hauled in two touchdown passes in his debut in Sunday’s win over the Cardinals.

“Kenny has shown he’s a dangerous player, he’s a game-breaker kind of guy, glad to have him on our team,’’ Tate said. “It makes the opposing team put some more time in scouting him and covering him.

“To me you have to pick your poison — who you going to double-cover? Me? Marv (Jones)? Theo (Riddick)? Golladay? Ameer (Abdullah)? (Eric) Ebron? (Darren) Fells? Pick your poison. We’re excited about it,’’ Tate added.

The Lions lost at the Giants, 17-6, last Dec. 18. In that game, Matthew Stafford was hampered with a wonky finger and Golladay was still playing at Northern Illinois.

Here is Tate’s breakdown of the Giants’ secondary:

— “Eli (Apple) is a young guy who’s made a bunch of plays and still learning the game. The best is yet to come for him.”

— Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: “A savvy guy, fast guy, ballhawk that can make some plays.”

— “Janoris Jenkins, been going against him for a long time when he was in the NFC West. He’s a very talented guy, a  ballhawk as well, physical guy, loves contact, going to talk some smack to you.”

— “Landon (Collins) all pro guy, he knows his assignments, savvy guy, he’s in the right place at the right time, makes plays.’’

“It’s going to be a great challenge for us, but I love our guys against their guys,’’ Tate said.

In the opening win, Stafford passed for 292 yards and four touchdowns. Seven Lions caught at least two passes. Tate was tops with 10 receptions for 107 yards.

Of course, Tate is not alone in his respect for the Giants’ secondary.

“It’s a pretty strong group, and there’s no doubt about it between the three corners and the safety. I mean it’s hard to think there’s any team that has any more than they have. They have talented guys,’’ Lions coach Jim Caldwell said.

Stafford knows he will have his work cut out for him especially after the results from last season’s game.

“They got a ton of talent. I mean you look around, they’ve got two extremely good edge rushers, a really good, if not the best, interior run presence guy in the league, an all-pro safety and two maybe three all-pro corners,’’ Stafford said.

Detroit Lions’ Matt Prater named NFC special teams player of the week

Prater’s four punts were the first of his career

Lions’ placekicker Matt Prater was forced into double duty on Sunday in the Lions’ 35-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals. He didn’t miss a beat.

Prater was named the NFC special teams player of the week on Wednesday. He also won the award last season in Weeks 9 and 12.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

When punter Kasey Redfern injured his knee early in the game, Prater then became the punter too which was a first in his career. He had four punts averaging 34.8 yards.

He kicked a 58-yard field goal — his only attempt of the day. It was the longest field goal in team history at home and tied for the second longest ever.

Prater joins Jason Hanson as the only Lions kickers since at least 1960 to register a punt and a 50-yard field goal in the same game. Hanson punted three times and made a 53-yard field goal at Tennessee on Sept. 23, 2012.

Prater’s 58-yard field goal was the 36th 50-plus yard field goal of his career. It is also the third he has made from at least 58 yards since joining the Lions in 2014.

Prater was also 2 of 2 on extra points.

Redfern is now out for the season. He had temporarily replaced Sam Martin, one of the NFL’s best punters, who is out with a non-football related injury.

Punter Jeff Locke was signed by the Lions on Tuesday.

Detroit Lions DE Anthony Zettel having a blast on his way to earning respect

The former Penn State end notched the Lions’ only sack

The job description for an NFL defensive end does not include the word “fun.”

But that is exactly the word Anthony Zettel used to describe his first start at the position in the Detroit Lions 35-23 win on Sunday.

Zettel was the only one to sack Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer. The pressure created by Zettel and his linemates played a part in the three interceptions thrown by Palmer.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

“There was some pressure. It doesn’t mean you get a bevy of sacks all the time, but if you can put enough pressure to create and muddy to pocket a little bit, I think we did muddy the pocket some,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said.

“I feel like I played well but I’ve got a lot to improve on. … I was playing as hard as I could, the rest takes care of itself. I’m looking forward to next week to get back on the field with those guys because that was the funnest I’ve ever had on the field with someone,’’ Zettel said on Monday.

Zettel, a sixth-round pick out of Penn State in 2016, played in 13 games as a rookie with his first career sack in Week 15.

He had a good training camp. And while there was plenty of hand-wringing about the depth on the defensive line, he and the others just kept working. They’ll get more help after the suspensions of Armonty Bryant (three more games) and Khyri Thornton (five more games).

The next test comes on Monday night at the New York Giants.

“I play this game to earn respect from the guys across from me. I just want the guy on the Giants who plays across from me just to know he played me that game and I did get on him,’’ Zettel said. “That’s the only thing I play this game for is that and the love of team and the work and sweat we put in together is the biggest thing that’s why I play this game.’’

The line is also without Kerry Hyder, the 2016 sack leader, who tore his Achilles in the first preseason game. The numbers may be down but the spirits are high.

“We have a really tough group this year. Everybody is on the same page and we really want to play as hard as we can for each other,’’ Zettel said. “That’s when you have a good team when everybody cares about the other guys and they’ll do anything they can to win the game.’’

Zettel said they practiced well all last week, getting after the scout team.

“So we had high expectations coming into this game, I think it all starts with practice and it translated really well over to the game,’’ Zettel said.

While he was certainly pleased with many things about the win, he was thinking about the next challenge.

He liked the energy the defense brought to the field.

The line can’t be judged on just one sack.

“We don’t talk numbers but we want to be the best in the NFL,’’ Zettel said. “I think if any team doesn’t try to be the best they’re cheating themselves.’’

Killebrew, Davis among youngsters who make big plays for Detroit Lions

Eight rookies played in win over Cardinals

ALLEN PARK >> Jim Caldwell and the Lions got major contributions from a group of youngsters in Sunday’s 35-23 win over the Cardinals.

Eight rookies played a role with first-round pick Jarrad Davis as the only rookie starter. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay, who was in for 62 percent of the offensive plays, finished with four catches for 69 yards including a pair of touchdowns.

“I think it’s kind of been, the last couple years we’ve had quite a few young guys playing for us early. It helps us without question because they make plays for us,’’ Caldwell said. “We just anticipate to we’re going to keep working, keep going.’’

Plus, second- and third-year players like safety Miles Killebrew who ran back an interception for a touchdown and defensive end Anthony Zettel who had the Lions only sack.

Here’s a look from Caldwell’s perspective on what he got from the young crew

1. It only seems like safety Miles Killebrew is on the field for every defensive snap. That’s because the second-year player is always in the middle of the action. “I think everybody knows from the first time he was in a ball game that he’s around the ball a lot. He’s active, he runs and he runs hard all the time. That without question helps him get himself in position. He’s always around the ball. Tipped ball, interception is one we talk about often. Because in the National Football League tipped balls rarely hit the ground. In college they’ll hit the ground more often than in the pros. … His progress has been good because he’s got the right traits — he works at it, he loves it, he has great passion and he has the talent level. … He’s a talented guy who works hard.’’

2. Jarrad Davis was in on 100 percent of the defensive snaps at middle linebacker. At times he looked like a rookie, other times he looked like a first-round pick. Davis had a team-high nine tackles. “He’s a young player, the thing about him is he’s got the kind of attitude you love, he’s going to make some mistakes here and there but he’s going to work to correct those things,’’ Caldwell said.

3. Something about rookie wide receiver Kenny Golladay makes people want to compare him to the best receivers in the NFL. Caldwell won’t be drawn into that game. “He is who he is. He’s a guy I think we’re a long way away from defining what he can do after one ballgame, but I do think he’s got the right traits,’’ Caldwell said. “He’s got speed, he’s got height, he’s got quickness and he’s got toughness. We’ll see in the long run. We’ll see how many big plays he can make for us. He’s certainly capable. I wouldn’t like to compare him to anybody. He is who he is.’’

4. Nickel Quandre Diggs got his third season off to a good start on Sunday with three pass defenses. He rocked as a rookie and had a bit of an off year in 2016. Caldwell credits his improvement to three things: Years of service, familiarity with the scheme and competition. “It’s been a really good competition,’’ Caldwell said. “A lot of guys have stepped up their game and played better. I always felt that (Diggs) was always a play maker, always a gamer, he’s smart. The great thing is he had a very good game, the position he plays is full of challenges.’’

5. Defensive end Alex Barrett, an undrafted rookie, had his standout moments in training camp and the preseason — always on defense. On Sunday, he played 14 snaps on defense and made a surprise play as fullback for one red-zone play. “We’re always looking for opportunities to utilize our roster as much as we possibly can,” Caldwell said. “We’re also searching for body types and trying to see through evaluations throughout the spring and summer who could fill in that role. He did a pretty nice job yesterday. (He’s got the) body type,  he’s mobile, he’s got vision and he doesn’t mind a collision once in awhile.’’

Matthew Stafford’s leadership on display once again in Detroit Lions win

After ugly start, Lions emerge victorious

DETROIT — Months and months of preparation physically and mentally, and then Matthew Stafford took the field in the opener on Sunday and his first pass of the season was intercepted and run back for a touchdown.

Not ideal, but no reason for panic.

All of a sudden the quarterback was chasing Justin Bethel, trying to make a tackle — probably the only thing Stafford didn’t work on in the offseason. Although, who knows.

The quarterback’s steel-cold demeanor on the field is a big reason why the Lions extended his contract for $135 million.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

While Stafford is on the field the Lions are rarely out of it. Sunday’s 35-23 win over Arizona was the 29th time he’d led a comeback when the Lions were down or tied to start the fourth quarter. After that interception he threw four touchdown passes.

Stafford always credits his teammates and it’s clear that he respects them.

“I felt good, guys up front did a nice job. You know, that’s a good defensive front. There’s a lot of talent up there that we faced and our guys did a heck of a job.  Could we be better in some spots? Absolutely,’’ Stafford said. “That’s everybody, myself included. We’ll look at this tape, you know, obviously happy to win this thing. But there’s a lot of errors.”

Coach Jim Caldwell said he couldn’t tell for sure that Stafford in quicker in his movements in the pocket than he had been last year.

“It wouldn’t be surprising to me because he’s been working at it. He’s been working on his footwork, working on his release, working on everything, trying to find an edge,’’ Caldwell said. “That’s the great thing I appreciate about him, he’s a guy that has talent and ability but he doesn’t take it for granted and he’s always on that quest to get better.”

Stafford doesn’t ever seem to get down on his receivers.

That interception came when Golden Tate got tangled with the middle linebacker and Stafford didn’t see it before his release.

He’d probably like that one back but the eventual win glossed over some problems.

That won’t last long.

The Lions know they have to improve before they face the New York Giants on Monday night, Sept. 18. (The Giants lost 19-3 to the Cowboys on Sunday night.)

“You know, we’ve got a lot of different players, but the guys that have been in the NFL, man, that’s the way the game goes. Very rarely do you just sit there and dominate a team for four quarters. That doesn’t happen,’’ Stafford said. “And, you know, we had our fair share of mistakes and got in our own way early, kind of got out of our own way and started playing some of the ball that we’re used to playing later in the game and, you know, played better. So, you know, we’ve just got to get out of our own way a little bit earlier, you know, and start a little bit faster.”

And like the fact that Stafford always has faith in his receivers, they trust him. Always.

”We all knew (the game) had to change at some point and we just, someone needed to go out there and make a play. We just needed to settle in because we got a bunch of great players, we got some great coaches, we got a fantastic quarterback, we just need to be us,’’ Golden Tate said. “Be us and do what we know how to do. It didn’t take anything extraordinary, we just need to do our jobs.”

Stafford won’t win every game. He’s going to throw interceptions. Count on it.

Still, his leadership and never-say-die attitude are infectious. The proof was in Sunday’s final score.

Detroit Lions rookie Kenny Golladay has memorable debut with 2 TDs

Third-round pick opens eye with fourth-quarter scores

DETROIT — At first the Lions fans at Ford Field weren’t sure what to think about Kenny Golladay.

They’d heard the hype about the rookie wide receiver, but he didn’t catch the first few balls thrown his way,

He is a rookie after all.

But by the end of Sunday’s game — a 35-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals — Golladay had won over the hearts of Detroit.

His recipe?

Two touchdown catches in the fourth quarter. The first one for 10 yards gave the Lions their first lead in the game 21-17. It also gave Golladay the confidence he needed in his first NFL game.

“I felt like I needed to make a play and I was just happy enough. Matt (Stafford) threw a great ball, I just had to go get it and, you know, the rest is history,’’ Golladay said.

Then on the next Detroit series, Golladay was Matthew Stafford’s deep target and came up with a 45-yard touchdown catch.

“Really, once again, Matt just gave me a shot and just let my skills just do the rest pretty much. Just left my feet, used all hands and just made a nice catch,’’ Golladay said.

“He’s developing, he’s a rookie. Did he do everything right today? No. but did he make some big-time catches absolutely,’’ Stafford said.

While some fans have been calling Golladay the next Calvin Johnson – that is jumping the gun.

He’s 6-foot-4, works hard and makes for a good red-zone target.

However the coaching staff has not dumped too much praise on him. No need to create extra pressure.

“The proof is in the pudding. In this league, this is a tough league. Often times I just think people when they look at what these guys accomplish, and it may be one game, but one game doesn’t mean a whole lot,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said. “Let’s look at it over a period of time. But do we expect him to be a good player? Yes. We do expect him to be. But he’s got to go out there and prove it. And this is one game where he had a decent finish with the big catch at the end, a couple big plays for us. But let’s see what happens next game. Yeah, but he’s off to a good start I think.”