Touchdown celebrations an art form of sorts

ALLEN PARK — A monster was unleashed when the NFL loosened up the touchdown celebrations for this season.

It’s a fun thing and the Lions have been taking advantage of it.

Wide receiver Golden Tate has been having some fun in the first six weeks after his two touchdowns.

“Maybe I’m a little biased but I think our celebrations have been amazing. In my mind some of the ones in the past were OK but could be better. We’re just having fun we’re enjoying the new celebration rule and having fun,’’ Tate said on Thursday. “I think it’s drawing more attention to our league, I think we’re drawing more fans.’’

Coach Jim Caldwell said he misses most of them when they happen live, because he’s moving on to the next phase of the game.

Five things to know about the Lions and celebrations:

1. While you will never see coach Jim Caldwell involved (he barely cracks a smile during a game), he’s well aware and has no problem with it. “Coach Caldwell after the bye, after the meeting, he’s standing over me and I’m like, ‘Oh crap, what did I do? Am i in trouble? …  He showed me a video of his grandson catching a touchdown and running up to the camera and blowing a kiss.’’ That was one of Tate’s celebrations from 2016. Tate told Caldwell to make sure his grandson doesn’t practice the “Peoples Elbow” — a Tate special from the Saints game — unless he’s on a bed. Word is the 2-year-old has been practicing in his bed every night. “(The players) enjoy it and any time you can add enjoyment for them it’s good,’’ Caldwell said.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

2. Anything that can draw more young fans to the NFL is a positive. “It’s getting our young fans more involved, I think that’s what makes these celebrations more powerful — it’s things we’ve all done,’ Tate said.  “We’ve all played hide go seek, we’ve all watched The Rock at some point, we’ve all played hopscotch, duck-duck-goose and jump rope that’s what makes it so amazing.’’

3. The Lions have a players ad hoc celebration committee comprised of the usual suspects. They discuss celebrations on group texts. “And maybe on a Monday or something we’ll throw some ideas out there and see if there’s something. If it’s something that needs to be rehearsed we’ll do it once and be done with it,’’ Tate said. They are not crazy. The key to all their hard work is winning and scoring more touchdowns. The bulk of their time goes to that goal.

4. A celebration has to be short and impactful without lasting for three acts. “It happens so quick that there’s a lot of things you have to think about. That clock is still going. You’d hate to be penalized or leave (Matt) Prater with 1 second because we’re out there messing around after a touchdown we have to manage our time,’’ Tate said. “We’re just having fun, enjoying what we do.’’

5. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is more of a bystander during these celebrations. “I think he’ll get there at some point when the time is right for him. He’s so focused during the game, he’ll come and give you a high-five and he keeps it moving. … I don’t think it’s his personality. If he wants we’d love to have him,’’ Tate said.

BONUS — “This is something fun. I remember when I grew up and would see different players celebrating i thought it was the coolest thing ever. I think about our young crowd, I understand where we are in 2017, everything is about social media. … A lot of fans miss some of those things. It’s something that’s relevant right now,’’ said Tate who uses social media to send links to celebration videos.

Lions sign Matt Prater to 3-year extension; no place he’d rather be

Prater has scored 45 of Lions’ 161 points this season

ALLEN PARK — Matt Prater has proven his worth since he joined the Lions early in the 2014 season. The kicker been rewarded with a three-year contract extension worth $11.4 million.

“It kind of happened quick, management came up, wanted to get a deal done and I was excited —  I’m all about staying in Detroit and hopefully retiring here at the end of the day,’’ Prater said on Wednesday.

He said when he first signed the one-year deal he was thinking maybe he could stick around, but it was tough to tell.

Turns out he loves it in Detroit.

“Just everything from top to bottom, from ownership, the Ford Family, Bob Quinn upstairs, Matt Harriss, coach (Jim) Caldwell, the team, fans, everything,’’ Prater said. “There’s no place I’d rather be than in Detroit.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Obviously, Quinn values special teams players. Punter Sam Martin signed a four-year extension 13 months ago worth $13.6 million. Martin is the holder for Prater’s field goal attempts.

“We have good chemistry together and work well together,’’ Prater said. “I’m excited to be with him for another three years.’’

Martin has been out injured since the start of training camp but is back in the fold this week.

“He’s great I don’t think we’ll miss a beat,’’ Prater said. “He’s working hard and doing really well.’’

Prater, 33, accounts for 45 of the Lions’ 161 points scored through the first six games this season. He’s a perfect 15 of 15 on extra points and 10-of -12 on field goals.

What makes him better than most of the rest is his distance and consistency.

His teammates love what he brings to the team.

“It’s awesome. Every time we touch the ball we want to score a touchdown, but we know we got a pretty good option if we don’t,’’ quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “He’s shown the ability to make all sorts of kicks, in all sorts of environments in all sorts of climates. So, he’s made some big time clutch kicks for us, I think he relishes that moment, which is pretty fun to see. Some kickers maybe don’t, and he’s a gamer and does a great job for us.”

In his 11-year NFL career Prater has made 40 of 51 field goals from 50 yards or longer (78.4 percent) which ranks as the highest in NFL history. His 40 50-yard or more field goals are tied for fourth all-time in NFL history.

In fact, Prater made a dozen straight 50-yard or longer field goals from Jan. 3, 2016, through Sept. 24, 2017. He averaged 54.7 yards per field goal during that stretch.

When he kicked a pair of 55-yard plus field goals in the loss to Atlanta on Sept. 24, he became the second kicker in NFL history to kick 10 field goals of 55 yards or more.

He is first in the NFL to kick four 55-yard plus field goals in a single season. This occurred during the first three games this season. Chances are he could add to that in the next 10 games.

Prater was named the NFC special teams player of the week after the first week of the season.

When punter Kasey Redfern injured his knee early in the win over the Cardinals, 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 was signed as a free agent on Oct. 7, 2014, after the Lions struggled in the kicking game with Nate Freese and Alex Henery. He had been suspended for four games by the NFL and when he returned the Denver Broncos cut him, opening the door for Detroit.

Oddly enough, Prater was originally signed by the Lions in 2006 as the backup during training camp to Jason Hanson. He was cut before the season started.

Lions Jim Caldwell on Taylor Decker, Ziggy Ansah, the bye and more

Next up are the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night

ALLEN PARK >> When last we left the Lions, they limped into the bye week with two straight losses and too many injuries.

The players returned to work on Monday after having five days off for the bye week.

They face the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2), who are coming off wins over the Chiefs and Bengals, on Sunday night at Ford Field.

It’s too early to know how many of the injured Lions (3-3) will be ready to go. The list includes: Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate, T.J. Lang, Rick Wagner, Kenny Golladay, Ziggy Ansah, Dwayne Washington and Paul Worrilow.

Their first practice this week will be on Wednesday with an injury report at 4 p.m., that day.

Here are thoughts from coach Jim Caldwell at Monday’s press conference:

— Obviously the Lions need left tackle Taylor Decker to return and he should be close. His three-week practice window could start this week, although Caldwell would not say. Decker has surgery on his right shoulder in June and started the season on the physically unable to perform list. It could take a week or so of practice for the second-year left tackle to be activated from the PUP list. “It just takes a little time to get their timing back and physical nature of the game, and all of those things that go along with it. It’s a process–best way I could explain it to you,’’ Caldwell said, speaking in generalities. He said the process is different with everyone.

— Caldwell defended defensive end Ziggy Ansah who has four sacks after six games.  “When you look at him, he’s gotten some production for us. Often times you don’t see it stat wise, you guys look for sacks and those kinds of things, we look for disruption and assists,’’ Caldwell said. “He has a lot of that, makes plays for us, he sets the edge for us, he does a lot of things extremely well. But when you talk about overall, the things you guys focus on are strictly numbers in terms of sacks. Let’s see where he is at the end of the year, then let’s talk about it. But I think he’ll be alright.”

— During the bye week, the Lions brought back rookie quarterback Brad Kaaya who they drafted in the sixth round. He’s familiar with the offense because was with the Lions through training camp. He didn’t make the final cut so was placed on waivers and picked up by the Carolina Panthers. They waived him on Oct. 17. So for the first time in the regular season, the Lions have three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. It could means changes in the daily routine. “We practice in terms of making certain we get Matthew (Stafford) ready for the game. That’s the key. Jake does get some reps, but not necessarily many, and Brad Kaaya will get obviously what’s left in that regard. But obviously, we like him. Obviously, we think he’s a fine player, and has a good potential and we want to continue to work with him,’’ Caldwell said.

— The coaches had some time to breathe during the bye week also. “Just kind of gives you an opportunity to kind of look at yourself a little bit. You got a couple of extra days. You do a little bit more self-scout, those kinds of things,’’ Caldwell said. “But then also you get a chance to get a little ahead on the next opponent as well. So, you get a little extra viewing time in terms of preparation. So, those things all bode well.”

Detroit Lions have quite a to-do list for the bye week

Problems abound on offense and defense

ALLEN PARK — Like any NFL team the Lions would have preferred to go into their bye week riding a high with a win.

Not only did they lose 52-38 on Sunday in New Orleans, it was a game that exposed their shortcomings.

Coach Jim Caldwell doesn’t mind that the players have an extra week to stew about the loss.

“Sometimes festering’s a good thing. So, we try to balance it and it kind of depends on where we are as a team and how we see it and we adjust it in that regard. But there’s nothing wrong with being really determined about making certain you correct your errors,’’ Caldwell said on Monday. “So, it just kind of depends on the week. When you got one right away, you certainly try to get it behind you within a relatively short period of time, and this particular week, it’s not a bad thing that we need to be concerned about a whole lot of things in terms of how we’re playing.”

Players and coaches went over film on Monday — it couldn’t have been any fun— and will look to correct those mistakes before the players get league-mandated time off.

The Lions (3-3) will  worry about their next opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers, when they get back from their break.

Five things that should be on the to-do list for the Lions:

1. Get healthy. The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. Caldwell said after the game, and again on Monday, if they had to play on Thursday night they might be in trouble. “If we were playing a Sunday game it might be even fairly tough, so this comes at a great time for us,’’ Caldwell said on Monday. The injured include Matthew Stafford (ankle, ribs), Glover Quin (concussion), Golden Tate (shoulder), T.J. Lang (back), Greg Robinson (ankle) and likely more we don’t know about. And, of course, Caldwell wouldn’t provide any news. When asked if any of the injuries are long-term, he just said, “We’ll see.” No injury report will be released this week due to the bye.

2. Fix the offensive line. It will help when left tackle Taylor Decker returns which could be in a few weeks. Caldwell wouldn’t say. But in the meantime, they’ve got work to do on the line. Don’t know where to start. They seem stuck with Greg Robinson until Decker returns. It’s a mash-mash of bodies. It’s a mess. The line is part of the reason that Stafford has been sacked 17 times in the last three games. Fix the line and Stafford will look like the quarterback he can be. Funny how that works.

3. Figure out how to get the offense out of neutral and off to quicker starts. The Lions have been outscored 37-17 in the first quarter in the first six games and 92-62 in the first half. Caldwell said it changes from game to game, but they are not executing early

4. The defense has to stop the run. Sounds easy, eh? Well they allowed the Saints to scamper for 193 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. They miss Haloti Ngata but other guys have to step up. Plain and simple. “I’m as much concerned with the turnovers that we had that cost us points, that gave up points as anything. That teams going to score some points, but we certainly got to be able to keep them at bay,’’ Caldwell said. “It’s really the yards on the ground obviously we’re concerned about. Anytime they can churn up that kind of yardage on us we’re concerned and the turnovers mar a lot of different things just in terms of, when you look at strictly how the game unfolded, turnovers kind of clouds your mind a little bit.’’ The Lions lost two fumbles and Stafford threw three interceptions.

5. This is specific. Figure out how the Saints were able to tip a dozen balls on Sunday. It was the most in the league on Sunday. Caldwell said it didn’t mean that the Lions offense is too predictable just that it was an unusual game.  “I mean, you just look at the game, it’s kind of changed a little bit. I think A’Shawn (Robinson) has 10 at such a young stage in his career. And big John Henderson when we played when he was at Jacksonville was a big, tall guy in there, J.J. Watt’s one that’s done a great job of adjusting. I just think it was just one of those games that you — we’ve played a lot games around here within the same system and it was just unusual. Just unfortunate, and they were all different ways that they had them,’’ Caldwell said. “Maybe it was a lineman didn’t cut his guy, his hands got up, he’s supposed to get him on the ground, maybe it was a launch angle, those kinds of things. So, it was a lot of different scenarios, but the great thing about it, even though it was difficult, and it wasn’t pretty, and we’re not happy with it, it’s correctable. So, we’ll go to work on that.”

BONUS: Caldwell on the loss of Aaron Rodgers and what it means to the NFC North: “He’s a great player but you find that you look across the League and there’s a number of teams that have guys starting for them that they’re not starter at quarterback position that still play extremely well. That’s a good football team all the way around. They’re good on defense. They’re good kicking game. They have a really good unit. He’s obviously a phenomenal player, but I still think Green Bay is Green Bay.”

Five reasons the Detroit Lions lost to the New Orleans Saints in a weird game

In second half, Detroit scored 28 unanswered points

Not much went right for the Lions on Sunday in New Orleans where they lost 52-38 to the Saints.

Give them credit though for fighting until the end.

Detroit was down 45-10 in the third and came back to within a touchdown scoring 28 unanswered points.

“We don’t give up, our guys show a lot of resolve. They think We’ll get things straightened out as we move along. Our guys always think they have a chance to get it done, always think they have a chance to close the gap, they believe in one another,’’ coach Jim Caldwell told the media afterward. “I don’t think these guys ever think they’re out of a ball game.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The Lions dropped to 3-3 and will be off next weekend on their bye. With so many injuries it’s perfect timing. Perhaps the time off will allow some guys to heal up.

The injury list is long and lengthened in the second half when Glover Quin (concussion) went down, same with Golden Tate (shoulder).

Matthew Stafford started with a wonky ankle and got beat up early and often — he was sacked five times and pressure more. At one point he was holding his ribs when the Lions were down five touchdowns (45-10) in the third quarter. Jim Caldwell kept him in the game and he fought back.

“It was a different one for sure. I talked to Drew (Brees) about that after the game. He came up and said that was a weird one, eh? It was, it was crazy. We have to find a way to start faster and make it competitive early on,’’ Stafford said.

Right guard T.J. Lang surprisingly was inactive when his back tightened up before the game. Late in the game right tackle Rick Wagner left the game with an injury and came back in. Left tackle Greg Robinson also went out with an ankle injury.

Injuries, though, are not an excuse in the NFL. In the first half Detroit’s offense stunk.

Ditto for the defense. Even Matt “Mr. Automatic” Prater missed a 56-yard field goal, although it wasn’t a difference maker.

It’s tough to narrow it down, but here are five reasons the Lions lost.

1. The Lions defense couldn’t stop the run. Last week in the loss to the Panthers they held Carolina to 28 rushing yards. The Saints had 128 rushing yards in first half and 193 total. Inexcusable. “Any time we allow a team to run consistently on us and run well we’re not happy about that. … In terms of run defense we weren’t able to do that consistently. Once things got turned around we started playing better defense and started tackling better to give ourselves a chance,’’ Caldwell said.

2. Detroit’s defense couldn’t stop the pass either. Drew Brees had a good day with 186 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Those were his first two picks this season. Detroit’s defense was also caught off-guard by two straight plays  in second quarter — a fullback option on fourth-and-1 for the first down, and a flea flicker that gained 20 yards. Inexcusable.

3. On the plus side for the Lions’ defense, defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson got his hands on a Brees’ pass, held on and sprinted two yards into the end zone. The Saints defense scored three touchdowns — one on a fumble recovery in the end zone and two on interception returns by Marshon Lattimore and Cameron Jordan. Also Darius Slay also had an interception but the Lions couldn’t capitalize on that.

4. Stafford was playing with wonky ankle, but worse than that the make-shift offensive line stunk. Right guard T.J. Lang was inactive after his back tightened up so Emmett Cleary started at right guard. It’s not all on Cleary either. Left tackle Greg Robinson, who has struggled throughout the start of the season, was benched in the first half, came back and injured his ankle. Sacks are not all on the offensive line, but they share the blame. The consistent pressure on Stafford gave him little time to work. Stafford was sacked five times which makes it 17 sacks in the last three games. Guess what? Inexcusable.

5. Stafford had a dozen passes tipped. That was the most in one game in the NFL this season. Part of that goes on the offensive line and credit also goes to the Saints’ defense. Stafford’s stat line wasn’t too pretty — 26-of-52 for 316 yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions, and two fumbles lost. Caldwell said Stafford had ups and downs, but also mentioned he’s got to have help. There was some question about whether Stafford should’ve started with his bad ankle. He practiced all week and Caldwell, like always, left the decision up to the doctors. Afterward Stafford said his ankle felt “great” but the bye week for his body is coming at a good time. The quarterback wasn’t himself but even at 75 percent (or whatever) he is better than Jake Rudock would be at 100 percent.

Detroit Lions T.J. Lang a surprise inactive vs. Saints; Golladay remains out

Cornelius Washington also out today

The Detroit Lions’ offensive line takes a big hit today with right guard T.J. Lang (back) inactive against the Saints. Lang had no practice on Wednesday or Friday and was limited on Thursday. It’s not unusual for him to get a day off for rest so it’s a surprise that he will not play.

Look for Tim Lelito to start at right guard. Lelito was signed as a free agent on Sept. 26. He has yet to play a snap for Detroit, but he started 24 games for the Saints from 2013 to 2016. He played in all 16 games for New Orleans in 2016 with seven starts.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who injured his ankle in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers, will start as expected. He had full practices all week.

Defensive end Cornelius Washington was not on the injury report this week but is also inactive for today.

Wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring) will miss his third straight game.

Also, running back Dwayne Washington (quad) will be out for the fourth week.

Linebacker Paul Worrilow (knee) will miss his second straight game. He was ruled out on Friday.

Other Lions inactives: Running back Tion Green and defensive lineman Datone Jones.

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions visit New Orleans Saints

Lions have won 3 straight against the Saints

For some reason Matthew Stafford and the Lions seem to find success against the New Orleans Saints, at least recently.

“Man, you don’t have to remind. No. 1, I’d say his decision making, his accuracy, the ball comes out. He’s tough to get to, he’s got a quick stroke, he’s got playmakers outside and versatility at the running back position,’’ Saints coach Sean Payton said this week on a conference call.

“So obviously, especially here, I thought we played better up there in ’14 in a real close game, but the last two games have been challenging for us, and we obviously are going to have to play better to avoid those results,’’ Payton added.

In 2016 at New Orleans, the Lions won 28-13. And then in 2015 — again in New Orleans — Detroit won 35-27. It was closer in 2014 when the Lions won 24-23 at Ford Field.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The two NFC teams meet again on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.

Here are five things to watch:

— Matthew Stafford must stay upright after being sacked a dozen times in the past two games. He injured his ankle last Sunday in the loss to the Panthers but practiced at full-tilt this week. This had to be a priority this week among the Lions coaches. They have to protect their quarterback better. It’s not all on the offensive line, each person (tight end, back, wide receiver) must take his blocking responsibilities seriously.

— The offense, as a whole, must be more consistent throughout the game. We know they excel in the two-minute offense. They need that same intensity each time they are on the field. They’re coming off their worst game this season in the 27-24 loss to the Panthers.

— Eric Ebron needs to catch the ball and hold on. He can do it, we’ve all seen him. He knows it’s a problem, so does everyone else. In Week 2, he had five targets and five catches. That seems like a long time ago. Last Sunday he dropped a pass in the end zone.

— The defense fell apart a bit against Cam Newton on Sunday. They did hold the Panthers to 28 rushing yards which is huge, but Newton threw for 355 yards. When the LIons get behind, the defense can’t change. Each guy has to do his job. Sounds simple. When things are looking horrific, guys want to step up and help out a teammate. That’s when they get into more trouble. It seems so simple — do your job. But several of them have named that as one of their problems.

— The secondary, which had played well in the first four games, fell apart Sunday. It’s not all on cornerback Darius Slay but he had his worst game of the season. Drew Brees is having a good season with eight touchdowns, 1,135 passing yards and zero interceptions. He’s got a few big targets in Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. And while the Lions are minding their own responsibilities, they also need to get back to creating turnovers. The Saints have not turned the ball over once in their first four games. Glover Quin said he likes the law of averages on that. The defense has to make it happen.

PREDICTION: Lions 27, Saints 24. Detroit bounces back from the loss to the Panthers and keeps their win streak against the Saints alive.