Lions without Kerryon Johnson, Mike Roberts; Teez Tabor inactive again

Nick Bellore misses first game

DETROIT >> The Detroit Lions (4-7) will face the Los Angeles Rams (10-1) today without top running back Kerryon Johnson who misses his second straight game with a knee injury. Expect LeGarrette Blount to pick up more carries like he did against the Bears on Thanksgiving.

Fullback Nick Bellore (ankle) and wide receiver Brandon Powell (calf) were also declared out on Friday. Tight end Michael Roberts (shoulder) was doubtful and is out.

Cornerback Teez Tabor will miss his second straight game. He’s healthy —  it’s a coach’s decision.

Wide receiver Bruce Ellington (back) and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (neck) were questionable but are active.

Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.

Other inactives: Linebaker Trevor Bates and defensive end Kerry Hyder.



Five things to watch as Detroit Lions host the Los Angeles Rams

Ndamukong Suh makes first return visit to Ford Field

A young coach, a balanced offense with a solid quarterback and a defensive line featuring Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. The combination has spelled success for the Los Angeles Rams and why wouldn’t it? Any NFL team would like to have some or most of those components.

That includes the Detroit Lions (4-7) who will host the Rams (10-1) on Sunday.

“They’re a very balanced offense and I think something we talk about all the time, that when you can be balanced on offense, it’s very difficult to defend and they’ve done a great job of that all year,’’ coach Matt Patricia said.

The Lions will have their hands full in all three phases.

“One of the things that’s really important with this team is just understanding how good they are on special teams and how good they are defensively. I think John Fassel does a phenomenal job on special teams. It’s one of the most dominant units in the league,’’ Patricia said. “They’re very consistent and they really make big plays.’’

Five things to watch:

1. Somehow, some way the Lions must get their run game going even without running back Kerryon Johnson who will miss his second straight game with a knee injury. LeGarrette Blount was the workhorse in the Thanksgiving loss to the Bears with 19 carries for 88 yards. “I think for our guys, we’re always on the program of whoever’s out there playing, we’re expecting everybody to do their best and go out and perform at a high level. We’ll do the same this weekend,’’ Patricia said.

2. Can’t overlook the Lions’ passing game either. Marvin Jones is out for the season, leaving Kenny Golladay, Bruce Ellington, TJ Jones, Theo Riddick  and the tight ends to pitch in. Matthew Stafford needs a better game, but he also needs his receivers to get open and run the right routes. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said the shortcomings on offense are all on him. “It’s a team game. We have 11 guys out there. We all have to execute and be on the same page. A lot of that stuff’s on me. You guys at home don’t always know exactly what’s going on on the field. I’m accountable for everything that happens on this offense. Bad things that happen, things that don’t happen right, whether it’s a decision or being in a different spot, or some sort of decision somebody out there on the field is making that maybe isn’t even seen on the TV copy of the game. That stuff’s all on me,’’ Cooter said this week.

3. Stop running back Todd Gurley, the NFL’s second most prolific back. The Lions run defense has been one of the few units that has improved this season, holding teams to a total of 148 rushing yards combined over the last three games. (See blog below.)

4. Pressure quarterback Jared Goff (26 touchdowns, 6 interceptions) who has been sacked 24 times. He’s got a flotilla of solid receivers in Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. “They’re a very explosive team. They do a great job with the scheme. Coach (Sean) McVay does an outstanding job of controlling the game on the offensive side of the ball with tempo. They use different tempos, they probably have about three or four different tempos that they can use offensively to dictate the game. So, we just have to do a good job of being really sound fundamentally and making sure that we’re doing a good job with our reads and our eye control.

5. Ndamukong Suh will return for his first game at Ford Field since he signed as a free agent with Miami in 2015. He and defensive tackle Aaron Donald are a powerful inside force that could present problems for the Lions’ offensive line and Stafford.

PREDICTION: Rams 35, Lions 17


Ndamukong Suh returns to Detroit as Lions take on first-place Rams Sunday

His first visit to Ford Field since left as free agent

ALLEN PARK >> Ndamukong Suh returns to Ford Field on Sunday for the first time since he signed with Miami as a free agent in 2015.

The defensive tackle returns with the Los Angeles Rams who are 10-1. While the sad-sack Lions have fallen to 4-7 in Matt Patricia’s first year.

Suh told the Los Angeles media he was looking forward to returning to Detroit. He loves the city and the fans but refrained from commenting on the organization that drafted him with the second overall pick in 2010.

Suh, who has started 110 straight games, had a few issues in Detroit. He was suspended for two games by the NFL for stomping the Packers’ Evan Dietrich-Smith on Thanksgiving in 2011. Through his time with the Lions he was fined eight times for a total of $255,375 by the NFL and gained a reputation for being one of the NFL’s dirtiest players.

He has been a good fit with the Rams.

“All I can speak to is my experiences with him and he’s been nothing but great. He’s an extremely mature player,’’ Rams coach Sean McVay said. “I always appreciate the dialogue we can have where he’s got such a great perspective based on his experiences. But then he’s also extremely intelligent with how he looks at the game.’’

Suh and Aaron Donald offer one of the biggest defensive line one-two  punches in the NFL.

They will be a handful for the Lions’ offensive line which is responsible for some of the 22 sacks of Matthew Stafford in the last five games.

“I think those two play off each other really well. And Ndamukong’s versatility has been something that’s really been impressive to us as an organization,’’ McVay said. “I think he’s an extremely smart player. Clearly, he’s had an extremely productive career. And his presence has definitely been felt by our football team in a variety of positive ways and I think he and Aaron what’s unique is just watching those two kind of the give and take that occurs and the mutual respect that exists between to perennial All-Pro players. And we feel very fortunate to have Ndamukong here with us.”

They certainly will provide a challenge for the Lions’ offensive line.

“I think Donald, just in general, he’s a tremendous player. This guy has explosiveness off the ball, he has violent hands, he has great change of direction, short space quickness. I think there are a lot of situations where he takes great advantage of offensive linemen that have underset him or overset him,’’ Patricia said. “He really can read the offensive linemen when they set to the spot and try to put themselves in between the quarterback and the defender. He does a good job of manipulating those guys, moving them, maybe getting the overset, countering back underneath or getting them to underset, freezing them and getting back to the edge. And his quickness just really allows him to be able to do that.’’

In just 11 games, Donald owns a career-high with 14.5 sacks. Most of those (10.5) have come in the last five games. He’s also got 28 quarterback hits and 16 tackles for loss.

“And certainly, now with Suh inside and even with (Dante) Fowler on the edge, and like I said with (Michael) Brockers, it’s hard to kind of distribute help everywhere. Those guys are taking advantage of those opportunities where they do become one-on-one in those situations, and they’ve been able to capitalize (on) them in a big way,’’ Patricia added.