Five things to watch as Lions host Seahawks; plus prediction

Both teams at 3-3 heading into match-up at Ford Field

ALLEN PARK — To have a chance to win the NFC North, the Lions have to win at home.

So far they’re 2-1 at Ford Field with impressive wins over the Patriots and Packers and an  embarrassing loss to the Jets.

Sunday’s game at Ford Field against the Seattle Seahawks isn’t a must-win but almost halfway through the season it’s time to get on the right side of the .500 mark.

The Seahawks (3-3) have won three of their last four just like the Lions (3-3). Tee up another tough one for the home team. Seattle is coming off its bye week so should be rested and ready to go.

“I think Seattle has a little bit of jump on us this week and got going early. I know coach (Pete) Carroll is going to have his group ready to go,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “We just have to be ready to go from the start. We can’t let whatever happened last week affect us this week. We have to move on and get ready to go and just expect their best right away. They are a fast-starting aggressive team, we know that just in general so we’re going to have to be ready to go as soon as that thing kicks off. But we know that they’re energy, the competitiveness that Seattle brings, they’re going to do a great job of trying to get on top early and keep the throttle going all the way through the game.”

The Seahawks have outscored opponents 28-21 in the first quarters of their six games while the Lions have a 45-13 scoring edge in the first quarter.

Here are five things to watch:

1. No room for complacency on the Lions run game. Feed the ball to Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount. Don’t shy away. Keep pounding. Got that Jim Bob Cooter? I think he does, actually. Cooter has looked like an offensive genius since Johnson has found his groove.

2. Matthew Stafford has been playing out of his mind. In the last five games he’s thrown 11 touchdowns and one interception and finished each game with a rating of more than 100 (158.3 is perfect). He has the respect of the Carroll, the Seahawks and everyone else. “He’s a terrific player, I have great respect for him. He’s one of the great ones in the game. He’s got all the background, all of the experience, he’s thrown a million passes in unbelievable situations late in the game, two minutes, you name it, big third down guy, big red zone guy,’’ Carroll said on a conference call this week. “He’s a great player and he’s one of the classic quarterbacks in this league and has been for a long time.” The Seahawks’ passing defense is ranked third in the NFL allowing just 206.0 passing yards per game and they have nine interceptions, tied for sixth in the NFL

3. Will have to wait and see whether NT Damon “Snacks” Harrison will make his Lions’ debut. Patricia wouldn’t say either way prior to Friday’s practice. The nose tackle, acquired for the Giants, practiced with the team on Thursday and Friday. Stafford, who has played against him, said he’s not only good for stopping the run, but he’s also sneaky good in the pass game too. The defense has improved at stopping the run, but Harrison’s addition could be huge.

4. Detroit’s defense has to make Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson uncomfortable which is tough because he’s still dangerous when he gets outside the pocket. “Russell Wilson is still Russell Wilson, moves around a lot, makes a lot of plays for them. They are getting back to what they like to do is run the ball, run the ball, control the game up front and then take some shots off the run game,’’ Lions safety Glover Quin said. Wilson has thrown 13 touchdowns against just four interceptions.

5. Keep an eye on Seattle running backs Chris Carson (4.5 yards per carry) and Mike Davis (4.6 yards per carry).  The Seahawks average 127.8 rushing yards per game. “Coach ( Brian (Schottenheimer) and I went against each other for a long time when he was at the Jets and I know he likes that downhill kind of pound-it run game,’’ Patricia said. “And I think he just has two backs that he feels are big, physical guys that will be hard to tackle for 60 minutes. And I think they’re in a situation where they’re handing the ball off 30-plus times here recently in order to control the game and I think that’s what they want to do. I think that’s what he likes is just having those bigger backs that—it takes a toll. When you have those big guys, you may stop them for a yard or two early but those one or two-yard runs turn into five or six and then all of sudden it’s a 10 to 12 to 20-yard run and that’s the biggest problem with guys like that. And I think they’ve just settled into a system that fits them really well.”

PREDICTION: Lions 27, Seahawks 21

Lions welcome Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison with open arms and a box of snacks

Harrison expected to play Sunday against the Seahawks

ALLEN PARK — Damon “Snacks” Harrison has arrived.

Waiting for the newest Detroit Lions nose tackle in his locker was a big box of snacks — candy, chips, a solid goodie assortment for a 355-pound mountain of a man nicknamed “Snacks.”

“I thought it was appropriate. I reached out to him via social media. He said Honey Buns and Butterfingers, which are solid choices. I figured I’d take care of him and other D-linemen,’’ wide receiver Golden Tate said.

The Lions who traded a fifth-round pick to the N.Y. Giants for Harrison, made the move official on Thursday morning.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Harrison was handed a No. 98 jersey and practiced for the first time with the team. He’ll meet with the media on Friday.

“It’s exciting, he’s been a big-time playmaker in this league for a long time. He’s really good at what he does,’’ Matthew Stafford said. “Hopefully he can bring that to us. Played against him a bunch of times, he’s definitely a guy you star when you playing against him and understand what his strengths are. Obviously really happy to have him.’’

The nose tackle has developed a reputation as a run stuffer, but he offers more than that.

“(He’s) extremely disruptive in the run game and sneaky good in the pass game too,’’ Stafford said. “Condensing the pocket in the pass game, and in the run game just dominating with his size, strength and quickness he’s been really good for along time.’’

Defensive end Kerry Hyder spent 2014 on the practice squad with the N.Y. Jets where Harrison was a starter.

“He’s a good dude, I’ve known him since my rookie year. To see him here, he’s a real cool dude, man, and he’s definitely going to give us a great impact,’’ Hyder said. “I’m excited to see him out there.’’

Hyder expects Harrison to easily pick up the scheme and be ready for Sunday’s game at Ford Field against the Seattle Seahawks.

The Lions are riding a two-game win streak. Not much is needed to pump them up for a Sunday home game, but it appears the addition of Harrison has provided a spark in the locker room.

“What he’s done for a long time speaks for itself,’’ Tate said. “I think he’s an instant addition to our team that’s going to help us. That’s what we’re hoping for. I can’t wait to watch him.’’

Tate is not alone.

 

Lions Matt Patricia explains why he declined penalty; 2 plays later Dolphins scored

Coach placed faith in his defense to stop on third-and-7

ALLEN PARK >> It seemed a curious decision, when the Lions declined a holding penalty on the Dolphins during Detroit’s 32-21 win on Sunday.

The Twitterverse blew up, questioning what was going through coach Matt Patricia’s thought process.

In the second quarter, the Dolphins had a second-and-7 at their own 28 when quarterback Brock Osweiler attempted a pass to tight end Nick O’Leary that was incomplete. Miami’s Ja’Wuan James was called for offensive holding which would have given the Dolphins a second-and-17 from their 18.

Instead, Patricia declined the penalty. So the Dolphins had third-and-7 at their own 28.

Two plays later Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake broke through 54 yards for a touchdown, closing the gap and giving the Lions just a 6-point lead at 20-14.

The decision wasn’t a gut feeling by Patricia, it was based on statistics.

“Second-and-7 was probably right on the edge, probably third-and-8 is what you’re looking at from a statistical standpoint of declining a penalty in that situation and play third-and-8 instead of second-and-17. It’s right on the edge of it,’’ Patricia said at his Monday press conference.

“I thought we were in good field position, we had a good call, we were playing all right at that point as far as what they were doing. We just thought we wanted to stay in rhythm in the game, sometimes it’s about how the guys are playing at that moment,’’ the coach added.

Since the Dolphins scored on that drive it does not reflect well on the decision. If they had stuffed the run on third down and forced a punt, Patricia would have looked like a genius.

“It wasn’t a great decision by me,’’ Patricia said.

He had faith that his defense could stop Miami on third-and-7.

“Miami’s offense has some really big-play receivers and some big-play people out there. Some of those second-and-longer situations become, I don’t want to say more difficult to defend, but a little unpredictable as far as the space plays that they have dialed up,’’ Patricia said. “Third down we thought maybe we knew what they were going to do and could defend it.’’

It just didn’t work out that way.

That third-and-8 statistic could change team to team and week to week.

“There are certain markers you try to look at based on the team, based on where you’re playing, what you’re doing and what you feel the situation is right there,’’ Patricia said. “We’re probably right on the edge of it, in hindsight should’ve pushed them back.’’

Onward to preparing for the Seattle Seahawks (3-3) on Sunday at Ford Field. After winning two straight, the Lions are 3-3.