Matthew Stafford ‘over’ Sunday’s tie; 5 thoughts on facing the Chargers

ALLEN PARK — Yes, Matthew Stafford said, “Trust me” on the sidelines after the timeout was called as he was attempting to convert on a third-and-5 on Sunday.

Know this, the Detroit Lions quarterback is over the move that helped precipitate a 27-27 tie with the Arizona Cardinals.

Earlier in the week coach Matt Patricia said he has 1,000 percent trust in Stafford.

Stafford no longer sees this as an issue.

“I think it’s just, you know, every situation is probably different, every game situation is different, you get put in a million situations in practice they’re all different,’’ Stafford said on Wednesday. “I’m not worried about that, to be honest with you, we’ve moved past it probably better than you guys have.’’

Stafford, like his teammates and coaches, is busy preparing to play the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at Ford Field.

Five thoughts from Stafford:

1. Moving on is key in the NFL where there are only 16 regular season games. “I think it’s a huge part of the NFL, win lose or draw every week, you’ve got to make sure you’re moving on,’’ Stafford said. “The Chargers get our attention, they’re a really good football team. They have a ton of talent across the board, they’ve been really successful the last couple years, they’ve got a great offense, a great quarterback (Philip Rivers) playing at a high level, then a defense that is really, really talented in a lot of areas.’’

2. Rivers, an eight-time Pro Bowler,  is just getting his 16th NFL season underway. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him as a player, he’s a great quarterback, he does a great job, I think under-appreciated in a lot of aspects,’’ Stafford said. “The guy shows up for his team every week, played in the AFC championship game with a torn ACL which is incredible. I’m sure he’s played through a million things that nobody knows about too.’’

3. In the first three quarters on Sunday, the new-look Darell Bevell offense moved the ball and took the 24-6 lead. So what did Stafford think. “There’s always things to be better, we can be a little more explosive in the run game, we were close a couple times, one block away or one (broken) tackle away, whatever it was,’’ Stafford said. “We were close in the run game, I thought we were explosive in the pass game which is good. We can be more efficient in the pass game, myself complete a couple more footballs. I was feeling good about it, I would’ve felt a whole lot better with a win but just keep it moving.’’

4. Tight end T.J. Hockenson set an NFL record for best game by rookie tight end in 59 years. Included in his highlights was a 23-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown catch. Here’s how Stafford remembers it: “It was third and forever (9), they play Tampa 2, we kind of ran a 4-vertical scheme, they let me out of the pocket a little so I tried to buy some time. I figured they weren’t going to let me have anything in rhythm for third down and long at that point. I was going to have to buy some time and make a play. They lost Hock in the back of the end zone, the frontside safety I think it was (D.J.) Swearinger, got super-wide and I was able to coax Hock into coming back a little bit inside and just threw it over the mike’s head and he made a great play.’’

5. Getting over a tie is a new experience. “It’s an odd feeling, to be honest with you. I haven’t experienced it as a professional,’’ Stafford said.” I don’t know the last time I tied anything.’’

Five things to know about Detroit Lions’ collapse, ending with a tie at Arizona

This was a game the Detroit Lions had to win to start the season. The Arizona Cardinals featured a rookie quarterback in Kyler Murray, were without their two starting cornerbacks and were playing first game under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Instead the Lions blew a 24-6 fourth-quarter lead and ended up with a 27-27 tie against the lowly Cardinals.

Oh, there’s plenty of blame to go around, but the coaching staff deserves a huge portion of it. This is a game of adjustments and they did not make them in the fourth quarter or overtime.

Also, they have to trust quarterback Matthew Stafford who had a solid opener (27-45, 385 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions and 22 yards rushing). 

With 2:47 left in the fourth quarter, the Lions had the game most likely won. But offensive coordinator Darell Bevell called a timeout on a third-and-5. Stafford didn’t hear him, so ran the play – a screen pass to J.D. McKissic along the sidelines. It was complete. The Lions just had to hold on — the Cardinals did not have a timeout left.

But the timeout call negated the completion and the next pass attempt to Kenny Golladay was incomplete. The Cardinals got the ball after the punt, went downfield with Murray scoring on a 4-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald and completing the 2-point conversion to Christian Kirk to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Murray looked like a rookie in the first three quarters and like a savior in the fourth and overtime. That was in part due to adjustments from the Cardinals and the fact that the Lions’ defense disappeared after playing solid in the first three quarters.

Five things to know: 

1. Patricia and his staff failed to adequately prepare the players and make adjustments when necessary. The Lions had a 24-6 lead in the fourth quarter, but everyone in Detroit knows that does not guarantee a win. That timeout is on his shoulders, as is the play of the defense in the fourth quarter and overtime.

2. Matthew Stafford was clearly angry after that bad timeout call. Can’t blame the guy. He appeared to be in midseason form. Starting his 11th season, he passed for 200 yards in the first half and 385 overall. The Lions are going to need more out of this new Bevell offense, but certainly saw a few good signs today. The run game needs work. Kerryon Johnson had 16 carries for 49 yards and C.J. Anderson had 11 for 35. OK, but not good enough for a Bevell offense which historically has leaned on the run. 

3. Two newcomers on offense were standouts. Neither really a surprise. Rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson had six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. The first one for 28 yards, another for 39 yards. Wide receiver Danny Amendola’s 47-yard touchdown catch was half a great play by Stafford who dodged a pair of rushers just to get the ball in the air AND a stutter step by Amendola after the catch to clear the path to the end zone. Amendola did make a mental mistake on a reception in overtime. After catching the ball instead of running out of bounds to stop the clock, he cut inward. He finished with seven receptions for 104 yards.

4. The offensive line was a bit of a question mark going in. Frank Ragnow, who was injured in the preseason, started at center. Joe Dahl got the start at left guard and Graham Glasgow at right guard, but Kenny Wiggins rotated in at those two positions throughout the game. Left tackle Taylor Decker certainly did not have his best day in fact he was awful. He had at least three penalties and allowed two sacks. 

5. The defense played well for three quarters but it wasn’t enough. They were back on their heels the fourth quarter and Murray took advantage. Devon Kennard was credited with three sacks, and rookie Jahlani Tavai, who started in place of the injured Jarrad Davis, notched his first sack and was effective when he was in the game. 

BONUS: It doesn’t get easier. The Lions host the Chargers (who beat the Colts in OT) next Sunday at Ford Field. Then they play at the Eagles on Sept. 22, then home to the Kansas City Chief on Sept. 29 and at Green Bay on Oct. 14 after a bye week.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

Detroit Lions 5 things: Matthew Stafford on the season opener, the new offense

ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford will start his 11th season with the Detroit Lions on Sunday at the Arizona Cardinals.

He may be 31, but he exudes the excitement of a kid about getting the football season going. 

The quarterback said some days and some times it does feel like he’s been at it in the NFL for 11 years, but he’s not complaining. 

“A lot of memories, a lot of games played, a lot of snaps that I can remember. All of it’s good experience and use it to my advantage as much as I possibly can,’’ Stafford said after Tuesday’s practice. “Every year I’m extremely excited to get out there and go play. We work all year for 16 opportunities that are guaranteed to us to go out there and play, kicking the first one off is a whole lot of fun.’’

Other thoughts from Stafford on the season, his teammates and more:

1. The offensive system has changed with the hiring of coordinator Darrell Bevell, Stafford’s fourth offensive coordinator. “Obviously we’ve been working extremely hard, he’s trying to get to know our players and myself as much as he can, I’m trying to get to know him and his system as best I can and try to make that thing gel as quickly as possible,’’ Stafford said. “It’s always a work in progress, whether it’s Year 1, Day 1 or Year 10, it doesn’t matter. You’re always trying to be better, find ways to be better.’’

2. He has a whole new group of tight ends this season — T.J. Hockenson (6-foot-5), Jesse James (6-foot-7) and Logan Thomas (6-foot-6). The group is definitely an upgrade over last year. “A lot of versatility, I think all of the guys can do a little bit of everything which is fun to have as a quarterback,’’ Stafford said. “All of them are big physical guys, all of them move really well, catch the ball really well (and are solid in) the run game and passing game blocking wise.’’

3. Despite his earlier denials there are still questions about his back and his health. “I feel great, I feel good,’’ Stafford said.

4. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who entered the NFL two years after Stafford, recently announced his retirement due to fatigue from rehabbing from injuries. “It doesn’t change my thought process, I think everybody is in their own different situation. Everybody is their own human being,’’ Stafford said. “I respect the hell out of Andrew. He’s a great player in this league, a warrior out on the football field, a great player when he was healthy and rolling. I’m happy for him if he’s happy. If that’s what makes him happy I’m really happy for him and I wish him the best.’’

5. After 10 seasons, are there still surprises? Yes. “These guys are getting younger every year in this locker room what they do on and off the field surprises me sometimes, I enjoy it man, it’s a really fun part of being around for as long as I’ve been around,’’ Stafford said.

Detroit Lions coordinator Paul Pasqualoni: Defense more comfortable, but Cardinals will provide challenges

ALLEN PARK — What a difference a year can make. When the Lions open the season at the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Detroit’s defense has a built-in advantage due to experience.

Defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni enters his second year with the group that has added a few new pieces since last season.

“I think we’re much more comfortable, all of the players who’ve returned, fortunately we’ve got quite a few guys who returned. I think we’re much more familiar with the system is, fitting pieces, trying to get the right guys on the bus and getting them in the right seat, so to speak,’’ Pasqualoni said on Monday. “I think that’s a process, that’s a work that you keep trying to get better at.’’

He does admit that the defense has a disadvantage because so many players have been injured.

“From a defensive standpoint we need to play together, we’ve had so many injuries and nicks and bumps we haven’t really had an opportunity to put the whole unit together and get them out there for an extended period of time,’’ Pasqualoni said. “That will be a work in progress this week and the first weeks of the season.’’

Early in the season, it’s difficult to know what to expect from any NFL team because they just don’t show much in preseason games. That will be amplified against the Cardinals who have a new coach in Kliff Kingsbury, a first-time NFL head coach, and in rookie quarterback Kyler Murray.

Pasqualoni expects a wide-open, spread offense, run mostly out of the shotgun, with 3-5 receivers on the field each snap. Oh, and no-huddle too. 

“It stretches you this way (holds his arms out wide) horizontally, and they stretch you vertically based on the speed of what they have in Kyler Murray’s ability to throw the ball, he can throw the ball deep,’’ Pasqualoni said.

Plus they have Arizona running back David Johnson to keep under control.

“You put too many resources into the pass and the run hurts you, you put too many resources into the run and the pass hurts you,” Pasqualoni said. “That’s the whole idea of this, this offense is really an explosive deal when you’ve got real speed at the wide receiver position, they’ve got a Hall of Fame receiver in Larry Fitzgerald who is going to really present issues in this offense too. It presents a lot of problems.”

The Lions’ defense took a while to get going last season. They lost 48-17 in their opener at home to the New York Jets.

But once they got going and added James “Snacks” Harrison on the defensive line, they improved steadily.

Now they’ve added veterans Mike Daniels and Tre Flowers to the defensive line along with a few other key pieces.

If middle linebacker Jarrad Davis doesn’t play (he’s not expected to be ready), rookie Jahlani Tavai could be running the defense. Pasqualoni wouldn’t say much about Tavai because he doesn’t want to put more pressure on him.  But if the second-round pick starts, that says the coaching staff believes in him.

The defense is a work in progress. It’s flexibility will definitely be tested in the opening week.

 

 

Detroit Lions trim roster to 53 with few surprises; more changes likely

The Detroit Lions established their 53-man roster on Saturday when they released 25 players including cornerback Teez Tabor, wide receiver Brandon Powell, safety Charles Washington and quarterback Tom Savage.

This roster is fluid and it’s likely GM Bob Quinn will make changes in the next few days as other NFL teams make cuts.

At this point:

Quarterbacks (3) — Matthew Stafford, Josh Johnson and David Blough.

Tom Savage was cut along with David Perez who could find a spot on the practice squad. Johnson just joined the Lions but is an NFL veteran who has played in 33 NFL games, including four starts with the Redskins last year. Blough was acquired in a trade on Friday.

Running backs (4) — Kerryon Johnson, C.J. Anderson, Ty Johnson and FB Nick Bawden.

The biggest surprise was the release of Zach Zenner earlier in the week. Zenner was a staple on special teams. It was clear that they like what they’ve seen from the rookie Johnson, a sixth-round draft pick.

Wide receivers (5) — Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola, Chris Lacy and Travis Fulgham.

Brandon Powell, who played in six games for the Lions in 2018, was cut in the tight competition for the fourth and fifth spots. Lacy’s special teams play gave him an edge, same with Travis Fulgham who was a sixth-round draft pick.

Tight ends (3) — T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James and Logan Thomas.

Expect much more from this position this season with an all-new crew. Hockenson was a standout in training camp and can learn from the veterans. Nauta, a seventh-round pick could return on the practice squad.

Offensive line (9) — Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, Rick Wagner, Joe Dahl, Kenny Wiggins, Oday Aboushi, Beau Benzschawel and Tyrell Crosby. 

Benzschawel’s versatility helped his cause. The undrafted rookie lineman can play guard and center. It’s unclear if Ragnow, who has moved to center, will be healthy to play in the opener at the Arizona Cardinals. If he goes, look for Glasgow and Dahl to start at the guard positions.

Defensive line (8) — Trey Flowers, Damon Harrison Sr., Mike Daniels, A’Shawn Robinson, Da’Shawn Hand, Romeo Okwara, Kevin Strong and Austin Bryant.

No real surprises here. Bryant was injured early in camp, but he apparently is getting close to a return. Strong is another undrafted rookie free agent. P.J. Johnson, a seventh-round pick could be a practice squad candidate.

Linebackers (6) — Jarrad Davis, Devon Kennard, Christian Jones, Jahlani Tavai, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Miles Killebrew.

No surprises here either. Anthony Pittman (Birmingham Groves, Wayne State) was cut but could be a candidate for the practice squad.

Defensive backs (12) — Darius Slay, Justin Coleman, Rashaan Melvin, Quandre Diggs, Tracy Walker, Will Harris, Amani Oruwariye, Tavon Wilson, Jamal Agnew, Mike Ford, Dee Virgin and C.J. Moore.

Teez Tabor, the 2017 second-round pick, was released. He was sidelined the past three weeks with a leg injury. Tabor was drafted despite his lack of speed and could never make up for it. Another cut, Charles Washington, was a factor on special teams and a great guy in the locker room, but couldn’t carve out a role on defense.

Special teams (3) — Kicker: Matt Prater;  Punter: Sam Martin; Long snapper: Don Muhlbach

Released on Saturday:

CB Johnathan Alston

DT John Atkins

LB Malik Carney

TE Jerome Cunningham

T Andrew Donnal

LB Garret Dooley

WR Jonathan Duhart

DT P.J. Johnson

DT Fredrick Jones

WR Tom Kennedy

C Leo Koloamatangi

LB Steven Longa

TE Isaac Nauta

T Matt Nelson

QB Luis Perez

LB Anthony Pittman

WR Brandon Powell

QB Tom Savage

DT Ray Smith

RB Justin Stockton

CB Teez Tabor

RB Mark Thompson

TE Austin Traylor

S Charles Washington

DE Jonathan Wynn

Detroit Lions release 2019 schedule

Will play one Monday night game on the road

Not too much drama in the release of the Detroit Lions’ 2019 schedule on Wednesday night although just two of the first five games will be played at Ford Field.

The Lions open on the road at the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 8 with their first home game in Week 2 against the Los Angeles Chargers who finished 12-4 last season.

They will play on Monday night game, on Oct. 14 at the Green Bay Packers. It will be their first game after the bye in Week 5 (Oct. 6).

On Oct. 27, the Lions will welcome the New York Giants and wide receiver Golden Tate.

On Thanksgiving they will face the Chicago Bears for the second straight season. In 2018 the Bears feasted on the Lions with a 23-16 win.

The regular season — the second under coach Matt Patricia —  will wrap up on Dec. 29 against the Packers at Ford Field. It’s the second straight home finale against the Packers. The Lions won that game 30-0 last year to finish the season, 6-10.

2019 REGULAR SEASON LIONS SCHEDULE

Sunday, Sept. 8 at Arizona Cardinals, FOX, 4:25 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 15 LOS ANGELES CHARGERS, CBS, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 22 at Philadelphia Eagles, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 29 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 6 BYE WEEK

Monday, October 14 at Green Bay Packers, ESPN, 8:15 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 20 MINNESOTA VIKINGS, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 27 NEW YORK GIANTS, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 3 at Oakland Raiders, FOX, 4:05 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 10 at Chicago Bears, CBS, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 17 DALLAS COWBOYS, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Nov.24 at Washington Redskins, FOX, 1 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 28 CHICAGO BEARS, FOX, 12:30 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 8 at Minnesota Vikings, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 15 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, FOX, 1 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 21/Sunday, Dec. 22 at Denver Broncos TBD

Sunday, Dec. 29 GREEN BAY PACKERS, FOX, 1 p.m.

PRESEASON SCHEDULE

Thursday, Aug. 8 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, WJBK-TV FOX 2, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 17 at Houston Texans WJBK-TV FOX 2, 8 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 23 BUFFALO BILLS, CBS, 8 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 29 at Cleveland Browns, WJBK-TV, FOX 2 7:30 p.m

Lions running back Zach Zenner makes most of his 12 carries in win at Cardinals

Scored first touchdown in 14 monthes

Zach Zenner snapped his 14-month scoreless streak when he ran in from 1 yard out for a touchdown in Sunday’s 17-3 win over the Cardinals at Arizona. His last touchdown had been on Oct. 5, 2017, in a loss to Carolina.

It’s not that the Detroit Lions running back gets many opportunities. Typically he does not. In the other four games he’s played on offense this season he’s had a combined four carries. He’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

Zenner’s dozen carries on Sunday were the most for him since the 2016 season when he had three games with 12 or more touches. In the final two regular season games that year he had a combined 32 carries and three touchdowns. In the playoff loss at Seattle he had 11 touches.

Seven of his 12 carries at Arizona came in a four-minute, fourth-quarter drive where the Lions were trying to eat up the clock. Zenner was responsible for 42 of the 75 yards on that drive and the touchdown that put the game out of touch for the Cardinals.

“I think Zach, again, he’s one of those guys that does a phenomenal job of just preparing and being ready to go, whatever the situation is. He goes out and plays a lot of special teams for us and he does a lot of different things that can help us win or can help us win in special teams and also on the offensive side of the ball,’’ coach Matt Patricia said on his Monday conference call. “So, certainly he had an opportunity to go out and have a couple plays, which he did really well.’’

Zenner also plays on special teams where he was in on 71 percent of the special teams snaps on Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

An undrafted free agent signed in 2015, he was let go with an injury settlement in early September this year. When he wasn’t working on getting his back healthy, he was studying for his medical school entrance exam and hoping for a phone call. When his back was healed and he was ready to go, the Lions brought him back.

Good thing, since Kerryon Johnson has missed the last three games due to a knee injury. Zenner is not LeGarrette Blount or Theo Riddick, but he can be effective when he gets a chance. Funny how that goes.