Five things to watch as Lions look to snap road losing streak at Bears; plus my prediction

Coming off a home win against the Packers, the Lions have a chance to snap that ugly 13-game losing streak on the road when they face the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Coach Dan Campbell said he might not present it to his team that way.

“Boy that’s brutal, when you just said that I haven’t thought of it like that. That’s rough, I think we will talk about that now that you’ve – yeah, no look I think it’s this. I don’t think – I think what we talk about is, ‘Hey, man first road win. This is an opportunity to get the first road win,’’ Campbell said. 

The coach said to get success on the road it takes composure and discipline. “You know it’s going to be loud. There will be things that are going to happen, momentum will shift and not to buckle under that pressure is big. And then I think from a coaching standpoint, we’ve got to keep it – we’ve got to have enough ammo, but we’ve got to keep it simple enough to where we don’t put ourselves in a bind. You put in too much stuff, for example offense, man it’s good. You’ve got all these things you want to attack, but yet, man, if it’s a lot of kills and shifts and motions to the extent where it takes away from you getting lined up, and just doing your job playing fast, playing efficiently. That’s where you’ve got to be careful of,’’ Campbell said.

The Lions have not won on the road under Campbell. Their  last road win was on Dec. 6, 2020, at Chicago with a 34-30 mark.

“We both kind of have our backs against the wall a little bit, so there will be that fight and that fight to the bitter end, and you have to prepare for that,’’ quarterback Jared Goff said. “There are some teams that you don’t get that with, but we’re both kind of in the mix of this adversity, trying to pull our ways out of it. It’s going to be a fight. It’ll be a good one, and we’ll be ready.”

Five things to watch as the Lions (2-6) face the Bears (3-6):

1. The Lions defense, which is coming off its best game this season, has had some trouble with mobile quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts and Geno Smith. Facing Bears’ Justin Fields, who had 178 rushing yards against the Dolphins last week, will present another challenge. “I think over the past three weeks, they adjusted on how they operate with this ( Fields) quarterback, and he’s playing at a high level right now. And I would say in the run and really in the pass game when you think about it, man, he’s not getting the yards that you’d want, but he’s being efficient with what he’s doing,’’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “And I’ll tell you what, these two backs they have, I mean they’re really good now. They’re really, really good, and the thing is they break tackles, they can find the seam, so we really have to be disciplined.’’

2. Continue the improvements the defense made last week. “Really excited about the way the defense played, but I guess more excited of the fact that our defense was on the field at a critical time at the end of the game to put the game away, and that was something that our guys needed because belief starts to stick,’’ Glenn said. “And I’ve said this to you guys before, belief is a powerful drug, so that’s something that we’ve got to continue to do, and I’m proud of the way our guys fought. I’m proud of the energy, the execution, just overall, the sideline, it was outstanding. And this has got to be one of the better games we’ve had since I’ve been here, so I’m looking forward to more games like that. And then just continue to look forward to practice, so we can continue to just get better.”

3. While the defense was on fire the offense played just well enough to win but has seen a lack of explosive plays in the last two weeks. “I want to say just by our metrics there were five explosives two weeks ago and then only four last week, which really we’ve been averaging over eight early in the season there,’’ offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said. “So, the explosive game hasn’t been there and that’s not just throwing the ball down the field or getting the big runs. It’s also some of these opportunities we have to get the ball in our hands short and making a tackler miss and creating something that way.’’ In their metrics a run is considered explosive at 12 or more yards while it’s 16 or more for a pass.

4. While D’Andre Swift is still not 100 percent, Jamaal Williams has been logging the bulk of the work in the run game. “I think since we got him even a year ago, he’s been the model of consistency for us offensively. He runs hard. It might not be flashy or sexy all the time, but he finds a way to always be falling forward when he’s being tackled,’’ Johnson said. “He’ll find creases. He’s got great vision, and he’s shown the ability to break tackles and potentially have some explosive runs for us too. So, minus the one game, the Dallas game, I mean he has been exactly what we want from a physical, downhill running back.”

5. One of the reasons the LIons’ defense had success last week was rookie safety Kerby Joseph playing his best game. ”Since he started, which has been about four weeks now, he’s just every week gotten a little bit better and I think that’s what it says is that he’s putting in the work and he’s growing,’’ Campbell said. “And that’s – just as far as the players, it continues to trend that way is the whole idea, but that’s a credit to Brad (Holmes) and our scouting staff, to be able to project a player like that and hopefully he continues to trend that way.’’

INS AND OUTS: Wide receiver Josh Reynolds (back) is out after not practicing all week. Tackle Matt Nelson (calf) is doubtful. Four are questionable: Joseph (concussion protocol), safety Ifeatu Melifonwh (ankle), cornerback Chase Lucas (ankle) and LB Malcolm Rodriguez (elbow).

(Prediction: Bears 31, Lions 21)

Five things to watch as Lions play at Cowboys; plus prediction

After a bye week of rest and reflection, the Lions will see if they found the answers during their deep dives into what went wrong (and right) in the first five games.

Detroit (1-4) takes on the Cowboys (4-2) at Dallas at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

The Lions were close in three games losing by 4 or fewer points. They got blown out by the Patriots 29-0 heading into the bye. 

We’ve got to figure out how to make that one play now when we get in those close games. The key is, man, we can’t let this be like New England was for us when we’re not even in the game. We’ve got to give ourselves a chance to get back in it,’’ coach Dan Campbell said. “You’re in it the last two minutes of the game, you’re either in two-minute or four-minute. And then, you’ve got to come away with those wins and that’s what we haven’t done. But we’re close.”

Five things to watch:

1. One of the deep dives during bye week had the defensive coaches examining the pass rush or lack of it in the first five games. The return of defensive lineman John Cominsky should provide a boost. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said while some may look at stats (the Lions have seven sacks total) he looks more at pressure. “When you pressure it ends up bringing takeaways, that’s what comes. I’ve talked to our guys about that. I understand from the outside they’ve been hearing about that, especially as a young player I know that Aidan (Hutchinson) is the guy everyone talks about,’’ Glenn said. “I’m trying to get him to calm himself down so he won’t get out of character just continue to work. We’re going to continue to do what we have to do to put you in positions, you just close yourself off from everyone and go play. I think he’s going to do a good job this week.’’

2. Missed tackles and missed assignments have also been an issue in the first five games. “Those are the things that we really looked at all week to make sure we cleaned that up,’’ Glenn said. … He said it’s an issue they can fix. “I would say more physical. Not wrapping up, shoulder tackles, not vice tackling, things like that, which are really correctable and that’s the good thing about it. And in this League, man, sometimes guys think that they can make a tackle just by diving and lunging. And I’ll tell you what, that’s the one thing across the League now, not just us but across the League that’s the one thing that you see that’s went down is tackling. But the thing is, I try to teach to our guys, well let’s be the guy, let’s be the team on the other side. Let’s not be like everybody else, let’s be a team that can tackle and we worked on that this week.’’

3. The Cowboys have the NFL’s third best defense allowing just 16.3 points per game. One reason is their rush. “That is the biggest challenge for us will be that rush, and not just handling it, but as much as we can to stay away from it, which means you’ve got to be good on first and second down. You have to be real good,’’ coach Dan Campbell said. “But they do, they present a challenge. I mean (DE Dorance) Armstrong, he’s come on. It’s not just that, you watch him on punt rush, I mean, he’s a menace. And (DE DeMarcus) Lawrence has still got it, and ( LB Micah) Parsons we all talked about. We know what he is, and (DE Dante) Fowler off the edge, and so they can do it multiple ways. I mean, they can still bring ( LB Anthony) Barr too. But yeah, they present a challenge, but there again, I like our O-line. I like our tackles. We’ll have a plan. We can’t let those guys wreck the game, but yeah, that’s an issue, and it’s caused a lot of teams problems. That’s why this is one of the better defenses in the League.”

4. The bye week was bad timing for Detroit’s defense which was shut out by the Patriots. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said after careful study he came up with three points the offense needs to improve —  communication, fundamentals/technique and critical situations. “That’s what showed up in the first five games where there’s short yardage, third downs, two-minute, four-minute all those where we could potentially close the game out or end the game with the ball. We have to be better there. So, I think the guys took that to heart,’’ offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said. 

5. After years of being spoiled with Jason Hanson and then eventually Matt Prater, kicking is an issue with the Lions. Austin Seibert was 3-of-5 on field goals before he was injured. In the loss at New England, kicker MIchael Badgley didn’t play. Punter Jack Fox took care of kickoffs. Instead of taking a chance of a 50-yard field goal, the Lions instead went for it on fourth-and-9 and Jared Goff took a sack, fumbled and the Patriots returned it for a touchdown. “We’ll look back at this (kicking) thing at the end of the year and say, ‘You know what, we got good production out of that position. I think we can turn it around.’ So, it’s still early in the year,’’ special teams coordinator Dave Fipp said. “When you look at percentages right now, one miss makes a big difference on the overall percentage, so when you look at it that way, I think, yeah, it’s hard to swallow right now, but I would say, when it’s all said and done, I think it’ll be better than what we’re looking at right now, for sure.’’

INS and OUTS: DL John Cominsky is expected to return. Rookie DL Josh Paschal could see his first action this season. RB D’Andre Swift was officially listed as questionable on Friday’s team report.  CB Jerry Jacobs will come back from injury. The bad news is that WR DJ Chark was placed on injured reserve and CB Bobby Price is out for the season. Officially out will be DE Charles Harris, S Ifeatu Melifonwu and T Matt Lesson. 

(Prediction: Cowboys 30, Lions 28)

Five things to watch as Lions face the Seahawks; plus prediction

If the Lions are going to make a big turn-around this season, the defense must step up. Quite frankly, it stinks. The turn-around should come quickly with the Seahawks visiting on Sunday.

The Lions’ defense rates at the bottom of the NFL in giving up points per game (31.0) and red zone efficiency (90.91%). It’s at 28th for total defense and takeaways. Rushing defense is ranked 27th, passing defense 25th.

“Not give up points. That’s how you fix it. But I will say this, in the red zone, man, you’ve got to watch this tape. I mean there are times when we’re in position, and we’re just not finishing plays,’’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said this week. “And a lot of times, we’ve got to make sure that we’re coaching the players to do the things that they need to do too, so. And I will continue to say, man, that’s a two-way street between coaches and players, and we’ve got to continue to understand that. But man, you watch those early parts of the game, we’re playing like gangbusters.’’

He said the guys are competing and playing physical until it gets to crunch times. “it just seems like, ‘Ah, how do we do this here, or do we have to do this and when we don’t?’ We just keep doing the same things we have been doing to put ourselves in that position, and that’s what we have to continue to coach, and that’s what we have to continue to do as players,’’ Glenn said.

The offense has had its share of injuries — and will be missing D’Andre Swift and Amon-Ra St. Brown on Sunday — but it still ranks third in the NFL in total offense and second in points per game.

Finger pointing is not allowed in the locker room, but all three units need to play better. Five things to watch as the Lions (1-2) host the Seahawks (1-2):

1. Defense must get more pressure on quarterback Geno Smith who leads the NFL with a 77.5 percent completion rate. It’s not all one rookie defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson but he can do better. He had one half with three sacks and has made plays that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet, but he and the linemen can do better. Alim McNeil and Michael Brockers do their part on stopping the run but the line must step up.

2. The defensive backfield does not get a pass. With Tracy Walker (torn Achilles) out for the season their task will be even tougher. Coach DanCampbell would not say who will step in to fill Walker’s position. Cornerback Jeff Okudah has come back nicely from his torn Achilles last season. Cornerback Amani Oruwariye had a nightmare of a game against the Vikings with multiple penalties but the coaches still have faith in him. “I think Amani’s a pro and  he had a rough game. And that’s – that’s just the bottom line. But I also know – he also snapped back there at the end and got a big stop for us one-on-one with (Adam) Thielen on the perimeter,’’ Campbell said. “So, I think Amani’s got thick skin. I know that he’s going to want to be better. And he’ll come out this week ready to work. I’m really not worried about him. I think he’ll snap right back to the Amani we know.”

3. Jared Goff has got off to a solid start and now must find ways to keep the chains moving without his two offensive stars, D’Andre Swift (shoulder/ankle) and  Amon-Ra St. Brown (ankle) along with wide receivers Josh Reynolds (ankle) and D.J. Chark (ankle) who are both questionable. Goff said it really won’t change his role much. “We may or may not have a couple of those guys, the guys who would step in I feel comfortable with,’’ Goff said. “Last year as brutal as it was there were a lot of valuable reps with a lot of those guys who would potentially need to step in. It’s guys I would feel comfortable with.’’

4. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has come up with imaginative game plans and that’s expected to continue.An emphasis was put on third downs this week after they converted just 3 of 16 in the loss to the Vikings. “Clearly, we didn’t convert at the rate we’d like to. However, you look at last week, and we were a yard short on a number of them, so we are very close. I think we called the game the way we wanted to in those situations,’’ Johnson said.

5. Campbell will not change his modus operandi. He is who he is. But he is also introspective and admitted that he should have gone for it on fourth-and-4 late in the Vikings loss. “I’ve got to be better. I’ve got to learn from it no different than the players have to, and I’ve got to do my part, and I plan on doing my part,’’ Campbell said. “So, I’m not going to be fazed. I’m going to have this team up and ready to go, and we’re going to be better.”

Prediction: Seahawks 28, Lions 27. Detroit’s injuries on offense will be too much to overcome.