Five things to watch as Lions face Packers to wrap up the season

While the Lions have nothing to play for except memories heading into the offseason, Green Bay should be motivated at Ford Field on Sunday.

With a win, the Packers can earn a bye in the first round of the playoffs, giving them a week off to rest and recuperate.

The Lions at 3-11-1 are going nowhere. The result won’t change the status of coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn who will return next season. The Packers staged a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Lions in their first meeting on Oct. 14.

“I think (the Packers are) probably quite similar other than the fact that they’re playing so well right now and with so much confidence. I think that since we played them last, they’ve really, really built momentum and confidence,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. “They play together. It’s like they know each other very, very well. That probably wasn’t quite the case when we played them the first time, just based on number of games they have under their belt right now. I think the difference probably would be (that) they were playing at a pretty high level then, they’ll play even better now.”

Five things to watch.

1. David Blough will get his fifth start. As expected, he’s looked like a rookie at times and shows potential at others. That shows in his stats with four touchdowns and five interceptions. 

2. Perhaps you’ve heard this before and it might be too late for this season, but the Lions have to find a way to finish games. Once again at Denver last week they were up 17-13 in the fourth quarter, then collapsed and lost. In their first meeting against Green NBAy, the Lions held a 22-13 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Packers came back and won 23-22. It’s been a theme of the season, giving up leads late in the game. They’ve been outscored 136-84 in the fourth quarter in the first 15 games.

3. Green Bay’s running game propels the offense. In the previous matchup they gashed the Lions’ defense for 170 rushing yards led by Jamaal Williams with 104 yards. Just like always, Detroit’s secondary will have its hands full with Aaron Rodgers. Before the Packers quarterback was intercepted on Monday night he had gone eight games without a pick.

4. The game could play a role in whether the team wants to keep or take another look at a few younger players who haven’t seen much game time. With all the injuries — 16 Lions are on injured reserve — it’s a great time for the rookies and young guys to show what they have against a good team like the Packers. 

5. The Packers are coming off a tough 23-10 win at the Vikings on Monday night. With a short week interrupted by Christmas, it might be a good time to face the Pack. Still, they will be motivated and the Lions are decimated by injuries with nearly 20 players on injured reserve.

PREDICTION:  Packers 34, Lions 17 

Detroit Lions wrap up yet another losing decade

Shaping up to be worst season since 2009

If the Detroit Lions lose to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday — and remember they’re 13-point underdogs — this 2019 season will be the worst of this decade for the franchise.

A loss will give the Lions a 3-12-1 record, the least number of wins in this 10-year stretch. 

As we head into 2020, let’s take one last glance at yet another Lions’ decade of futility.

The 72-86-1 record from 2010 through this season so far, included four winning seasons along with two wild-card games under coach Jim Caldwell and one with Jim Schwartz at the helm.

On a positive note, it’s much better than the previous decade (2000-2009) when the Lions posted a 42-118 record with only one winning season (9-7 in 2000) and no trips to the playoffs.

Ten years, zero division titles, three coaches, three general managers, one Matthew Stafford, one Calvin Johnson, more losses than wins and still no playoff victory. 

Stafford and long-snapper Don Muhlbach are the only roster constants since 2010.

Stafford, who turns 32 in February, became one of only five quarterbacks in NFL history to pass for 5,000 yards in a season in 2011 with 5,038 yards. The next season he came up just 23 yards shy of 5,000 despite the fact the team went 4-12. The only two seasons he didn’t reach at least 4,000 yards were in 2018 (3,777 yards) and this year when he played in only eight games (2,499 yards).

Calvin Johnson, a future Hall of Famer, left after nine seasons and 11,619 receiving yards. He finished six straight seasons (2010-15) with at least 1,000 receiving yards shattering all previous franchise records. Like Barry Sanders, Johnson’s gifts were wasted at a time the Lions should have made the most of them. And also like Sanders, he was a joy to watch.

Three coaches defined this decade.

In 2010, the Lions were coming off a 2-14 season and hopes were high that coach Jim Schwartz in his second season would turn the page for the franchise. It was a tough task, rebuilding the roster, adding new schemes and trying to change the culture and reputation of the team still suffering since the 0-16 2008 season.

Schwartz was sent packing with a 27-37 record after the 2013 season. He did start the turn-around from the worst in the league, but did not get the team over the hump and into the land of NFL respectability.

Coach Jim Caldwell (2014-17) owns the only winning record (36-28) of the three coaches in the decade. He guided the Lions to an 11-5 record and wild-card playoff game in his first season (2014). In his four seasons Caldwell led the team to two playoff appearances. After a 9-7 season in 2017 and no playoff berth, he was fired. Lions general manager Bob Quinn said the team was better than its 9-7 record. 

Quinn and Matt Patricia knew each other well from their days with the New England Patriots. Patricia was the well-respected Patriots’ defensive coordinator who had never been a head coach at any level.

So far Patricia is 9-21-1. If they lose to the Packers, the Lions will have three less wins than they did in his first year (6-10).

Certainly improvement was expected, but the defense has been a mess and stands at 29th in the league for yards allowed per game. Still owner Martha Firestone Ford has guaranteed Patricia and Quinn another season to become playoff contenders.

The last playoff win was on Jan. 5, 1992.

The last NFL championship was in 1957.

The Lions’ faithful await as the page turns on yet another disappointing decade.

RECORDS

  • 2010: 6-10
  • 2011: 10-6 (wild-card game)
  • 2012: 4-12
  • 2013: 7-9
  • 2014: 11-5 (wild-card game)
  • 2015: 7-9
  • 2016: 9-7 (wild-card game)
  • 2017: 9-7
  • 2018: 6-10
  • 2019: 3-11-1 (so far)

Lions lose sixth straight, a look at five reasons why it happened

Minnesota Vikings win 20-7

In the first dozen games, at least the Lions had a chance. They only won three of them, but they held leads in all 12.

As former Lions coach Wayne Fontes would say, “At least we’ve got that going for us.”

Well, not so much on Sunday in the 20-7 loss to the Vikings at Minnesota.

A pre-game photo showed owner Martha Ford Firestone on the sidelines prior to the game with a grim look on her face and her arms folded. Her body language screamed displeasure. Can’t imagine what she was thinking when the clock ran out and the dust settled.

Not sure that wholesale changes in the staff would be the cure-all especially at this point with just three games left in the season.

But if Mrs. Ford was thinking about the immediate futures of coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn, certainly Sunday’s performance (or lack of it) could help shape her decision.

The Lions lost their sixth straight, fell to 3-9-1 and are now 0-5 in NFC North contests.

Five reasons the Lions lost:

1. David Blough looked more like a rookie quarterback in this game than he did during his first start on Thanksgiving in the loss to the Bears. He was 24-40 for 205 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Look, this loss is not all on him but he made a few mistakes that were costly. Late in the first half, instead of throwing the ball away on third-and-2 from Minnesota’s 15, he was sacked for a loss of 12 yards. That pushed the field goal attempt to 45 yards instead of 33. Matt Prater kicked it wide right. No word on when or if Matthew Stafford will return this season. 

2. The defense could have been worse, but Kirk Cousins was 12 of 12 for 114 yards and a touchdown on play-action in the first half. This has been an issue with Detroit’s defense all season. Cousins completed 80 percent of his passes (24-30) for 242 yards and one touchdown.The Vikings finished with 354 total yards while the Lions had 231. On a positive note, the Lions’ defense held the Vikings to just 3 second-half points. 

3. Blough was sacked five times, three of them by Danielle Hunter. The fault lies in three places – the offensive line, tight ends (particularly Jesse James on one of the Hunter sacks) and Blough for holding the ball too long. It was a good day for the sack-happy Vikings’ defense. Trey Flowers had Detroit’s only sack. 

4. Coaching. Matt Patricia will take some of the blame, he always does. This team didn’t look prepared to start the game. That’s on coaching. The Lions looked a little better in the second half on both sides of the ball, but obviously it was not enough.

5. The Lions are dealing with injuries. Matthew Stafford’s absence is key, but the defense is hurting (literally) too. A’Shawn Robinson did not play, Jarrad Davis was among those injured during the game. Still, it’s that time of year in the NFL. Injuries are an issue for most NFL teams – dealing with them separates the losers from the winners.

BONUS: Lions now hold the fifth pick in the NFL draft.

NEXT UP: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)