Lions’ defense can’t contain Trubisky in loss to Bears; Driskel in for Stafford

The Lions had to win on Sunday to keep whatever weak chances they had of making the playoffs. Lousy play on both sides of the ball resulted in a 20-13 loss at the Chicago Bears.

Yes, the Lions were missing quarterback Matthew Stafford who was not cleared to play by doctors due to broken bones in his back. He had started 136 straight games. Jeff Driskel got the start. 

Here’s the thing, Stafford doesn’t play defense. 

The Lions dropped to 3-5-1 while the Bears (4-5) snapped their four-game losing streak. 

The Bears’ offense looked nearly Super Bowl worthy starting with their last possession in the second quarter and continuing through the third quarter – just long enough to do too much damage on the scoreboard. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who had been struggling this season, threw touchdown passes on three consecutive possessions. 

The Bears quarterback was nothing special in the first quarter, then he was transformed into more of what he looked like last season. It likely had something to do with going against the Lions’ defense, one of the worst in the NFL ((31st in yards allowed per game). Late in the third and into the fourth, the Bears were forced to punt four straight times. So give the Lions’ defense credit there.

After two Matt Prater field goals in the first half, Driskel connected with Kenny Golladay on a 47-yard touchdown play with 5:53 left in the fourth to cut the Bears’ lead to 20-13. Time was not on the Lions’ side. The Lions defense forced a punt on the Bears’ last possession and Detroit got the ball back with 1:48 left at their own 10-yard line but there just was not enough time to get to the end zone.

The Lions’ defense is missing key players (Tracy Walker, Da’Shawn Hand, Romeo Okwara). Sorry, no excuses. The Bears ranked 29th in the NFL in total offense (266.8 yards per game) before Sunday’s game. It was a game where the Lions’ defense should have stepped up and made a statement no matter who was playing

The Lions played the second half without running back Ty Johnson and right tackle Rick Wagner who were both tested for concussions. 

After Driskel completed his first five passes in the first quarter, he struggled which was expected. He started five games for the Cincinnati Bengals last year (going 1-4) but other than that the 26-year-old quarterback just doesn’t have the knowledge, the experience and feel for the game. He finished 27 of 46 for 269 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was also Detroit’s leading rusher with five carries for 37 yards. That also speaks volumes about the offense.

Several reports say that Stafford is week to week. He was on the sidelines, giving advice to Driskel. 

Up next: Dallas Cowboys at Ford Field at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 17. (Dallas hosts the Vikings on Sunday night.)

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

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Lions Matthew Stafford to sit today at Chicago; breaks streak of 136 starts

Wife Kelly says no one knows what he has gone through

Matthew Stafford’s streak of 136 straight starts will end today at Chicago. The Lions quarterback was listed among the Lions’ inactive players 90 minutes before kickoff.

Stafford had been limited in practice all week and was listed as questionable for the game on Friday’s report.

Jeff Driskell is expected to start. He started the final five games for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018 and played in four others. He completed 59.7 percent of his passes, threw for 1,005 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions.

Schefter reports Stafford has fractured bones in his back and is considered week to week. It appears he was injured on first-and-goal at the end of last Sunday’s game. 

On Wednesday, Stafford downplayed it and said it was different from injury at the beginning of the year. “I’ll be good to go. I’m not really worried about it. Something different, but I’m totally good,’’ Stafford told reporters.

Stafford’s wife Kelly posted on Facebook: “I don’t think there is anything this man hates more than to not be out there battling with his guys. These men work so hard all year long. It’s it’s tough to sideline them. So I’m grateful for our team docs. He has battled through so much, so much more than anyone knows. I’m incredibly proud to be his wife, he the toughest SOB. But I’m happy his body will get a little healing time … I know I can speak for all of us when I say it’s always nice to beat the Bears. Let’s go!”

His streak started on Sept. 11, 2011. His last missed start was on Jan. 2, 2011.

Other Lions inactives vs. the Bears: Tracy Walker, Da’Shawn Hand, Romeo Okwara, Miles Killebrew, Michael Jackson and Beau Benzschawel.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Five things to watch as Lions play at Chicago Bears

ALLEN PARK — If the Lions are going to turn around the season, a win at Chicago might be a good place to start.

The Lions (3-4-1), who have lost four of their last five, have lost two of their last three at Soldier Field. After a 3-1 start the Bears have lost four straight.

Without question, the offense is the Lions’ strength with Matthew Stafford having one of his best seasons. The Bears’ defense has faltered without injured defensive tackle Akiem Hicks the last four games. Still it’s much better than the offense led by Mitchell Trubisky who has thrown five touchdowns and three interceptions and was still called a “great player” by Matt Patricia.

Five things to know about the matchup:

1. The Lions’ struggles can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the defense. Whether it’s scheme or mixed tackles or lack of pressure by the line, it’s not working. Defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said it’s not fair to say it’s been inconsistent all year due to the talent they have faced. “Every week, everybody tries to get better every day. Everybody here tries to get better. So, every week’s a new week. We’re moving on to this one-week season,’’ Pasqualoni said. “I’ve always considered – whether it was in college or pro ball – every week was a one-week season. To be honest with you, I don’t look much past beyond that. I think it’s the best way to handle the game. We’re into this – we’re in our division, Chicago Bears, great tradition, excellent team. So, we’re getting ready to play them.

2. After Miles Killebrew suffered a concussion in practice Thursday, the LIons are down to three healthy safeties — Tavon Wilson, Will Harris and C.J. Moore. So the secondary, which has been struggling, will be further depleted. Patricia said they cross-train guys at different positions in case of a situation such as this. It’s possible cornerback Mike Ford could pitch in at safety. 

3. Detroit’s defense has been really inconsistent at stopping the run, allowing 138.5 rushing yards per game. Again, the defense has to step up. Bears running back David Montgomery has scored all of their rushing touchdowns (5) but is only averaging 3.6 yards per carry. “They were running the ball a week ago, two weeks ago against the Chargers. I think they ran it 38 times for – I don’t know – 138 yards. They really did an impressive job there. (Tarik) Cohen is an excellent, excellent back in the backfield. They have excellent wide receivers. (Trey) Burton is an outstanding athlete at the tight end position. They’re explosive, they can make big plays. We’re going to focus on what we feel we need to do to stop them and have a consistent day defensively,’’ Pasqualoni said.

4. Put the offense in the best position to succeed. Chicago’s offense may be nothing to write home about, but the defense is among the 10 best in the NFL. The fourth-down play call from the end of the game last week is still a head-scratcher. “I want to call plays that score touchdowns, so it didn’t score a touchdown. But we were on the one-yard line, so we ended up going with goal line package which we practice all the time,’’ Bevell said. For the most part Bevell and Stafford seem to be on the same page in their first season working together.

5. Protect the Franchise, Mathew Stafford. He was on the injury report this week after a big hit last Sunday. It should be slightly easier to protect him with Hicks sidelined but the Bears’ defense is not a one-man band. “To be honest with you, this Bears defense is loaded. Their whole front, their linebackers, their backend – about as impressive as a group as you’ll find. It’s a huge challenge to block Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd. Their second-most sack leader is (Nick) Williams on the inside and Eddie Goldman is playing outstanding’’ Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “They have people that have been able to pick up the slack. I think just from the front all the way working through to the back, they have linebackers that can run, they have corners that can cover. It’s a really, really great defense.”

PREDICTION:  Lions 27, Bears 21. (Tough game to pick but going with Lions’ offense over Bears’ defense.)

Lions QB Matthew Stafford among the best halfway through the season

Unlike the Lions, Matthew Stafford is having quite a season.

The Lions quarterback has thrived in the new offense created by coordinator Darrell Bevell. Of course, he’s got a tandem of wide receivers in Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay who have combined for 13 touchdown catches. And newcomer Danny Amendola has stepped in and been a good fit, averaging 12.1 yards per catch.

Stafford’s numbers are starting to draw attention across the league even as the Lions have faded, losing four of their last five.

He leads the NFL in passing yards per game (312.4) and yards per pass (8.6). Stafford’s 19 touchdowns are second only to Russell Wilson (22) who has played one more game. He’s fourth (2,499) in total passing yards. He has the most completions of 20-plus yards wit 41 and is the NFL leader with at least 3 touchdown passes in 5 games.

Whenever he’s asked about his game day accomplishments, the always humble Stafford says he would trade them in for a win. 

Next test for the Lions (3-4-1) is Sunday at the Chicago Bears (3-5). 

“I’ve always had the ultimate respect for Matt Stafford. Some of the throws that he’s made over his career are just ridiculous. I mean there are not many players in the NFL that can make the side-arm throws that he does on the run, running left throwing right, just putting it where no one else can get it,’’ Bears coach Matt Nagy said in a conference call this week. 

“He’s tough, he’s a competitor, and when he’s back there at the quarterback position, he’s scary because he can make any throw and you always have a chance with him,’’ Nagy added.

The Bears’ defense is its strength this season just like the Lions’ offense which has carried the team this season (although not quite enough).

Historically, Stafford has played well against Chicago.

He ranks fifth in career passing touchdowns against the Bears with 28 TDs in 18 games. He’s in good company in this category behind three Hall of Famers, and one future HOFer. First is Brett Favre with 60 in 36 games, second is Aaron Rodgers with 46 in 22 games, third is Fran Tarkenton with 40 in 28 games, fourth is Johnny Unitas with 33 in 23 games. Also, Stafford is fourth in most passing yards (4,741 in 18 games) behind Favre Tarkenton, and Rodgers.

Last season, he threw 21 touchdown passes in 16 games and now he stands at 19 at the halfway point. The difference? 

“I think we’ve done a nice job in the play-action game, making some big plays – those guys are making great plays down the field,’’ Stafford said. “The guys up front are giving me time to get it down there. I think we’ve done a nice job on third down staying on the field, which helps. We’re getting more plays and those guys on the outside are making great plays.”

Stafford’s no-look throws have been studied, tweeted and retweeted. He has two in the loss at the Raiders. It’s not something he has worked on.

“No, that’s full feel. I’m not like working on that in the offseason or anything. It’s more just feeling it in the game, trying to see as much as I can possibly see, and then obviously trying to get to the ball to our guys with space and let them go work,’’ Stafford said.

In his 11th season, he has plenty of trust in himself to make the unorthodox throws. “I think it’s a lot of trust, obviously – trust in what I’m seeing, trust in what they’re going to do when I put it out there,’’ Stafford said. “Those guys are doing a great job of catching it and coming down with it. They always know to be on their toes and be ready for the ball.”

He’s nearly on pace for a second 5,000-yard season. His first was in 2011. He’s one of just five NFL quarterbacks who have passed for more than 5,000 yards. The list includes Drew Brees who has done it five times, along with Tom Brady, Dan Marino and Peyton Manning. Again, Stafford keeps good company.

Now if the Lions defense, which is ranked 31st in the NFL, would step up.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

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

Five reasons the Detroit Lions wasted a perfect chance to defeat Chicago Bears

Another Thanksgiving Day game to forget

DETROIT — It was the perfect time to get a win over the NFC North leading Chicago Bears who were without starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and coming off a shorter week than the Lions.

Perfect.

Except the Lions did not get the job done. They lost 23-16 and fell to 4-7 in Matt Patricia’s first season. That matches the total number of losses from 2017.

No one has the answer on how to get the season back on track. They all take blame and say they have to work harder but they now have lost four of their last five games.

“Obviously, not the way we wanted that thing to end. It’s a good team over there, Chicago. They’ve done a good job all year. Played us tough all the way to the end and made some plays when they needed to at the end, which were critical for their football team, and we didn’t,’’ Patricia said. “So, we have to get back at it and go back to work. So, we have a lot to do, a lot to improve on, and things that we’re continually trying to get better at. There’s not a lot of time to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves.’’

Five reasons the Lions lost:

1. Matthew Stafford had a lousy day. He’s missing Marvin Jones Jr.,  and Kerryon Johnson who both have knee injuries; and Golden Tate who was shipped to the Eagles. It is not all on the quarterback. Some of it rests squarely on the shoulders of offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and Stafford’s teammates who have to be in the right position. Stafford was intercepted twice in the fourth quarter. The second one was on a pass intended for tight end Mike Roberts. “I was thinking Mike was going to be in a different spot, but you know, that’s cutting the ball loose and hoping sometimes that you’re on the same page,’’ Stafford said. “And obviously it didn’t work out in our favor tonight.” When pressed he said Roberts was not supposed to be deeper. “He’s not supposed to be anything, it’s a feel thing,’’ Stafford said.

2. Cooter called a conservative game of quick routes. He didn’t open it up until later in the third quarter. With a quarterback like Stafford, it didn’t seem to make much sense. Although Stafford was sacked six times in the loss to the Bears on Nov. 11 and didn’t want a repeat of that. :They played a lot of two high safeties, some off corner. You know, these guys are good, good defense. To get guys down the field you got to hold the ball and holding the ball against these guys is not a good recipe for success,’’ Stafford said. “So we tried to get the ball out as quickly as we could.”

3. Quarterback Chase Daniel was starting just his third career game, yet he played just fine going 27 of 37 for 230 yards, and two touchdowns. He was sacked four times but had enough composure to get the job done when needed. His touchdown passes to Taquan MIzzell and Tarik Cohen were right on the money. Never a doubt.

4. The Lions got the ball back with six minutes left and down 23-16. Stafford leads a hurry-up offense as well as anyone. But there was nothing hurry-up about the slow pace of the drive that ended with the Lions at the Bears’ 11 and Stafford being intercepted by Kyle Fuller in the end zone. “”So, it wasn’t a situation where I felt like we had to score quick and try to get the ball back. It’s an explosive offense, they have great players, too. So, definitely a strategy there, as far as — we felt like we were doing things well to move the ball and not be in a panic situation, just go down and try to score,’’ Patricia said. “Use all the clock if we have to, and if we needed extra clock, use extra clock. So, that’s really about it.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

5. Ziggy Ansah got the start and looked like his old self with a sack, two quarterback hits and three tackles. He wasn’t the only solid player on defense. Glover Quin got a rare sack and DeShawn Shead forced a fumble that was recovered by Jarrad Davis in the second quarter. Detroit’s defense held the Bears to 38 rushing yards, well below their average of 122.9 rushing yards per game. “We didn’t do enough. Their defense scored a touchdown and we didn’t. They’re defense scored a touchdown and we didn’t, so we didn’t do enough,’’ Quin said. All three units have to play well for these Lions to win. They need to play complementary football and it didn’t happen on Thursday.

NEXT UP: The Lions (4-7) host the Los Angeles Rams (10-1) on Sunday, Dec. 2.

Lions LeGarrette Blount won’t point fingers after home loss to Bears but says everyone has much work to do

Loss drops Lions to 4-7, with Rams coming upu next

DETROIT — The Lions’ offense appeared to take a step backward in Thursday’s 23-16 loss to the Chicago Bears at Ford Field.

Yes, they were without wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., and running back Kerryon Johnson. But Chicago was forced to lean on quarterback Chase Daniel who hadn’t started a game since 2014.

That’s a wash.

No excuses.

Detroit running back LeGarrette Blount had a good day (19 carries for 88 yards). He was in no mood to celebrate. He didn’t even know his touchdown earned him a $350,000 bonus for his fifth touchdown of the season.

Blount has won three Super Bowl rings playing for the Patriots and the Eagles. He knows what it takes to be a winning team.

“I’m a Detroit Lion right now so that’s all I’m focused on. I think there’s a lot of things we need to fix in order for us to be a successful team,’’ Blount said. “There’s a lot of things that we’ve got to do that we haven’t done to put ourselves in position to win games like this. When it’s close games like this we have to finish them off. We’ve got to close them out and we didn’t. That’s our fault.’’

Quarterback Matthew Stafford had a rough day, throwing two interceptions in the fourth quarter with one returned for a touchdown by Eddie Jackson.

“I don’t like to point fingers and I don’t think it is his fault. I think as a team we’ve got to do better and I don’t think you should put all the blame on Stafford. Obviously he’s an elite quarterback. I think he’s one of the best in this league. I don’t think it’s his fault, I don’t think it’s fair for us to put it all on him,’’ Blount said. “You can go on and on about that. Like I said, he’s a great quarterback, he’s really good at what he does, he’s great at his craft. There’s no quarterback that’s going to go into a full season and not make any mistakes, he’s human he makes mistakes, I make mistakes, we all make mistakes and a lot of mistakes give you an ‘L’.’’

Blount also wouldn’t put the blame on offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter who called a conservative game except for a touchdown drive in the third quarter that feature a 43-yard pass play to Kenny Golladay.

“Our play caller calls plays but we have to go out there and execute the plays. Whether we’re doing it right or wrong, people may not know, but he does and we do,’’ Blount said. “It’s just minor details we have to fixed. Whenever we have those minor details that don’t get fixed, you have bad plays and you have plays that stall your offensive drive. We have to get back in the lab and be more detailed at what we do, pay a lot more attention to our craft and try to get this thing back on pace.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The Lions dropped to 4-7, matching their loss total for all of the 2017 season. Next up are the Los Angeles Rams who own the best record (10-1) in the NFL.

“We’re competitors, we’re warriors, we’re not going to go out there and lay down for anybody,’’ Blount said.