Lions lose in embarrassing fashion to Tampa Bay Bucs

After the embarrassing 47-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs, the Detroit Lions can look for answers but it’s unlikely that they will find them with just one week left in the season.

Saturday’s loss was the worst mix of bad luck and lack of talent for the Lions. NFL COVID quarantine rules kept interim coach Darrell Bevell, defensive coordinator Cory Undlin and other defensive assistants out of the game. 

“We’re not going to make any excuses, we had our team, they had their team and they outperformed us today,’’ said interim interim coach Robert Prince who filled in for Bevell.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford rolled his right ankle in the first quarter and was not able to return.

And, Bucs quarterback Tom Brady ate his Wheaties for breakfast or whatever the equivalent is on his organic, plant-based, nutrient rich TB12 diet. He was on fire with four touchdown passes and a perfect 158.3 rating. He was replaced by Blaine Gabbert early in the third in a smart move by Bucs coach Bruce Arians. The game was over.

The Lions (5-10) have already started the search for a permanent head coach and a general manager. If any candidates watched Saturday’s mess, they might take a hard pass on moving to Detroit or even visiting for an interview. 

“On offense we couldn’t’ stay on the field and on defense we couldn’t get off the field,’’ Prince said. “I think our defense played hard and had an opportunity to get off the field early in that first drive, it got extended (due to a LIons’ penalty) and they ended up getting a few more plays.’’

The Lions defense stinks. Has been bad all season — it cost Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn their jobs. Saturday’s abysmal showing didn’t just happen because Undlin was on COVID quarantine. It would have been bad no matter what. 

They gave up more points than they had all season. And to top that, the LIons defense gave up 588 yards which is a franchise record. The previous high was 566 yards in a game against Kansas City in 1990.

“I would not just blame the defense by any means, it’s a team game. Obviously it was great to get that score by the special teams to come through,’’ Prince said regarding Jamal Agnew’s punt return for a touchdown. “Offensively we have to stay on the field, if we’re not on the field very long for offense and the defense has to stay on obviously it’s going to be tough for them and they’re going to wear out. It was a team loss and it started with me.’’

The offense can be decent. We’ve seen good signs with Bevell making the calls without Matt Patricia in his ear. But Stafford is the engine that runs it and he was out early. He couldn’t even put weight on his foot at first. He hopped into the locker room on one leg, a move he might have picked up from his 3-year-old twins.

So the offense was nowhere near decent on Saturday, converting just one of 10 third-down attempts. They were held scoreless and to just 186 total yards.

Stafford is still dealing with injured ribs. Too soon to know if he will be healthy enough to play next Sunday against the Vikings. He’s tough and will want to play, don’t bet against him.

It’s a sad situation for the Lions. The Bucs were able to take advantage of the Lions many weaknesses. It’s almost the end of a lousy year and this nightmare of a game was one of the worst this season.

Prince said he didn’t think it was a hopeless situation, but from this seat it certainly looked like it.

(Up next: Minnesota Vikings at Lions, 1 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 3)

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Chicago Bears

All eyes will be on Lions interim coach Darrell Bevell in his first game in charge. He’s beyond excited for the opportunity.

The Lions’ last two losses were the final straw and cost Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn their jobs.

At 4-7 the Lions will face the reeling Chicago Bears (5-6) who have lost five straight after a 5-1 start.

It’s perfect that Bevell gets his first chance with an NFC North battle. After All he’s spent much of his NFL career in the division with stops in Green Bay (2000-2005) and Minnesota (2006-2010).

“This division means a lot to me. I’ve kind of joked (that) I feel like it’s my division. I’ve been in it for the entirety of my career for the most part. Just great football – all of the black and blue days, even when it was not the North, and it was different names,’’ Bevell said. “The rivalries that are here, I guess the history of football – some of the greatest places and organizations that are in football, and with some of the greatest people.’’

The Lions and Bears opened the season at Ford Field. The Lions held a 23-6 lead with three minutes left in the third quarter. Detroit’s defense collapsed, allowing Mitchell Trubisky to throw three late touchdown passes for the 27-23 win. It was definitely a sign of things to come for the next 10 weeks.

Now change is in the air for the Lions. 

“I’m asking the guys to come in with a refreshed attitude, ready to work, No. 1, but ready to have a good time and let them play with their hair on fire. Let them play fast; let them play free,’’ Bevell said. “We’ll worry about the end result at the end, but we’re going to take it one game at a time. Hopefully we like what happens at the end.”

Five things to watch:

1. Bevell will still make the offensive calls, but he’ll be on his own with no guidance from Patricia. Expect to see him open up the offense and unleash Matthew Stafford more than usual. “In the last game, we did have a little fun. We were able to hit the one, the reverse, triple hand-back to Matthew (Stafford); we threw it back to Matthew on another one,’’ Bevell said. “So we’re going to continue to try to do that, like I said, it’s fun winning. It’s fun moving the ball down the field. We have playmakers, we just have to get it in their hands,’’ Bevell said.

2. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hip) will be out again and running back D’Andre Swift is questionable. Still the offense should be able to move against the Bears’ defense which gave up 393 yards to the Packers last week including 182 rushing yards. “We have talented players. We haven’t had all those players all year, but like I said, the game doesn’t care,’’ Bevell said. “So we have to do the best that we can with all the things we have available to us. But I want us to play more consistent. I want us to continue to find those explosive plays that we haven’t been as consistent as we’d like to be in finding those.’’

3. Cory Undlin remains the defensive coordinator. While Bevell has  always worked on the offensive side of the ball, certainly he and Undlin have talked philosophy. “The mindsets of defensive players and offensive players are different. So, it’s fun to be in (the meetings). I have a lot of respect for Cory. From the day that he walked in here, I felt like we almost had an immediate kinship anyway, so our conversations have been great, they’ve been easy, they’ve been free flowing,’’ Bevell said. “So, we were just down there before I came up here talking about the game plan and what he’s talking about doing. I would definitely be informed, but like I said, I want him to feel free to do what he thinks is best for our players to put them in the best situations to be successful because he knows those guys inside and out right now.”

4. Trubisky will get the start again.This is bad news for the Lions since Trubisky seems to play his best football against Detroit. In six career starts against Detroit, Trubisky has thrown for 1,601 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions (106.0 quarterback rating) — including four consecutive games with at least three touchdowns and a passer rating over 100.0, per ESPN.com.

5. Bevell’s message to the team is to look forward, first to the Bears and then the final four games. He was first allowed (due to COVID-19 restrictions) to meet with the team in person on Wednesday. “ I was happy to see them face-to-face. I could feel energy. There was excitement in the room. Hopefully I did a good job speaking to them, but really my message to them was about perspective and changing our perspective and turning that thing forward.,’’ Bevell said. “There’s no rearview mirror. We’re looking forward, moving ahead, and we’re straight dialed in on Chicago. So, that was my message.”

Prediction: Lions 27, Bears 24

Lions vs. Saints: Five things to know

The Lions hope to extend their win streak to two games when they host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Detroit (1-2) is coming off a 26-23 win at Arizona while the Saints (1-2) lost to Green Bay, 37-30, last week.

Of course home field advantage means nothing with no fans allowed at Ford Field. When Matt Patricia was asked about it on Friday, he smiled. It is what it is.

Still it hasn’t been pretty under Patricia even in pre-COVID seasons.

“Look, I’m not going to live in the past as far as the numbers. I think we all know what the numbers are,’’ Patricia said on a Zoom call. “From that standpoint, we’re obviously just trying to push forward and get better and go. I think you’re right. The teams that are consistent in this League, the teams that have won a lot in this league over a long period of time, have been able to establish that home-field advantage scenario.’’

In 2019 the Lions were 2-6 at home. In 2018 they were 3-5.

“ We’re just trying to go out and just be consistent in the moment right now and see where that goes from there,’’ Patricia said.

Five things to watch on Sunday:

1. The offense needs to build on its effort in the win over the Cardinals. Tight end Jesse James played a big role and the return of Kenny Golladay provided a much needed spark. Matthew Stafford had his best game of the season with two touchdown passes and zero interceptions. But they were 2 of 6 in the red zone. “There (are) times where we try to run it in. There’s been times where we try to throw it in. We just have to be able to put it all together – whether it’s play calls, whether it’s execution of the specific plays, but we can definitely be better down there,’’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “That’s a focus. I believe the week before we were two-for-two in the red zone. So it has to become more consistent.”

2. Keep giving the ball to Adrian Peterson who is averaging 4.9 yards per carry over the first three games.  He had 22 carries in the win at Arizona.  “This guy is a freak of nature now. I don’t know where that wall is or where he’s going to hit it. The guy is always asking for more,’’ Bevell said.

3. After zero turnovers created by the defense in the first two games, they had three interceptions of Kyler Murray. Keeping him and the Cardinals’ offense was a huge part of the close win. The secondary is expected to have Desmond Trufant back in action. (Justin Coleman should be back soon too.) 

4. While the Saints have stumbled to a 1-2 start, never underestimate quarterback Drew Brees. He’s thrown six touchdown passes against just one interception. Patricia said he sees no difference in Brees. “I think you always look at the quarterbacks that have been in the League for a long time. Is there anything that shows up that’s different: arm strength, mobility, what they’re doing from a communication at the line of scrimmage standpoint – guys that are established like that,’’ Patricia said. “I’ve played against Drew Brees for a long time. I have the utmost respect for him, and his arm talent and his arm strength is still phenomenal. I don’t really read in to all that stuff.’’

5. However, the defense’s focus needs to be on running back Alvin Kamara who has three rushing and three receiving touchdowns. “It puts a lot of pressure on everybody. The guy’s highly, highly productive, and (Drew Brees) is really good at – if he doesn’t like what he sees down the field, he can be quick, or he can be late and get the ball in the guy’s hands,’’ defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said. “Once it’s in his hands, it takes everybody to get the guy on the ground. So, you’ve got to pick your spots when you’re calling the game.

Prediction: Lions 27, Saints 24