Detroit Lions’ defense fails again, this time in loss to Dallas Cowboys

DETROIT — Detroit’s defense is not getting the job done.

It happened again on Sunday when the Dallas Cowboys beat the Lions 35-27 at Ford Field. If you’ve lost count, the Lions have lost six of the last seven and are now 3-6-1.

On offense the Lions had a backup quarterback (Jeff Driskel) starting his second game for this team and a running back (Bo Scarbrough) who never had a carry in the NFL. Still they managed to score 27 points which should be enough to win an NFL game.

Do not blame this on Driskel or the offense. 

This is all on the Lions’ sad-sack defense, especially against the pass.

In the last five games the defense has allowed quarterbacks to throw 16 touchdown passes and has not made an interception. 

“We just need to make more plays. We just left too many plays out there. It’s another game – I feel like a broken record at this point, but another game I feel like the offense played well enough for us to win, but we have to figure it out collectively as a defense,’’ linebacker Devon Kennard said. “We have to play better, and we can play better.”

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott threw three touchdown passes for 444 yards (just shy of his all-time high of 463). He had all the time in the world in the pocket and often his receivers were wide open, without a defender within a few yards. Dallas finished with 509 yards of offense.

“We had pressure. I think we missed like three (sacks). We were getting what we needed to go, we just have to make the plays, like I said. We had a couple guys that probably had some sacks but missed it. We had a couple guys that had chances to make PBUs and we didn’t make it, and I am one of them,’’ cornerback Darius Slay said. “So, it’s all accountable for all of us, so we all just have to put it together.”

Coach Matt Patricia, known as a defensive guru when he was hired from the Patriots, has talked about finding consistency since Week 1. He is still searching for it.

“It’s something we’re trying to figure out,’’ Patricia said in his post-game presser.

Echoing his coach, Kennard said they need to be consistent in everything they do.

“I feel like last week we came out and played one of our better games defensively overall, and we needed to build on that and not take a step back. Defensively, I think we took a step back today,’’ Kennard said.

Yes, there have been injuries but that is no excuse. Every team is dealing with that at this time of the season.

Nothing that they saw from Dallas should have been a surprise. The Cowboys had the NFL’s best offense (437.3 yards per game) when they arrived at Ford Field.

“We didn’t play well enough to win. Give the Cowboys credit. They made a lot more plays than we did,” Patricia said. “Certainly, I’d say, in all three phases they’re plays out there that we need to do a better job of, so continually trying to improve this and get it better.”

No offense but this is basically what’s been said every week just change the name of the opponent.

Prescott is a solid quarterback with plenty of talent surrounding him.

On a somewhat positive note, running back Ezekiel Elliott was held to 45 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. In only one game has he been held to less yards (35) this season. 

Two Cowboys’ receivers — Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb — finished with more than 100 receiving yards. Gallup’s 148 yards were the most he’s had since Week 1. Cobb’s 115 receiving yards were a season-high.

Driskel might be young but he’s not crazy. He wasn’t going to get into a debate on whether the offense is carrying the defense and if there is any resentment in the locker room.

“I mean the beautiful thing about football is it’s a team sport, it’s a total team sport. Our first touchdown of the day they gave us a short field. I don’t know where we got the ball exactly, but they did a nice job of getting the ball off of them,’’ Driskel said referring to the recovered fumble at the Cowboys’ 28-yard line in the first quarter.

“We did a nice job of scoring a touchdown. We got the ball later – I think it was still in the first quarter – around midfield after a huge return, so, it’s a total team game,’’ Driskel said. “I think everyone just has to look themselves in the mirror and see what each individual could have done better to give us a better chance to win.”

No one would disagree.

This team can do better with the talent on the roster, but it is the defense that is holding the Lions back. Of that, there is no question.

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Detroit Cowboys

Detroit’s defense, which has struggled and is a huge reason the Lions have lost five of their last six, will face another huge test in the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

The Lions (3-5-1) are coming off a 20-13 loss at Chicago while the Cowboys (5-4) lost to the Vikings 28-24 on Sunday night.

Detroit will be without quarterback Matthew Stafford (back/hip) who will miss his second straight start. Jeff Driskel will step in once again. 

The Lions have been in close games — they’ve lost their last two by one touchdown — but have had trouble scoring or holding onto a lead in the second half.

“I would say for our guys – maybe with the exception of one week this year – even though we fought through every single game, I would say each game is coming down to maybe one or two plays here or there,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “I think our guys are continually trying to battle through that and trying to find ways to come out on the plus side of it, so are we as coaches.’’

Five things to watch in the Lions-Cowboys matchup:

1. The Lions’ defense must play better overall. Coordinator Paul Pasqualoni is bullish on the group and sees positive signs despite the losses. “I don’t know if there is anything missing, but I just keep talking about playing with consistency and winning them. So, we have to focus on what we need to do to win games and just being as consistent as we can be every snap because these games – the margin of error, as you guys know is not very, very big,’’ Pasqualoni said. “That’s the National Football League, so just focusing and concentrating on what we have to do to win games.”

2/ must find a way to pressure quarterback Dak Prescott who has completed 68.3 percent of his passes.  “You know I would say, one of the things is – watching him from last year when we played him early, to this year – I think he’s doing a great job at the line of scrimmage. He’s changing plays, he’s audibling, he’s making adjustments based on what he sees from the defense. I would say his post-snap read of coverage is a lot better,’’ Patricia said. “He’s doing a really good job of kind of deciphering some of the different looks that he’s getting and really taking advantage of the skill players that he has out there with the speed and some of the one-on-one matchups that are being created out there because of the run game, and some of the different things that defenses have to do.” 

3. Stopping the run has also been an issue for the Lions defense — they’ve allowed 129.7 yards per game. Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott can be dangerous.  “Well, I think that he has great balance. I think his pads, he’s always moving forward. He (is) very, very hard to keep him from going forward, he does a great job with that,’’ Pasqualoni said. “He runs hard, he has really, really good vision and he has good instincts. He has all of those critical factors that running backs need to have. A lot of it is vision and balance and a feel for it, and he does a great job of making his cuts, staying square and moving downfield.”

4. Driskel did fine in his start at Chicago. Considering his lack of experience (five previous starts with the Bengals) he moved the offense as well as could be expected, but he is no Stafford. The Lions need to put plenty of points on the board against the Cowboys, because it’s a given that Dallas should barrel through the Lions’ defense. 

5. Injuries have decimated the running back group. Ty Johnson could provide a huge boost if he can return after suffering a concussion last week in Chicago. He was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report. 

PREDICTION: Cowboys 31, Lions 17

Five things to know about Detroit Lions rookie DE Da’Shawn Hand

Rookie has started last 3 games

ALLEN PARK — Defensive end Da’Shawn Hand’s effectiveness and time on the field has grown in the first four weeks of the season.

While the Lions are a disappointing 1-3, Hand is one of the positives so far.

The rookie has started the past three games and hit highs in snaps (48) and percentage of snaps for the defense (70 percent) in the loss at Dallas on Sunday.

Along with left guard Frank Ragnow and running back Kerryon Johnson, Hand is one of three rookies who are regular starters.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Hand and the Lions are moving on from Dallas. They play their first NFC North opponent on Sunday when they host the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers.

“He is an elite player, I think that goes without saying, everybody knows him. They’ve got a great team, it’s going to be interesting,’’ Hand said.

Five things to know about Hand:

1. Hand was a fourth-round pick out of Alabama and so far the Lions like what they see.  “I think what we saw on tape coming out of college is a lot of what we’re seeing right now with the technique. He plays with good fundamentals and pad level,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “A lot of this system is similar to what he used in college with similar, let’s call it coaching backgrounds from that aspect of it. I think the transition was pretty good for him from that standpoint. And really, it’s just been on him to really go out and improve every single week.’’

2. Hand took full advantage of his increased playing time on Sunday. He picked up his first NFL sack, getting to Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott early in the fourth quarter. Hand also forced a fumble on the Cowboys’ final drive but the ball took a Cowboys’ bounce and Prescott was able to recover it. “I just was working a move, trying to get upfield and I just hit the orner and swiped for the ball, it just took a bad bounce,’’ Hand said.

Had the Lions been able to recover the fumble perhaps they would have had a chance to hold on to and  win the game. That doesn’t weigh on Hand’s mind. “Think I’ve said before in a couple interviews, but that stuff is irrelevant thoughts to me,’’ Hand said. “You think about what-ifs then that’s all you’re relying on. If you think about irrelevant things you’re going to get irrelevant results.’’

3. He credits the leadership among the players for helping keep the right mindset. Veteran defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois has taken a leadership role on the defensive line. “(Leadership) is really strong, older guys they definitely it’s all about turning the page, keep getting better and don’t worry about the irrelevant things,’’ Hand said.

4. Hand didn’t start in Week 1, playing 32 snaps (53 percent) in the loss to the Jets. He got his first start in Week 2 and has started the last three games. In four games he has 14 tackles and one sack.

5. Patricia likes Hand’s steady improvement. “ I think that’s the biggest thing with him in particular is that there’s been a big improvement from the spring, then to training camp, and I would say through the course of maybe the first couple weeks in training camp until we finally got to some preseason games where we could evaluate him against other talent and some other players,’’ Patricia said. “It just has continued to get better for him. I would say he’s got a long way to go. I think in general upfront we didn’t play particularly well enough all the way across the board. So, not real good (Sunday) but I think he’s working himself in the right direction.”