Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Washington Redskins

ALLEN PARK — It’s one of those games, the Detroit Lions should absolutely win. But this is the NFL and nothing is a certainty, especially when it involves the Lions’ struggling defense.

The Lions (3-6-1) face the lowly Redskins (1-9) at Washington, D.C., on Sunday. 

Quarterback Matthew Stafford (back) has been ruled out, giving Jeff Driskel his third straight start.

In preparation, Lions coach Matt Patricia said he looks more at the film than the record of the opponent.

“The tape tells us a lot, that’s really what we have to focus on. Especially with a team like this, that we don’t really know very well from a stand point of we don’t play them a lot,’’ Patricia said. “We have to really dive into their personnel and figure out who they are, how they play, how it affects what they do. They have some experienced veterans that are on that team and that they’ve added to that team, and they have some young players that are really good, up and coming players. We really need to learn those guys as we go through the course of the week.”

Five things to watch:

1. Driskel has found some success in his first two starts and is getting more comfortable with each passing play. The offense was not the reason Detroit lost 35-27 to the Dallas Cowboys. Driskel is no Stafford, but he is proving to be a fine fill-in.

2. Detroit’s defense will face rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins who has had a rough start, throwing for a pair of touchdowns and five interceptions. Putting pressure on the rookie will be key, get him out of his comfort zone. This has not exactly been the strength of the defense in the first 10 games. They need to step it up. Haskins is still quite raw. “I think the game becomes faster for a player and they don’t have to think as much, it comes a little bit easier. That’s probably the thing that we’re emphasizing and we’re working through right now,’’ interim coach Bill Callahan said on a conference call this week.

3. Adrian Peterson, who is 34, is the Redskins leading rusher averaging 4.2 yards per carry. “I had the opportunity to experience playing against him years back when he was a young guy. I’m watching the film, and I don’t see it being a whole heck of a lot different,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. “He’s powerful, he breaks tackles, he’s physical. He’s got great size, we all know that. So, I just think that you’ve got to be in good position to tackle him. Everybody’s got to understand that they’re in the point of attack because the ball could end up hitting any gap on any given play. He’s got great vision, he’s got great feet. He’s powerful. There’s not much different for me when I watch the film.”

4. The Redskins offense has been outscored 253-125 overall and 75-34 in the fourth quarter. The Lions have generally faded in the second half on both sides of the ball and have been outscored 92-64 in the fourth. Could be a snoozer if neither team jumps out and tries to take advantage of the other’s weakness.

5. Lions running back Bo Scarbrough, who made his NFL debut on Sunday, could get the start again. Scarbrough, who is low-key, had 14 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys. “I thought he came in and really did a nice job of bringing a physical presence for us. He was really hitting the hole hard, he was running downhill, breaking tackles at the first level, breaking tackles at the second level,’’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “I mean that’s kind of what we were looking for in the run game. I thought he kind of gave us a little bit of a spark, and you could see the tenacity that he brought to it and kind of the style that we would like to play.”

PREDICTION: Lions 24, Redskins 23 (This is a tough one. Lions should win, but not much confidence after loss to the Cowboys.)

Lions’ awful defense not all Patricia’s fault, but it’s up to him to fix it

This defense worse than the 0-16 team in 2008

ALLEN PARK — The Lions’ defense is bad, it’s ranked 30th in the NFL giving up 412.8 yards per game. In Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys, the defense gave up 509 total yards. No other team amassed more yards on Sunday.

It might not be the Lions’ worst defense ever, but if not it comes close.

In 2008, you remember the season the Lions went 0-16, Detroit’s defense allowed 404.4 yards per game. It was the worst in the NFL but still allowed less yards than this season’s bunch.

So what now?

The Lions (3-6-1) play at the woeful Washington Redskins (1-9) on Sunday. The Redskins ended their streak of 16 straight quarters without a touchdown when they scored a pair late in a 34-17 loss to the Jets on Sunday. The Lions are 2.5-point favorites.

With a championship, playoffs and likely a winning season out of the realm of possibility, coach Matt Patricia on Monday said: “We’re playing for this game, that’s what we do and that’s really honestly that’s how the week is for us. It’s one-game seasons, that’s what they are, that’s how the NFL works.’’

While Lions’ penalties were an issue Sunday (11, costing 89 yards) and are most every game day, the defense is the reason the Lions lost to Dallas, 35-27.

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said he had time to go through his progressions two or three times. It was crazy. It seemed like he had all day because he did. No wonder he passed for 444 yards — the most against the Lions this season. Often his receivers were wide open. Four of them had single catches of 21 yards or more (21, 23, 41,49). That’s a little crazy too.

So Patricia was asked if there will be changes on defensive play-calling immediately after the game. He danced around a straight answer.

He was asked again on Monday and remained vague. It’s uncertain if he or coordinator Paul Pasqualoni are making the calls during the game. 

This was Patricia’s reply on Monday: “I think for us as a staff, and how we’re doing things on defense, I think we need to continually improve it. I definitely feel that that has been my message to those guys throughout the entire season, so that we can help the players more. I try to do as much as I can and will continually try to do that, but I think the coaches are working really hard to try to get it right from that aspect of it. We obviously have to do more, and we will. Sometimes I look at it and think I have to teach it differently too. I always try to evaluate, ‘OK, what can I say differently here? How can I explain it different? How can I term it different that we’ll at least maybe understand it and maybe be able to play a little bit better from that aspect of it?’’’

When pressed on an answer about play calling he said his role on game days changes game by game. 

“So, some games it’s been more, some games it’s been less, and that’s been consistent throughout the season. That’s true,’’ Patricia said.

Whether it’s Patricia or Pasqualoni making the calls, improvement must be made.

This mess of a defense is not all on coaching, but that is definitely a part of it. Patricia went 6-10 last season and now is 3-6-1. Is the team still listening to him? “I think there’s nothing that would give me an indication that they’re not,’’ Patricia said. 

Not so long ago — actually in 2014 under coach Jim Caldwell in his first season — the Lions finished the season with the second-best defense in the NFL, allowing 300.9 yards per game. It was Ndamukong Suh’s last season in Detroit.

It’s been downhill since.

Last season, the defense ranked 10th (335 yards per game) after it made a turnaround during the season (after the acquisition of Damon “Snacks” Harrison) and toughened up.

This season’s new low is not all because of Patricia’s defensive philosophy, but it’s up to him to right a sinking ship. 

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Bo Scarbrough adds punch to Detroit Lions’ run game in loss to Cowboys

DETROIT — Bo Scarbrough made one heck of an NFL debut on Sunday.

The Detroit Lions running back, who had been promoted from the practice squad on Saturday, got the start in the 35-27 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Scarbrough, a seventh-round pick of the Cowboys in 2018, had 14 carries for 55 yards including a 23-yard scamper and a touchdown.

“I kind of grabbed him after the game and just told him how proud I was of him. He ran the ball super hard. He knew what he was doing,’’ quarterback Jeff Driskel said. “He hasn’t been here very long at all and he stepped right in there, and it was awesome to see him run that ball that hard. He kind of brought some life to our run game and it was awesome. He’s a good player and I’m happy he’s on our side.”

Scarbrough’s 5-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, following a fumble recovery, gave the Lions a 7-0 lead. 

“That touchdown doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just another score on the board for us to get ahead. But if we can contribute and win, it’d be different,’’ the 23-year-old Scarbrough said.

His fresh legs let the Lions keep Ty Johnson, who was coming off concussion protocol, for most of the game. 

Scarbrough did not say when he found out that he would start.

 “It’s an opportunity, week-in and week-out. Everybody needs an opportunity. It felt regular to me. Playing under coach (Nick) Saban – this is what we’ve always done. Every week was a different guy up, so you just have to be ready when your number is called. If you number is called, you just have to take advantage of it and run with it.”

Scarbrough played at Alabama including the two national championship seasons (2015 and 2017). He was signed to the Lions practice squad on Nov. 6 after being out of football since Aug. 31 by the Seahawks.

He said he didn’t have extra motivation today because the Cowboys were the team that originally drafted him.

“No, like I told you before, it’s what I do. ‘Matty P’ (Patricia) says that and that’s what he wanted me to do. So I’m going to do my job, whatever it is, to help the team win,’’ Scarbrough said. “If I have to give someone a cup of water, then that’s what I do.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)