Five things to watch as Lions face the Seahawks; plus prediction

If the Lions are going to make a big turn-around this season, the defense must step up. Quite frankly, it stinks. The turn-around should come quickly with the Seahawks visiting on Sunday.

The Lions’ defense rates at the bottom of the NFL in giving up points per game (31.0) and red zone efficiency (90.91%). It’s at 28th for total defense and takeaways. Rushing defense is ranked 27th, passing defense 25th.

“Not give up points. That’s how you fix it. But I will say this, in the red zone, man, you’ve got to watch this tape. I mean there are times when we’re in position, and we’re just not finishing plays,’’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said this week. “And a lot of times, we’ve got to make sure that we’re coaching the players to do the things that they need to do too, so. And I will continue to say, man, that’s a two-way street between coaches and players, and we’ve got to continue to understand that. But man, you watch those early parts of the game, we’re playing like gangbusters.’’

He said the guys are competing and playing physical until it gets to crunch times. “it just seems like, ‘Ah, how do we do this here, or do we have to do this and when we don’t?’ We just keep doing the same things we have been doing to put ourselves in that position, and that’s what we have to continue to coach, and that’s what we have to continue to do as players,’’ Glenn said.

The offense has had its share of injuries — and will be missing D’Andre Swift and Amon-Ra St. Brown on Sunday — but it still ranks third in the NFL in total offense and second in points per game.

Finger pointing is not allowed in the locker room, but all three units need to play better. Five things to watch as the Lions (1-2) host the Seahawks (1-2):

1. Defense must get more pressure on quarterback Geno Smith who leads the NFL with a 77.5 percent completion rate. It’s not all one rookie defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson but he can do better. He had one half with three sacks and has made plays that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet, but he and the linemen can do better. Alim McNeil and Michael Brockers do their part on stopping the run but the line must step up.

2. The defensive backfield does not get a pass. With Tracy Walker (torn Achilles) out for the season their task will be even tougher. Coach DanCampbell would not say who will step in to fill Walker’s position. Cornerback Jeff Okudah has come back nicely from his torn Achilles last season. Cornerback Amani Oruwariye had a nightmare of a game against the Vikings with multiple penalties but the coaches still have faith in him. “I think Amani’s a pro and  he had a rough game. And that’s – that’s just the bottom line. But I also know – he also snapped back there at the end and got a big stop for us one-on-one with (Adam) Thielen on the perimeter,’’ Campbell said. “So, I think Amani’s got thick skin. I know that he’s going to want to be better. And he’ll come out this week ready to work. I’m really not worried about him. I think he’ll snap right back to the Amani we know.”

3. Jared Goff has got off to a solid start and now must find ways to keep the chains moving without his two offensive stars, D’Andre Swift (shoulder/ankle) and  Amon-Ra St. Brown (ankle) along with wide receivers Josh Reynolds (ankle) and D.J. Chark (ankle) who are both questionable. Goff said it really won’t change his role much. “We may or may not have a couple of those guys, the guys who would step in I feel comfortable with,’’ Goff said. “Last year as brutal as it was there were a lot of valuable reps with a lot of those guys who would potentially need to step in. It’s guys I would feel comfortable with.’’

4. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has come up with imaginative game plans and that’s expected to continue.An emphasis was put on third downs this week after they converted just 3 of 16 in the loss to the Vikings. “Clearly, we didn’t convert at the rate we’d like to. However, you look at last week, and we were a yard short on a number of them, so we are very close. I think we called the game the way we wanted to in those situations,’’ Johnson said.

5. Campbell will not change his modus operandi. He is who he is. But he is also introspective and admitted that he should have gone for it on fourth-and-4 late in the Vikings loss. “I’ve got to be better. I’ve got to learn from it no different than the players have to, and I’ve got to do my part, and I plan on doing my part,’’ Campbell said. “So, I’m not going to be fazed. I’m going to have this team up and ready to go, and we’re going to be better.”

Prediction: Seahawks 28, Lions 27. Detroit’s injuries on offense will be too much to overcome.

Lions’ offense takes big hit with multiple injuries

ALLEN PARK — While the LIons’ offense has been steps ahead of the defense through three games, injuries could take a toll on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

Two Lions wide receivers missed practice with injuries on Wednesday and D.J. Chark (ankle) was limited. Amon-Ra St. Brown (ankle) and Josh Reynolds (ankle) were sidelined along with tight end T.J. Hockenson (foot), running back D’Andre Swift (shoulder/ankle), center Frank Ragnow (foot), left guard Jonah Jackson (finger) and kicker Austin Seibert (right groin).

Ragnow is expected to play on Sunday, per coach Dan Campbell. He started against the Vikings after missing the previous week. It’s turf toe and Ragnow is frustrated but expected to fight through it.

Campbell read the long list of the injured before practice.

“Look, I don’t feel like it’s something we did different. I don’t feel it’s because of the way we went about stuff. Things happen in this game,’’ Campbell said. “Some teams don’t put everybody on the injury reports, some of them will practice or won’t practice. I’m just trying to be open and put everybody out there. So I know it obviously looks worse than maybe it is at times. We looked at everything and it’s not like I’m blind to the fact that we have injuries. I pay a lot of attention to that, I look at all the data…. I don’t feel like it’s something that we’re doing.’’

Even with a 1-2 record, the offense is ranked second in the NFL for points per game and third for overall offense.

Campbell said Swift and St. Brown are kind of day-to-day, but St. Brown is closer to playing on Sunday.

“Swift would have to be significantly better to play. It would have to be when the skies open up and the bright light comes down, it feels unbelievable and here we go,’’ Campbell said.

Last week Swift played a limited role due to an ankle injury.

“We leaned on Jamaal (Williams) and he did a helluva job. Craig (Reynolds) will take a little more and so will (Justin) Jackson. It will be by committee, we’re confident,’’ Campbell said.

If wide receivers St. Brown and Josh Reynolds are sidelined, expect to see more of Quintez Cephus and Kalif Raymond.

“We don’t play today. That’s the best way to look at it. We’ll see what Sunday brings,’’ wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El said. “We’ll just keep working at it that way.’’

Randle El said that Cephus was coming on last season before he got hurt.

“It was early but he was coming along. He’ll pick up where he left off if we need him to be out there Lif (Kalif) is Lif, he’s going to do his thing,’’ Randle El said.

They’ve all practiced at different spots for situations that arise like these.

“I think the biggest thing that changes is run blocking. Those guys don’t do some of that stuff. Although you see the guys blocking in the run game, they don’t do some of the going up and catching the linebacker and safety from the inside. They mostly do that from the outside unless it’s Saint,’’ Randel El said.

The coach played wide receiver for nine seasons in the NFL but hung up the cleats years ago. When asked if he would suit up Sunday, he had a quick answer: “I can run. It’s stopping that’s the problem,’’ he said.

(Next up: Seattle Seahawks (1-2) at Lions (1-2), 1 p.m. on Sunday at Ford Field.)

Five things to know as Lions face the Vikings; plus prediction

When the Lions take on the Vikings at Minnesota on Sunday, they will have both faced the Philadelphia Eagles in the first two weeks. 

The Eagles topped the Vikings 24-7 on Monday night and edged the Lions 38-35 in the opener.

It doesn’t take a math genius to figure that the Lions scored 35 points on the Eagles defense while the Vikes could only manage seven. That’s not necessarily how Lions coach Dan Campbell sees it.

“I thought of it more as it pertains to Minnesota. That’s a game on the road, hostile environment, their first road game. Philly got off to a pretty good start, did a couple of things tempo-wise that kind of got them on their heels a little bit,’’ Campbell said. “There are matchups in this league, some teams match teams a little bit differently or better and personnel wise I kind of felt it was one of those games. 

“I think this team we’re getting ready to play is a good football team. They’ve got serious firepower. They’re coming off a loss, they’re going to be ready to go, they’re back in their home crowd,’’ the coach said. “They’re 1-0 in their division. This is a big test for us.”

The Lions, who will play their first division game, have not won a road game since Dec. 6, 2020, when they topped the Bears 34-30 at Soldier Field. The Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers, 23-7, in the opener.

Five things to watch as the Lions (1-1) face the Vikings (1-1):

1. The Lions’ defense has given up an average of 152 rushing yards in the first two games. They’ll have their hands full with Vikings running back Dalvin Cook who has 26 carries for 107 yards along with seven catches for 37 yards. He’s still looking for his first touchdown. The biggest thing with him and we do have a lot of respect for him, I think he’s one of the best backs in the league,’’ said Todd Wash, Lions defensive line coach. “We believe they’re going to feed him this week and try to get him going. With him when it looks like he might hit a hole, he might hit one on the opposite side. He’s similar to Le’veon Bell. He might be in one spot, that doesn’t mean he’s going to stay there. He never stops his feet, he runs hard, heck of a jump cut. We have to be disciplined with our gap accountability and stay a little bit longer than we normally do to not allow a cutback.’’ So far defensive tackles Alim McNeil and Isaiah Buggs have been key to the Lions run defense.

2. Campbell said Jared Goff has been efficient. The quarterback needs to build on that. The LIons offense is tied for second in the NFL scoring 35.5 points per game and ranks fourth in total offense averaging 405.5 yards per game. So far Goff is 41 of 71 for 471 yards, six touchdowns, one interception and a 100.1 quarterback rating. “I thought he’s gotten us in the right play. I think he’s been pretty steady. I think when things haven’t gone perfect he’s always snapped back and finished the game strong,’’ Campbell said. “And man, he’s – listen, there’s a number of things we’ve been doing we’re asking him to get us into the right play in the pass game as well and he’s doing that. Man, he’s getting us into the right look, right play-call, and then he’s finding these receivers.

3. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and running back D’Andre Swift have been off to remarkable starts in the first two games. Wouldn’t expect them to let up now. The Vikings defense has given up 412 yards per game which ranks 29th in the NFL, one spot ahead of the Lions who have given up 425.5 yards per game. Give part of the credit to offensive coordinator Ben Johnson who has called the offense, but both of those guy are turning heads around the NFL.

4. It’s the first road game for the Lions this season. Campbell said most of the stress will be on the offense. “It really is communication where the most stress comes on your offense, because there’s been so much that’s been verbalized and you’re able to do that at home. On the road you can’t do it any more, not at a place like this where we’re going,’’ Campbell said. ”It’s been a while since we’ve tried to function or had to function like that. … I really believe that the key is us being able to be efficient with everything we do. It starts with (Jared) Goff and goes to the offensive line as well as the receivers. Defensively you’re used to not being able to verbally communicate, now it’s that switch it’s us being on the same page with how we communicate.’’

5. Injuries have been a factor in the Lions first two games but they’ve been able to go 1-1 despite key offensive line injuries, among others. This game they’ll be without defensive lineman John Cominsky who had thumb surgery on Tuesday and left guard Jonah Jackson (finger) for the second straight week. It’s expected Dan Skipper will get the start again for Jackson. Center Frank Ragnow (foot) could be back on the line while Aidan Hutchinson (thigh), T.J. Hockenson (hip) and D’Andre Swift (ankle) are questionable but could play.

(Prediction: Lions 28, Viking 24. Minnesota is coming off a loss on Monday night game and the Lions seem to have momentum.)