Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Texans

The Lions look to snap a three-game losing streak on Thanksgiving Day when they face the Houston Texans at Ford Field.

The Lions (4-6) are coming off one of the most embarrassing losses in recent years (and that says a lot), after they were shut out 20-0 on Sunday at Carolina.

It’s quite the opposite for the Texans (3-7) who beat the Patriots 27-20 on Sunday.

Coach Matt Patricia’s job could be on the line after this game. While he said he saw some positives on the film from Carolina, he could not sugarcoat it.

“Obviously, the negative was there, and it was glaring and that’s what we’re trying to get fixed,’’ said Patricia who has uttered basically the same thing every week.

Five things to watch:

1. Matthew Stafford was pressured all day long and sacked five times by the Panthers. It won’t get any easier facing J.J. Watt who has four sacks and eight quarterback hits in the first 10 games. “I would say the thing about this guy that is amazing is how competitive he is all the way through the game,’’ Patricia said. “It doesn’t matter the situation, this guy always has that mentality that he’s going to make a play to win, and a lot of times, he does. You see games where defenses have had him wrapped up in the backfield and it’s a sack and the game is over, and he gets out, he gets his eyes downfield, he makes an amazing throw and threads the needle.’’

2. The offensive could get a boost with the likely return of running back D’Andre Swift who was out on Sunday with a concussion. He practiced on limited basis on Tuesday and is questionable for the game. He could provide a big plus. If he’s not ready, Kerryon Johnson should get a better look. Give him a start and a chance to prove himself. Adrian Peterson may be a future Hall of Famer, but he hasn’t had the production needed for this offense in recent games.

3. Wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola didn’t play on Sunday and will be sidelined again on Thursday. One thing is for certain, whoever is on the receiving end of a Stafford pass needs to catch the ball and hold on. Drops were one of many issues at Carolina.

4. The defense faces another top quarterback in Deshaun Watson who has thrown 20 touchdown passes against just five interceptions. “I would say the thing about this guy that is amazing is how competitive he is all the way through the game. It doesn’t matter the situation, this guy always has that mentality that he’s going to make a play to win, and a lot of times, he does. You see games where defenses have had him wrapped up in the backfield and it’s a sack and the game is over, and he gets out, he gets his eyes downfield, he makes an amazing throw and threads the needle,’’ Patricia said. 

5. Coaching has to improve, players need to be better prepared even on a short week. On Sunday, TV analyst Chris Spielman suggested on a Panthers’ third-down and long play they would go to Curtis Samuel like they usually do. Bingo. And the pass was complete because the Lions weren’t prepared. It wasn’t a lucky guess by Spielman, it was because he had done his homework. Funny how that works.

Prediction: Texans 28, Lions 17

A brutal Sunday: Lions shut out by Panthers

In an embarrassing 20-0 shutout loss, the Detroit Lions proved they indeed are not an NFL playoff team.

Because of their 4-5 record entering the game and their upcoming schedule against teams with losing records, there was a glimmer of hope. That was extinguished at the hands of the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

The Panthers, who had lost their previous five games, played a backup quarterback (P.J. Walker) in his first NFL start. They were without running back Christian McCaffrey and still they made it look easy.

“Give them credit, they did a much better job executing than we did,’’ coach Matt Patricia said.

The Lions were missing key players too — Kenny Golladay, D’Andre Swift and Danny Amendola — but no excuse.

Matthew Stafford, playing with an injured thumb, watched as at least three of his receivers dropped catches.

“As far as throwing the ball it felt pretty good,’’ Stafford said about his thumb.

He celebrated a 51-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones Jr., only to have it brought back due to an illegal formation by Jones on the flea-flicker. It was a true microcosm of the game.

After 11 sacks in their first 10 games, the Panthers sacked Stafford five times. As the game wore on, it just looked worse and worse for the Lions. The run game finished with a measly 40 yards with their longest run only at 8 yards.

Detroit’s defense made Walker look like a poised veteran. He did throw two interceptions in the end zone, but he also passed for 258 yards and one touchdown.

It’s time — or maybe past time — to take a good, long look at coach Matt Patricia’s future in Detroit. He’s now 13-28-1 with the Lions. Once again, he didn’t appear to have his team ready and it showed.

Halftime adjustments? Not so much. The Lions’ offense started the third quarter and went three and out. 

Afterward, Patricia was peppered with questions afterward about his future. “I go to work every day to try to earn my job. That’s just what I do,’’ Patricia said.

When Stafford was asked if the team still responds to Patricia, he had a one-word answer: “Absolutely.”

Stafford always puts the blame on himself and his teammates, never points at coaches.

“We have enough talent to go out there and win, we’ve just got to go do it,’’ Stafford said. “We have to play better than we’re playing. I don’t care who you are as a coach if we don’t go out there and play well it doesn’t matter. We need to go out there and play better.’’

The last time the Lions were shut out was on Oct. 18, 2009. It was Stafford’s rookie year but he wasn’t playing due to injury. Quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton threw three interceptions combined in the 26-0 loss at Green Bay.

Stafford didn’t see Sunday’s loss as rock-bottom. Instead to him, it was just one game.

“Believe me, I got here in 2009 and from where we (were) then to where we are now we’re a better organization, a better football team, more talented,’’ Stafford said. “At the moment we don’t have as many wins as we wish we had this year but it’s one football game. We have to move on from it, get ready to play another one and hopefully score a bunch of points and win the game.’’

The Lions (4-6) have a quick turn-around, hosting the Houston Texans at 12:30 p.m. at Ford Field on Thanksgiving. The Texans (3-7) beat the Patriots, 27-20, on Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Panthers

With a win at the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, the Detroit Lions (4-5) could make it back to .500. Injuries, particularly on offense, will make that a tougher assignment even against the Panthers (3-7) who have lost five straight games.

Detroit’s offense has been dinged. Quarterback Matthew Stafford (injured thumb on his throwing hand) is questionable, but knowing his history, odds are he will play.

Not the same story for rookie three others who have been declared out — running back D’Andre Swift (concussion), along with wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola who both have hip injuries.

Five things to watch:

1. Stafford who put the offense on his shoulders last week in the comeback win over Washington, still will have a talented bunch surrounding him if he plays. Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson will step up, same for Marvin Jones Jr, Marvin Hall and Quinten Cephus. Stafford has been limited in practice this week with the coaches trying to find a good balance. “It’s a little bit of a – rest is good, but reps are good. So, trying to balance that all the way out,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. Stafford didn’t get into much detail this week about how the injury could affect his passing.

2. The offensive line, which has suffered its share of injuries in the first nine games, has come up big. It was most notable against Washington’s front four last week. “I think some of the things that they’re doing in practice, some of the time that they get to spend with one another, playing next to each other, it’s been a mix,’’ Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “We’ve had to move guys around a lot, but with that, I think it made each and every guy more comfortable with the guy that plays next to them. We’re moving it around in practice all the time, trying to keep the guys – one, trying to keep them healthy, and two, trying to give them some good looks with guys next to them.’’

3. Even though Detroit is coming off a win, the defense still has plenty of work to do especially in the second half. Against Washington the Lions gave up 21 unanswered points in the second half. “I don’t think we’re struggling to play together. We just got to play better. I don’t know if it has anything to do with us – I think we play together whatever it has been, nine weeks now, I think we’ve got a good feel for that,’’ defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said. “Not that we played perfect in those nine weeks, but if I had an answer for – I wish I had the answer for having a lead and then kind of turning down the dial, the game plan didn’t really change that much from the first half to the second half. We played lights out in the first half, kind of (un)played exactly how we talk about it all week. We’re going to have to tackle the check downs. They might get some yards, but proud of them how they stepped up down there once they crossed the 50 in that first half. Made some plays and then held them to three points, and then we came out in the second half and tempo got us.’’

4. The Lions are preparing to face quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who is questionable to play with a knee injury.  “First of all, his mobility is really difficult, and I would say more than just when he gets out into open space. He does a great job in the pocket,’’ Matt Patricia said. “I think those are – quarterbacks that move really well in the pocket and kind of have that strength to move around and not get pulled down by an arm tackle or knocked down by maybe some pressure from one side or the other, and his ability to move, to get into some open space, and then redirect his eye downfield, I think that’s where he just becomes very dangerous. Now look, he can take off and run and then you have a bigger problem when he’s in space, but I think that’s the part to me that’s the most impressive, is when he moves within the pocket, finds that – I’ll call it that little open space for him to settle in – and then get his eyes downfield and find his receivers.” Bridgewater has passed for 13 touchdowns and 7 interceptions this season.

5. Stopping the run has been a tough task for the defense, but they look to catch a break with Christian McCaffery who will miss his second straight game with a shoulder injury. However, Mike Davis could pose a challenge.  “I think Mike Davis – this guy is a really good running back. This guy is strong and powerful. He’s a great cut-back runner, but he can also bounce out to the edge,’’ Patricia said. “So you have to be very disciplined in the run defense or otherwise this guy will hurt you very quickly. He has good speed.’’

PREDICTION:  Panthers 27, Lions 24