Five things to watch as Lions face Falcons

The Detroit Lions have a chance to win their second straight game on Sunday for the first time since games 2 and 3 of the 2019 season.

The Lions (2-3) face the Falcons (1-5) at Atlanta at 1 p.m.

Coach Matt Patricia said stacking wins is the goal, looking at each Sunday as a one-game season.

“Certainly, I think there is a mentality about that where, OK, when you come off of a win and you played a game that is positive, that you learn from whatever mistakes may have showed up, and obviously we’ll learn from the good things that you did, and then carry that over into the next week to build on it and kind of – we say stack them together or build on top of each other – and I think that’s how you show your growth and your improvement,’’ Patricia said this week on a Zoom call.

The Falcons, who already ditched head coach Dan Quinn and are playing under interim coach Raheem Morris, are coming off their first win.

Five things to watch:

1. Don’t give up on the run. The Lions’ run game has been a standout so far averaging 117 rushing yards per game. In the win at Jacksonville last week they ran for 180 yards (116 by D’Andre Swift). This has been an issue for the Lions for years, but seems to be looking up. “Certainly gameplan-wise, it opens up some stuff for you. I think (Matthew) Stafford does a great job of utilizing all of those different runs that we have and mixing with the play passes, the misdirection plays, the boot plays, things like that. So I think it just helps us be able to reach the ball into different areas of the field,’’ Patricia said.

2. Keep an eye on Matthew Stafford and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan.  Stafford ranks second in NFL history with an average of 274.4 passing yards per game, and Ryan is 3rd with a 271.9 average. Stafford has more yards this season per game (248) but it’s not all about the two quarterbacks who happen to be great friends. Stafford got off to a bit of a slow start this season but has improved. Had his best game in win at Jacksonville last week.

3. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones returned last week and had his best game this season with eight catches for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns. “Obviously offensively for them, it starts with the quarterback, with Matt Ryan, but Julio Jones – his return, his play, his speed, his strength, his power, his run after catch, all of it – just showed in its full form, and I think that you just see on tape how dominant he is as a receiver, how great of a player he is,’’ Patricia said. “It’s like I say all the time – when you’re that great of a player, and everybody knows you are, try to do everything you can to limit what you can do, but you still go out and do what you do every single game. It’s pretty amazing.’’ He’ll be a handful for the Lions secondary who will be without CB Desmond Trufant (hamstring).

4. Detroit can’t overlook Atlanta due to its 1-5 record. “I think for all of us, you just look at their players and you can see how dangerous and how good they are. Certainly, from our standpoint, I think we know that it’s 60 minutes of football in the NFL. Sometimes it’s more. That’s just what it is. Like we talk about all the time, I think it’s 67 percent of the games are one possession (games) or seven points-or-less, and 34 percent are three points-or-less. I think you’re seeing that in the NFL this year,’’ Patricia said.

5. The Lions are healthy with the exception of Trufant. It’s been rough early in the season due to injuries, although that’s no excuse. Patricia is not big on momentum but was very happy last Sunday when they were able to see their two weeks of work (with the bye) show up on the field. “I thought that was really great,’’ Patricia said.

PREDICTION: Lions 28, Falcons 24

Five reasons Detroit Lions beat lowly Jaguars

That was more like it. The Detroit Lions picked up their second win with a 34-16 trouncing of the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday.

Coming off the bye and with a 1-3 record, it was nearly a must-win game for Detroit and coach Matt Patricia.

The defense came up huge as did the offense. Get this, it was the first time in nearly seven seasons that the Lions had both a 100-yard rusher (D’Andre Swift, 116 yards) and 100-yard receiver (Kenny Golladay, 105 yards) in a game. Last time was Nov. 28, 2013, when Calvin Johnson had 101 receiving yards and Reggie Bush ran for 117.

Five reasons the Lions won:

1. The Jaguars are just a lousy team on offense, defense and special teams. Heck their kicker was in his first NFL game. Quarterback Gardner Minshew showed flashes, but he’s just a second-year guy trying to find his way. It would’ve been embarrassing if the Lions lost.

2. The Lions defense which has struggled to stop the run in the first four games this season found a way to contain James Robinson and the rest of the Jaguars, holding them to 44 rushing yards. Robinson had a dozen carries for just 29 yards. The defense also pressured Minshew which is something we haven’t seen enough of this season. But it worked because they stopped the run. 

3. Running back D’Andre Swift had a career game that included a pair of rushing touchdowns and a 54-yard scamper on first down on the offense’s first play from scrimmage. It was a sign of things to come. It was a career game for Swift, the rookie. He finished with 14 carries for 116 yards.

4. Matthew Stafford had his best game this season despite at least four drops from his receivers. The banged-up line prevented him from being sacked after a dozen sacks in the first four game. Of course it helped that the run game was effective. He seemed more sure of himself. The Jaguars were the only NFL team Stafford had never thrown a touchdown against. He took care of that with a nifty pass to T.J. Hockenson. He finished 19 of 31 for 223 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Stafford even threw a sidearm pass on third down — maybe for old time’s sake. (His wife Kelly posted on Instagram that move reminded her of when he tosses her a diaper when their other 3 daughters are swarming him.)

5. Let’s give coach Matt Patricia a little credit. He had the team ready, corrected past mistakes and kept his foot on the gas. His seat is a little less hot heading into next Sunday’s game at Atlanta. This win does not solve all of the problems and he knows that, but perhaps it’s a first step.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Lions rushed for 3 touchdowns which equals the number of rushing TDs from the first four games total. … Detroit was 4-5 in the Red Zone while Jacksonville was 2-5. … Lions led in total net yards, 403-275. … Detroit rushed for 180 yards and held Jaguars to 44 rushing yards. … Rookie cornerback Jeff Okudah led defense with 8 tackles, Jamie Collins had 7. … Trey Flowers had the only sack of Minshew. 

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Five things to know after Lions lose to Bears

DETROIT — The season isn’t over for the Lions after they imploded in a 27-23 loss to the Chicago Bears in their opener.

However, at 0-1 the immediate future looks at least partly cloudy. Next Sunday they’re at Green Bay, followed by a game at Arizona and then back home on Oct. 4 to host the New Orleans Saints. 

The fourth-quarter collapse was brutal. The Lions were ahead 23-6 when the quarter started and hanging their heads when it was over.

Last year the Lions led in 14 of their 16 games and held fourth-quarter leads in 10 games and yet they managed just 3 wins (3-12-1) all year. 

So the emphasis for this season was on finishing. It just didn’t happen in the opener. The debacle wasn’t shocking, we’d seen it before.

Five thoughts about the loss:

1. Adrian Peterson made his Lions’ debut with 14 carries for 93 yards (6.6 yards per carry) along with three catches for 21 yards. Good call on signing the 35-year-old free agent. “I thought he gave great effort, I thought he gave great energy. I think the guys, really, they like to be out there with him and they know he’s going to work hard and he’s going to go hard every single play. So that was good to see,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “I really thought he made some tough runs. I thought he brought a physical style to the run game and that was encouraging.”

2. Matthew Stafford was 24 of 42 for 297 yards, 1 touchdown and one interception. A clear indication that the Bears defense was working came in the Lions final possession when the quarterback scrambled for one yard on first-and-10 to kick off the drive, then two plays later ran for 7 yards, again on a first down. He did complete a 32-yard pass to Danny Amendola on that drive. And he put the winning touchdown in D’Andre Swift’s hands in the end zone but he dropped it. This loss wasn’t all on Stafford but he was a part of it.  “We just have to execute better. When you look at it that’s the name of the game in the fourth quarter. We didn’t do it enough last year and we didn’t do it obviously enough today,’’ Stafford said.

3. Linebacker Jamie Collins was ejected early in the second quarter. He was apparently trying to show referee Alex Kemp that one of the Bears was leading with his helmet. But he misplayed it and butted his head into Kemp who told the pool reporter he threw him out for the contact. The intent had nothing to do with the decision. When he was thrown out Collins already had 3 tackles and a pass defense. It was a bonehead play on his part and it was costly for the team.

4. Both teams were a little slow out of the gate which was to be expected since there were no preseason contests. The Lions held a 13-6 lead at the half after a touchdown dash by rookie running back D’Andre Swift with 19 seconds left.

5. Tight end T.J. Hockenson, who had a standout training camp, continued it with five catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. 

By the numbers: Matt Patricia is 9-23-1 as head coach with the Lions.. … Safety Tracy Walker led the defense with seven tackles. … Trey Flowers had the Lions’ only sack of Mitchell Trubisky. … Cornerbacks Justin Coleman and Desmond Trufant both left the game with hamstring injuries and did not return. … The Lions had 98 rushing yards in the second half after only 40 in the first half. … Danny Amendola led the wide receivers with five catches for 81 yards. … Rookie wide receiver Quintez Cephus had the most targets (10), but he caught just three of them for 43 yards.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)