Five reasons Lions lost to Vikings, 34-20

The first quarter set the tone for the Lions’ 34-20 loss at the Minnesota Vikings on Monday.

The Lions’ offense got the ball first and went three-and-out. With the Vikings first possession they moved downfield like the Detroit defense wasn’t even there. Five plays, 67 yards and boom, touchdown run by Dalvin Cook.

At the end of that first quarter, Detroit was down 13-0. It wasn’t like the game was out of reach, but sure seemed like it.

It was the second straight loss for the Lions (3-5) while the Vikings (3-5) notched their second straight NFC North win after beating the Packers a week ago. The teams own matching records, but seem to be headed in opposite directions.

Five reasons the Lions lost:

1. The defense could not stop running back Dalvin Cook (22 carries, 206 yards, 2 touchdowns). In the fourth quarter Cook scored his second touchdown on a 70-yard scamper. Stopping the run was one of the keys in this matchup and the Detroit defense failed miserably. Cook ran up 163 yards on the Packers the previous week. 

2. By letting the Vikings’ run game flourish, it opened up the field for Kirk Cousins who threw for 220 yards and three touchdown passes.

3. Matthew Stafford, who didn’t practice all week because he was quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19, looked sharp in the first half, going 16 of 18 for 123 yards and a touchdown pass to Marvin Jones Jr. After missing on a deep ball to Marvin Hall on the first play from scrimmage, he completed 16 straight passes. Then he threw two interceptions in the third quarter and after a sack early in the fourth, he was examined for a concussion and didn’t return. However good news after the game is that he passed the concussion protocol. Chase Daniel filled in with a touchdown and an interception.

4. The consistency of the offense again an issue. Some of it is on Stafford, but he had a hot first half and they only managed 10 points. The run game was 100 yards better than last week when they accumulated just 29 yards (10 from Stafford). D’Andre Swift carried 13 times for 64 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. A big difference from loss to Colts when he had six carries for 1 yard. Still, not enough.

5. Matt Patricia’s coaching once again an issue. The Lions defense was clearly not ready to play, allowing 487 total yards, the second-most they’ve given up this season. Patricia is now 12-27-1 as head coach in Detroit. Can’t see how he keeps his job, just not sure if they’ll let this season play out.

BY THE NUMBERS:  Austin Bryant blocked a punt in the third quarter and Romeo Okwara blacked another in the fourth quarter. It marked the first time since 1977 that the Lions had blocked punts in back-to-back games. Miles Killebrew blocked one last week. … The Lions were 2-5 (40 percent) in red zone efficiency while the Vikings were 3-4 (75 percent). Matt Prater went 2-of-3 missing a 46-yard field goal attempt. … Time of possession went to Detroit: 32:49 to 27:11. … Detroit only had 3 penalties (37 yards) while the Vikings had 9 (69 yards).

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

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)