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

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

Lions’ trick touchdown play had been in the works since training camp

DETROIT — The Lions had been working on a trick play since training camp. They saw a good opportunity to use it early in the 23-20 loss to Green Bay on Sunday and executed it to perfection.

Wide receiver Danny Amendola threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to quarterback David Blough who was wide open in the end zone. It gave the Lions a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

It was the second straight year the Lions have used a trick play against Green Bay in the final game of the season.

“Honestly, a lot of those plays that we have – we work on them through the course of the season. Sometimes they come up in the games that we can call them and sometimes they don’t,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “Certainly, we had one dialed up that we had been working on for a while, and we’re just kind of waiting for the right situation. Obviously, we couldn’t really wait past today. So, thought we’d take a shot.”

They’ve been working on it or a version of it since training camp under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell who has run a similar play for years with various teams.

It was a great call by Bev, Danny threw a great ball, I couldn’t have been more open,’’ Blough said. “We got some alerts on it to see if it’s man or zone, nobody’s got the quarterback in man coverage. It was kind of a fun play,’’ Blough said. “We’ve had in a couple times this year, just got it off the card, awesome timing for the call, Danny sold it great. That’s how you hope it comes out.’’

Blough said when the ball was in the air he was thinking “don’t drop it.”

“You play football, catching passes in the yard as a kid, we’ve run it a bunch of times in practice and you just catch it and I kind of knew I was open — I had a couple catches in college — but this was pretty special,’’ Blough said.

He was so excited that he threw the ball up in the stands immediately afterward.

I feel bad because I could’ve given it to Danny. It was the second of his career, I don’t know I was kind of excited obviously. I don’t really remember it all that great,’’

Amendola also threw a touchdown pass last season when he was with the Dolphins.