Five things to watch as Lions face Titans

The Detroit Lions run defense will face one of its biggest tests when Detroit (5-8) plays at the TennesseeTitans (9-4) on Sunday.

Titans running back Derrick Henry leads the NFL in rushing and is a big reason the Titans have won three of their last four and sit atop the AFC South.

The Lions in their third game under interim coach Darrell Bevell look to bounce back after a home loss to the Packers.

Five things to watch:

1. Matthew Stafford didn’t practice until Friday and then it was on a limited basis. He is questionable to play due a rib injury that occurred late in Sunday’s game. He’s tough and if he can throw the ball and feel comfortable, expect to see him in the lineup. He said on Wednesday that he is not counting himself out. If he can’t go, backup Chase Daniel will be prepared after taking most of the snaps in practice throughout the week.

2. Center Frank Ragnow has been ruled out with damaged vocal cords. It’s uncertain who will start in his place. The center took a hit in the throat area which damaged his vocal chords on Sunday. The Lions are one banged up team. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay remains out while defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand has been placed on injured reserve along with Jeff Okudah. Cornerback Daryl Roberts is out. Defensive tackle John Pensini is questionable. 

3. The Lions’ defense is ranked 29th in the NFL against the run, allowing 132.8 rushing yards per game. The Titans have the second-best ground game (157.8 yards per game). Something’s got to give. Stopping Henry will be a huge test. “Critical that we start fast (on defense) in the run game, and then if we can get a ball off of (Henry), or if we can get an interception and kind of create a spark there early in the game, that will help us,’’ defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said. “You don’t want to get down early, because you’re just letting them do what they want to do, and that’s just (to) continue to run it and wear you out. Really, really good challenge.”

4. While the Titans’ offense revolves around Henry it’s not a one-man band. “Derrick Henry is the leader and that’s how they want to build the thing, and kind of the same thing that I’ve been preaching here is, when you have a solid run game in the way that they’re able to use him, it really opens up the explosions in the pass game in terms of play action and that kind of thing,’’ Bevell said. “Ryan Tannehill has done a great job for them. I know I said it, but Comeback Player of the Year and he’s still playing like that. A lot of weapons over there, and they can be explosive. Some of those explosives also come in the run game with those big, long runs by Henry as well.”

5. The Lions have about a 1-percent chance to make the playoffs and Bevell will take that. “So you’re saying there’s a chance, right? That’s why we play these games. We’re going to get them playing, and just like I said when I started this thing, this is an opportunity for all of us,’’ Bevell said. “It’s an opportunity for all of us, whether it’s going to be on this team, whether it’s another team – people are watching. They want to see how the Detroit Lions are going to be acting: if they’re just going to throw in the towel or if they’re going to keep fighting. If I have anything to say about it or these players do, we’re going to keep fighting – and 1 percent (chance to make the playoffs)? We’ll take it. I don’t even know if that’s right, but we’ll take it.”

PREDICTION: Titans 28, Lions 17

Lions Stafford to make trip; Bevell not counting him out vs. Titans

Matthew Stafford, who has not practiced all week due to injured ribs, will make the trip to Tennessee for Sunday’s game against the Titans.

It’s still uncertain whether the quarterback will start. It could come down to a workout on Sunday morning. Or not.

“He’s breathing really well, he’s better, he’s moving better. He’s feeling better how far that’s going to be we’ll see. You can’t really judge this because the guy is tough as nails,’’ interim coach Darrell Bevell said on Friday.

“I’ve had it before. (Brett) Favre was out 10 straight weeks, he was going to be out again, he walks in the day of the game and said, ‘I’m going.’ Guys like that, you give it to them and they go. So I feel like he’s in that same category (as Favre). He could walk in on Sunday and say, ‘I don’t care what anyone is saying, I’m going.’ So I’m going to let him go,’’ Bevell added.

Stafford injured his ribs — X-rays were negative — late in the loss to Green Bay.

“Sunday I didn’t feel good, I just wasn’t able to function. That was the biggest thing, I was spasming and locking up a little bit and I wasn’t able to throw, that’s basically what it boils down to,’’ Stafford said on Wednesday. “When I wasn’t able to do that, I felt like our best chance was to let Chase (Daniel) go out there and operate. I obviously don’t ever like coming off the field but I didn’t feel like I could help us any more.’’

Daniel finished the game and is preparing — like always — to start this week.

“Knowing (Stafford) he tries to play, there’s no doubt about it,’’ Daniel said. “The dude is one of the toughest dudes I’ve ever been around regardless of position.’’

For Stafford it seems rest, ice and heat is the best medicine this week. Not much else to do with ribs. 

“I think it kind of boils down to being able to operate, go out there to throw it around, be able to feel good enough to know or at least give myself a good chance of finishing the game,’ Stafford said. “Don’t want it to be one of those things where you go out there and do something weird early and you’re out after the first series of the game. Not to say, you can take a big hit and who knows what could happen.’’

He said he wants to feel good enough to start the game and finish it at a high level.

Five keys in the Lions’ 31-24 loss to Packers

DETROIT — The Detroit Lions, in their second game under interim head coach Darrell Bevell, hung with the Packers in the first half but then couldn’t get Green Bay’s offense off the field in the third quarter.

When it was over, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers beat the Lions 31-24 in a late matinee game on Sunday at Ford Field.

“We were going up against against one of the best quarterbacks to ever do it in this league,’’ Bevell said. “To be able to be in it at the end of the game with one possession to determine it. I was really proud of the guys and how they fought, they finished all the way to the end.’’

Quarterback Matthew Stafford wasn’t able to finish the game after getting crunched in the ribs in the fourth quarter. Bevell said it was too early to know if Stafford will have to miss a game or more. The quarterback was getting X-rays after the game.

“Matthew Stafford is as tough as they come, he’s a huge competitor, I know he’s going to want to be out with his team, it’s going to have to be pretty drastic for him not to be in there,’’ Bevell said.

Five key plays in the game:

1. Tied 14-14 at the half, the Packers had the first possession in the third. Talk about total domination for one quarter. In the third, they led in time of possession 13:49 to 1:21. In the third and into the fourth, Green Bay had two scoring drives. One was 14 plays, 75 yards eating up 8:49. The other was a dozen plays for 79 yards taking 7:49 off the clock. “That’s not how I wanted to start the second half, they came out, went on a long drive, when that happens on the offensive side of the ball we need to respond and do a good job of giving our defense a time to rest,’’ Bevell said. “We didn’t do that. We went three-and-out put them back out there and I think they had another long drive.  Fortunately for us we were able to get it settled but that was a big swing in the game.

2. Aaron Rodgers was, well, Aaron Rodgers. He completed his first 10 pass attempts and finished with three passing touchdowns and 290 yards. He was never sacked and the Lions’ defense recorded one quarterback hit. He also carried the ball six times for 13 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown scamper. He’s 37 but his age certainly isn’t showing.

3. In the first half, Stafford was methodical in two scoring drives. One ending with a 1-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Hockenson and the second a 3-yard run by D’Andre Swift. It was a solid start for the Lions against a good Packers defense. “It doesn’t surprise me, I’m proud of this team. Like I said at the beginning of this thing, these guys are ready to fight, they want to continue to play week-in and week-out,’’ Bevell said. “As you saw they were in it untilt he tend. We’re going toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in our division but also in the NFC. I couldn’t be happier for these guys and the way they played.’’

4. Quarterback Chase Daniel, in for an injured Stafford, ran in from 4 yards out for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter but it was negated by a holding call on Matt Nelson. It definitely would have closed the game with 2:03 remaining. The Lions had to settle for a field goal. It’s uncertain if it could’ve been the difference in the result. Certainly there is a chance of that.

5. Yes it was a loss, so Bevell is 1-1 as head coach. It was a tough assignment against one of the best offenses in the NFL. The Packers beat the Lions 42-21in Week 2. Here’s the thing, Bevell had them ready to play. On the Packers first possession, they scored on a 56-yard touchdown toss to Davante Adams capping a three-play drive. It looked like it was going to be a long day in Detroit, but the defense hung in there and the offense found a rhythm (and the magic of a screen pass). 

BONUS: The Packers held the edge in rushing yards, 120-51. … Green Bay was whistled for a dozen penalties (68 yards) while Detroit had 4 for 30 yards. … Final time of possession was 35:30 for the Packers and 24”30 for the Lions … Stafford threw for 203 yards in the first half and 41 in the second. … Danny Amendola had six catches for 66 yards. … Cornerback Darryl Roberts led the Lions’ defense with 7 tackles. 

Up next: Lions (5-8) at Titans (9-4). Tennessee dropped the Jaguars, 31-10, on Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)