Five keys to Detroit Lions’ 23-20 loss to Green Bay Packers

DETROIT — Absolutely fitting that the Detroit Lions wrapped up the disappointing season by leading the Green Bay Packers for the entire game until Mason Crosby kicked the game-winning field goal as time ran out.

The Packers earned a first-round bye with the 23-20 win over the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday. The Lions lost their ninth straight game and finished with 3-12-1, their worst record since 2009 (2-14). Matt Patricia is 9-22-1 in his first two seasons. On a positive note, they are guaranteed at least the No. 3 pick in the draft.

Once again Patricia said he was proud of his team.

“The team fought as hard as we could, we really tried to do everything we could to give ourselves a chance, obviously we needed to make a couple more plays, give Green Bay credit they made some plays at the end especially that they needed to to win,” Patricia said. “I think this team, like I’ve said all year and today was another great example of how hard this team works, how hard they fight.’’

With so many injuries he played guys in different positions just to get through.

“I’m proud of the toughness of this team, I think it’s the foundation of what we’re looking for — I think we want to be tough, we want to be a team that competes, we want to be a team that goes out and works hard every day,’’ the coach added.

Five keys to the loss:

1. The Lions defense kept Aaron Rodgers in check in the first half when Rodgers went just 6 of 18 got 90 yards. The Lions held a 17-3 lead heading into the third quarter, but Rodgers came back in the second half on fire and looked more like the quarterback of a 13-3 team. 

2. Once again, the Lions could not hold a fourth-quarter lead. It was the seventh game Detroit has lost when holding the lead in the fourth quarter. Finishing is an issue on both sides of the ball. The Lions knew it but didn’t have any answers.

3. Green Bay placekicker Mason Crosby was just 2 of 3 on field goals on Sunday, but had no problem with the game winner of 33 yards. This is the second game this season that Crosby has beaten the Lions by kicking a field goal as time ran out. On Oct. 14, the Packers beat the Lions 23-22 at Green Bay with the same scenario. 

4. Rookie quarterback David Blough, in his fifth start, had a solid effort (12-29, 122 yards) and looked like he might be on his way to his first win. But in the fourth quarter he threw a pass intended for Chris Lacy but it was so short it was easily intercepted by Blake Martinez. The Lions were at midfield with about eight minutes left and a 20-13 lead. But on the ensuing possession, Rodgers marched the Packers down to Detroit’s 28-yard line and then threw a touchdown pass to Allen Lazard. The extra point tied the game. The Lions got possession twice more, but had to punt both times. Rodgers was able to get in field goal range. It was the difference in the game.

5. Matt Prater kicked two key field goals including one of 56 yards to keep the Lions in the game. Prater moved past Jason Hanson into second place all time in the NFL for most 50-yard or longer field goals with 53.

UP NEXT: A long offseason.

 

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.

Five things to watch as Lions face Packers to wrap up the season

While the Lions have nothing to play for except memories heading into the offseason, Green Bay should be motivated at Ford Field on Sunday.

With a win, the Packers can earn a bye in the first round of the playoffs, giving them a week off to rest and recuperate.

The Lions at 3-11-1 are going nowhere. The result won’t change the status of coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn who will return next season. The Packers staged a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Lions in their first meeting on Oct. 14.

“I think (the Packers are) probably quite similar other than the fact that they’re playing so well right now and with so much confidence. I think that since we played them last, they’ve really, really built momentum and confidence,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. “They play together. It’s like they know each other very, very well. That probably wasn’t quite the case when we played them the first time, just based on number of games they have under their belt right now. I think the difference probably would be (that) they were playing at a pretty high level then, they’ll play even better now.”

Five things to watch.

1. David Blough will get his fifth start. As expected, he’s looked like a rookie at times and shows potential at others. That shows in his stats with four touchdowns and five interceptions. 

2. Perhaps you’ve heard this before and it might be too late for this season, but the Lions have to find a way to finish games. Once again at Denver last week they were up 17-13 in the fourth quarter, then collapsed and lost. In their first meeting against Green NBAy, the Lions held a 22-13 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Packers came back and won 23-22. It’s been a theme of the season, giving up leads late in the game. They’ve been outscored 136-84 in the fourth quarter in the first 15 games.

3. Green Bay’s running game propels the offense. In the previous matchup they gashed the Lions’ defense for 170 rushing yards led by Jamaal Williams with 104 yards. Just like always, Detroit’s secondary will have its hands full with Aaron Rodgers. Before the Packers quarterback was intercepted on Monday night he had gone eight games without a pick.

4. The game could play a role in whether the team wants to keep or take another look at a few younger players who haven’t seen much game time. With all the injuries — 16 Lions are on injured reserve — it’s a great time for the rookies and young guys to show what they have against a good team like the Packers. 

5. The Packers are coming off a tough 23-10 win at the Vikings on Monday night. With a short week interrupted by Christmas, it might be a good time to face the Pack. Still, they will be motivated and the Lions are decimated by injuries with nearly 20 players on injured reserve.

PREDICTION:  Packers 34, Lions 17 

Five reasons the Lions lost to Broncos

Jamal Agnew returned a punt for a touchdown

The Lions extended their losing streak to eight games with a 27-17 loss at the Denver Broncos on Sunday. It was hardly a surprise. The Lions were big underdogs going in even though the Broncos (6-9) haven’t had a great season either.

The Lions fell to 3-11-1 and currently own the No. 3 draft pick.

Five reasons for the loss:

1. Detroit’s defense appeared to collapse in the fourth quarter. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. One key reason for the Lions’ sad-sack record is that they are unable to finish on defense or offense. The Lions held a 17-13 lead entering the fourth quarter and then the Broncos scored 14 unanswered points. The Lions forced several three-and-outs early in the game but apparently the Broncos’ offense made adjustments and the Lions couldn’t adjust.

2. Quarterback David Blough started out completing four-of-five passes on the opening possession that resulted in a Matt Prater field goal. The Lions’ only touchdown in the first half was courtesy of a 62-yard punt return by Jamal Agnew. The score was tied 10-10 at the half, but it felt like the Broncos had the momentum. Blough finished 12 of 24, 117 yards, 1 TD and a 78.0 rating. Kerryon Johnson made his return from injured reserve with 10 carries for 42 yards.

3. Blough was sacked twice in the loss to Bucs last week, but suffered double that in Denver. Part of that is on the injury-ridden offensive line, but also Blough can take some of the blame. He’s a rookie and it shows in his lack of pocket presence.

4. Kenny Golladay stretched out over the goal line for a third-quarter touchdown that gave the Lions a 17-13 lead. The wide receiver maintained control of the ball and the review confirmed the officials’ call on the field. He had six catches for 66 yards. Golladay set a new single-season career-high in receiving yards (1,118), passing his previous record of 1,063 set in 2018. 

5. If the Lions had a chance to win one of their final two games, this was it. They are at home against the Packers next Sunday. Could be an ugly Sunday at Ford Field but mercifully the season will be over. Merry Christmas.

(Photo courtesy of the Detroit Lions)

 

 

Five reasons the Lions lost to the Bucs; extend losing streak to 7 games

DETROIT — Matt Patricia’s survival as coach of the Detroit Lions may be in more peril after Sunday. The Lions’ defense made quarterback Jameis Winston look like a Hall of Famer in waiting, in Tampa Bay’s 38-17 win at Ford Field.

It was the seventh straight loss for the Lions who drop to 3-10-1.

“I think the one thing that’s consistent, the team fights, they work hard, really regardless of who’s out there,’’ coach Matt Patricia said.

Is that enough? Apparently not, but wide receiver Danny Amendola agrees with Patricia.

“We got a lot of guys who are beat up, banged up and injured and we got guys rolling in, next man up, trying to step up, trying to make plays. Everyone here is trying their best, everybody is fighting,’’ Amendola said. “I love how everyone comes to work, I love how we fight on game day and whatever the situation may be, we are going to get out there and fight for our brothers. So that is what I love about this team.”

He said they have to find an edge.

“We have to believe, we have to roll into each game thinking we are going to win,’’ Amendola said. 

They have two games left this season to figure it out.

Five reasons the Lions lost:

1. Winston had a monstrous day thanks to Detroit’s defense which was beat again and again and again on deep crossing patterns. Winston was 28 of 42 for 458 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Darius Slay dropped what could’ve been an interception. Detroit’s secondary just plain got beat time after time. On Breshad Perriman’s first touchdown (for 34 yards) cornerback Rashaan Melvin was about 5 yards behind the play. Trey Flowers muffed on a sack. Overall the Lions’ defense didn’t look prepared. One highlight was Jahlani Tavai’s first interception, but the Lions offense could not score afterward.

2. The Lions fought back in the second half. Down by just a touchdown (24-17) with five minutes left, Detroit’s offense had the ball but quarterback David Blough’s pass intended for Danny Amendola was intercepted by Sean Murphy-Binding and returned 70 yards for a touchdown. “Can’t do it. Obviously it’s the play that will come back, we’ll look at as ultimately the dagger in the game. Danny ran a good route I left it a little behind him, the guy made a good play and went the other way with it,’’ Blough said. “You can’t do it playing quarterback in this league you have to value the football first and foremost. It’s frustrating it happened there after the guys fought so hard to battle back. I’ll take it it’s on me, it’s frustrating.’’ Blough was 24 of 43 for 260 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

3. The bad start was a killer. The Lions were down by three touchdowns with 8:13 left in the second quarter. “The slow start was not really what we want to do against an explosive team like this,’’ Patricia said. “Obviously, detrimental. They can score extremely fast, they’re a very aggressive defense, they have good players on both sides of the ball you have to do a better job to start the game.’’ The defense gave up three first-half touchdowns and the offense was stuck in neutral. At the end of the first quarter the Lions’ offense had 1 net yard (the Bucs had 236). At halftime it was up to 56 yards. 

4. The fourth quarter was a disaster again. This season the Lions have been outscored 122-84 in the final stanza — it’s on the offense for not getting it done and the defense for letting the opponent march down the field. Again on Sunday they were outscored 14-7 in the fourth. Patricia said it is not a result of conditioning. “I don’t think you ever want to put frustration into words because it never comes out right, so I would say for us we understand, we just look at it from the standpoint of why, what are we doing and how do we improve it,’’ Patricia said. He did not offer any more specifics.

5. Injuries have really hit the Lions hard, especially in the last few weeks. Within the last seven days they’ve put four players on injured reserve (Da’Shawn Hand, Marv Jones Jr., Jarrad Davis and Joe Dahl). Wes Hills, the starting running back on Sunday (replacing the injured Bo Scarbrough), was playing in his first NFL game. He had a slow start, but finished with two rushing touchdowns becoming just the third Lions player to rush for two touchdowns in his first career game, along with Jahvid Best (2010) and Billy Sims (1980). Ten Lions who started in Week One were not available on Sunday (that includes Quandre Diggs who was traded). The others were injured or on injured reserve. That’s a ton.

BONUS: Bucs wide receiver Breshad Perriman finished with three receiving touchdowns — he had two in the first 11 games. He’s just another opponent that the Lions’ defense made look like a Pro Bowl player. He had five catches for 113 yards. Curiously enough, Breshad’s dad, Brett, played for the Lions for six years (1991-96) and never had a three-touchdown game.

NEXT UP: The Lions play at Denver at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 22. The Broncos (5-9) lost 23-3 to the Chiefs on Sunday.

Five things to watch as Lions limp into contest against Tampa Bay

ALLEN PARK — Ndamukong Suh returns to Ford Field on Sunday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Detroit Lions.

It’s kind of an interesting angle to a game between two lower-echelon NFL teams. The Lions (3-9-1) have lost six straight while Tampa Bay (6-7) has won its last three.

Suh, who left the Lions after the 2014 season, isn’t the biggest threat on the Bucs’ defensive line. That honor goes to Shaq Barrett who has 15 sacks this season compared to 1.5 for Suh. It doesn’t mean Suh is ineffective — his work doesn’t always show up in the stat line but he’s a presence that can’t be overlooked.

“He’s one of the dominant players in the NFL, and I look forward to playing against him,’’ Lions quarterback David Blough said. “I know a lot of the guys (know) he was here and a great player while he was here, and we’ll have our hands full, but we trust our guys, too. So it’ll be a good opportunity for us to block him up and try to throw the ball.”

Five other things to watch:

1. Don’t sleep on the Bucs who started the season 3-7. They’ve won three straight (over Falcons, Jaguars, Colts). “We’ve started to win some close games that we lost earlier in the year because I don’t know if we thought we could actually win them,’’ Bucs coach Bruce Arians said on a conference call. “I think they’re learning how to win.”

2. Quarterback Jameis Winston may be turnover prone with 23 interceptions, but he’s passed for 29 touchdowns this season. “So we have to make sure that we get (touchdowns) stopped first and then just capitalize on those opportunities if we get any of them from that standpoint,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “Certainly, we always work on the fundamentals with that stuff, whether it’s the ball out on the ground, how do we recover it? Are there bodies around? Is it an open space? When the ball is up in the air, high-pointing the ball, how we’re going to catch it, kind of some of those different details of the fundamentals of trying to turn the ball over. Certainly, our first and foremost job will be trying to prevent those big plays that they are hitting downfield.” 

3.  The Bucs own the third-best offense in the NFL, averaging 392.8 yards per game. With Tampa’s Mike Evans likely out, the Lions catch a break but Chris Godwin is the leading receiver with 1,212 yards and nine touchdowns. Tampa averages 298.2 passing yards per game, second in the NFL. Bucs’ running backs Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones could give the Lions’ defense headaches. Between the two of them, the have 11 rushing touchdowns so far. “They’re explosive, and we know that. We trust our guys to put us in a good position on offense, and the offense will be ready to do our part too,’’ Blough said. “I feel like we let our defense down last week. We’ll be ready to go that’s for sure.”

4. David Blough should be feeling more comfortable in his third start. “I think it’s something you get in a routine of. I was Matthew’s (Stafford) and then Jeff’s (Driskel) backup, you know, you prepare the same way every week, so that’s kind of what I try to take in,’’ Blough said. “I try to do the things Matthew did and Jeff did. You just have to lead, be yourself, be genuine, and the guys follow. It’s been great to have their support and them lifting me up and trusting me. I’m learning along the way.”

5. Another game without Stafford, but he’s not the only key player out with injuries. Linebacker Jarrad Davis, guard Joe Dahl, right tackle Rick Wagner and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson are out. Da’Shawn Hand and Marv Jones Jr. were placed on injured reserve this week. The Lions have been beat up physically. It’s time for the younger guys to show what they have.

PREDICTION: Bucs 31, Lions 17 (The Lions’ players need a win to help morale, just not sure they’ll find a way to get it done.)

Lions lose sixth straight, a look at five reasons why it happened

Minnesota Vikings win 20-7

In the first dozen games, at least the Lions had a chance. They only won three of them, but they held leads in all 12.

As former Lions coach Wayne Fontes would say, “At least we’ve got that going for us.”

Well, not so much on Sunday in the 20-7 loss to the Vikings at Minnesota.

A pre-game photo showed owner Martha Ford Firestone on the sidelines prior to the game with a grim look on her face and her arms folded. Her body language screamed displeasure. Can’t imagine what she was thinking when the clock ran out and the dust settled.

Not sure that wholesale changes in the staff would be the cure-all especially at this point with just three games left in the season.

But if Mrs. Ford was thinking about the immediate futures of coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn, certainly Sunday’s performance (or lack of it) could help shape her decision.

The Lions lost their sixth straight, fell to 3-9-1 and are now 0-5 in NFC North contests.

Five reasons the Lions lost:

1. David Blough looked more like a rookie quarterback in this game than he did during his first start on Thanksgiving in the loss to the Bears. He was 24-40 for 205 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Look, this loss is not all on him but he made a few mistakes that were costly. Late in the first half, instead of throwing the ball away on third-and-2 from Minnesota’s 15, he was sacked for a loss of 12 yards. That pushed the field goal attempt to 45 yards instead of 33. Matt Prater kicked it wide right. No word on when or if Matthew Stafford will return this season. 

2. The defense could have been worse, but Kirk Cousins was 12 of 12 for 114 yards and a touchdown on play-action in the first half. This has been an issue with Detroit’s defense all season. Cousins completed 80 percent of his passes (24-30) for 242 yards and one touchdown.The Vikings finished with 354 total yards while the Lions had 231. On a positive note, the Lions’ defense held the Vikings to just 3 second-half points. 

3. Blough was sacked five times, three of them by Danielle Hunter. The fault lies in three places – the offensive line, tight ends (particularly Jesse James on one of the Hunter sacks) and Blough for holding the ball too long. It was a good day for the sack-happy Vikings’ defense. Trey Flowers had Detroit’s only sack. 

4. Coaching. Matt Patricia will take some of the blame, he always does. This team didn’t look prepared to start the game. That’s on coaching. The Lions looked a little better in the second half on both sides of the ball, but obviously it was not enough.

5. The Lions are dealing with injuries. Matthew Stafford’s absence is key, but the defense is hurting (literally) too. A’Shawn Robinson did not play, Jarrad Davis was among those injured during the game. Still, it’s that time of year in the NFL. Injuries are an issue for most NFL teams – dealing with them separates the losers from the winners.

BONUS: Lions now hold the fifth pick in the NFL draft.

NEXT UP: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)