Lions running back Zach Zenner makes most of his 12 carries in win at Cardinals

Scored first touchdown in 14 monthes

Zach Zenner snapped his 14-month scoreless streak when he ran in from 1 yard out for a touchdown in Sunday’s 17-3 win over the Cardinals at Arizona. His last touchdown had been on Oct. 5, 2017, in a loss to Carolina.

It’s not that the Detroit Lions running back gets many opportunities. Typically he does not. In the other four games he’s played on offense this season he’s had a combined four carries. He’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

Zenner’s dozen carries on Sunday were the most for him since the 2016 season when he had three games with 12 or more touches. In the final two regular season games that year he had a combined 32 carries and three touchdowns. In the playoff loss at Seattle he had 11 touches.

Seven of his 12 carries at Arizona came in a four-minute, fourth-quarter drive where the Lions were trying to eat up the clock. Zenner was responsible for 42 of the 75 yards on that drive and the touchdown that put the game out of touch for the Cardinals.

“I think Zach, again, he’s one of those guys that does a phenomenal job of just preparing and being ready to go, whatever the situation is. He goes out and plays a lot of special teams for us and he does a lot of different things that can help us win or can help us win in special teams and also on the offensive side of the ball,’’ coach Matt Patricia said on his Monday conference call. “So, certainly he had an opportunity to go out and have a couple plays, which he did really well.’’

Zenner also plays on special teams where he was in on 71 percent of the special teams snaps on Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

An undrafted free agent signed in 2015, he was let go with an injury settlement in early September this year. When he wasn’t working on getting his back healthy, he was studying for his medical school entrance exam and hoping for a phone call. When his back was healed and he was ready to go, the Lions brought him back.

Good thing, since Kerryon Johnson has missed the last three games due to a knee injury. Zenner is not LeGarrette Blount or Theo Riddick, but he can be effective when he gets a chance. Funny how that goes.

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Five reasons Detroit Lions beat Arizona Cardinals, 17-3

Detroit’s effective run game was key

Yikes. It was not pretty, but the Detroit Lions snapped their two-game losing streak with a 17-3 win at the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Detroit’s defense was key, holding Arizona to a field goal.

When the Cardinals came within a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Lions ran downfield, eating up clock and finishing with a Zach Zenner touchdown run.

Neither offense could get much going. The Lions finished with 218 total yards while it was 279 for the Cardinals.

The Lions are now 5-8 in Matt Patricia’s first season, while the Cardinals drop to 3-10.

Five reasons the Lions won:

1. The injury-riddled defense was solid, holding the Cardinals to just a field goal and rattling rookie quarterback Josh Rosen. Larry Fitzgerald was held to five catches (77 yards) while running back David Johnson had just 15 carries for 49 yards. The Cardinals managed just 73 yards of offense in the first half. Detroit linebacker Jarrad Davis was a standout with a sack, two tackles for loss, one pass defense, one quarterback hit and eight tackles.

2. Cornerback Darius Slay’s interception and return for touchdown in the third quarter, gave the Lions a 10-0 cushion. It was Slay’s first career pick-six and his third interception this season. He also broke up a potential touchdown catch by Larry Fitzgerald in the fourth quarter. It was one of his three pass defenses.

3. Matthew Stafford (15-23, 101 yards) played just well enough to win, but it was the effective running game that was key. The Lions had 122 rushing yards — led by Zach Zenner with 54 yards and LeGarrette Blount with 33 yards. Stafford’s aching back limited him in practice last week. It didn’t affect his arm strength — he threw deep downfield, but couldn’t connect on one longer than 17 yards.

4. It must say something that the Lions could win despite an incredible number of injures, most forcing players from the game. That includes Ziggy Ansah (shoulder), Da’Shawn Hand knee), Bruce Ellington (hamstring), Charles Washington (hamstring), Marcus Cooper (back), Rick Wagner (concussion), Nick Bellore, Luke Willson and Damon “Snacks” Harrison. Next man up, indeed.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

5. It was a win. It was kind of ugly (really dreadful in the first half) but the Lions hung in there so there’s something that should be said for it.

NEXT UP: Lions (5-8) at Buffalo Bills (4-9), at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 16.

Detroit Lions Da’Shawn Hand claims he’s a snacks connoisseur and proves it

Flaming-hot Funyuns a favorite

ALLEN PARK — Da’Shawn Hand may be a rookie, but the Lions defensive tackle knows his snacks. In fact, he considers himself a connoisseur.

Oddly enough, his locker is next to NFL veteran Damon “Snacks” Harrison who earned his reputation over the years.

“You can ask the whole D-line, they get mad at me because I can eat. But see, I got a good figure. Hey, listen. It’s hard to come by. I ain’t saying nothing about Snacks’ (figure),’’ said Hand who is 6-foot-3 and a svelte 297 pounds, compared to the original “Snacks” who weighs 353.

Either Hand can’t narrow down his favorite snacks, or he’s looking for a sponsor.

“See it depends on what I’m in the mood for. I can always do a good fruit snack. You’ve got different types of fruit snacks. You’ve got the Welch’s, you’ve got Scooby-Doo. Then like Mott’s it just depends. Welch’s is a solid universe everybody likes that. Mott’s I’ve got to be in the mood for, I get kind of tired. then you’ve got fruit-rollups, oh man,’’ said Hand who was just getting started.

“Then Danish, you’ve got little cakes  — you’ve got oatmeal cream pies, you’ve got zebra cakes, you’ve got little strawberry shortcake rolls. There’s just endless possibilities.’’

Onto salty snacks.

“Then as far as chips I like flaming-hot stuff. So you’ve got flaming-hot Funyuns (not regular Funyuns). You get that with a nice sandwich – ooohh.”

Then the understatement.

“I like eating. You opened up something,’’ Hand said.

“You know Italian subs — instead of ham you get turkey then everything else — pepperonis and all that stuff,’’ said Hand seemed to be enjoying his snacks soliloquy.

“How about Hand sandwich? Hands-on Club?” He’s right, so many possibilities.

Don’t forget candy.

“Chocolate, I’ll do Twix and maybe a KitKat, Butterfinger, Reese’s sometimes. When it comes to candy, I LOVE candy. Especially sour stuff — sour gummy worms, sour gummy bears, strawberry sour patches those are the best type for real,’’ Hand said. “If you’ve learned something today, I highly recommend you try it.’’

We’ve also learned that Hand knows his way around the snacks aisle at the grocery store.

Detroit Lions lose to L.A. Rams: Five things to know about loss

Defense solid but not quite good enough

DETROIT — It was a game not new to the Lions. They held on against a tough opponent, kept it close until the fourth quarter and then couldn’t get across the finish line.

Sunday’s 30-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams dropped the Lions to 4-8 with losses in five of their last six games.

You know what they said afterward about needing to improve as a team moving forward. It’s been said in eight post-game press conferences this season.

“Give the Rams credit. That’s a really good team over there. They’re very explosive, very dynamic, and I think we tried to be in it all the way through it,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “Obviously, we didn’t get it done in the end.”

Five things to know about the loss:

1. The defense actually played pretty well through most of the game. Defensive back Quandre Diggs had a solid game with an interception, two pass defenses and six tackles. He wasn’t alone. Damon Harrison and Eli Harold each sacked quarterback Jared Goff. And, at least in the first half, running back Todd Gurley was kept in control. Although he finished with 23 carries for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

2. Matthew Stafford kept the offense moving until late in the game. He was 20 of 33 for 245 yards, one touchdown and an interception in the end zone trying to make a play with 11 seconds left in the game. But when he was sacked by Aaron Donald in the fourth quarter, he couldn’t hold onto the ball, fumbled it and the Rams were able to recover at Detroit’s 24-yard line. Three plays later Gurley scampered in for a touchdown to put the Rams up 23-13 with 6:53 left. It was a killer play.

3. Fans were booing loudly when on a third-and-19 in the third quarter, Theo Riddick ran a draw play. It seems to happen quite often that the coaches are so conservative on third-down plays. The Lions settled for a field goal on that drive after Riddick picked up 8 yards. On a third-and-13 in the fourth quarter, Stafford passed short right to Bruce Ellington for 5 yards. It’s not just in this game, either. This is a theme with the coaching calls on third down.

4. Tight end Levine Toilolo stepped up with four catches for 90 yards. He caught one for 22 yards on a first-and-20 in the third quarter on a drive that led to a Matt Prater field goal. Then on the Lions’ next possession he caught one deep down the middle for 39 yards, getting Detroit to the Rams’ 23-yard line. Three plays later left tackle Taylor Decker caught a touchdown pass.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

5. Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh seemed to be quite fired up for this game, his first return to Ford Field since he signed as a free agent in 2015 and left town. Suh finished with six tackles (his season high is nine) and no sacks. He was whistled twice for personal fouls. With 1:41 left in the game and the Rams leading 30-16, Suh was penalized for roughing the passer. Inexcusable. Stafford was asked if his former teammate had anything to say to him: “Nope.” Then he was asked if he said anything to Suh. “Nope.” End of story.

NEXT UP: Lions at Arizona Cardinals (3-9) at 4:25 p.m. on Dec. 9. The Cardinals upset the Packers at Green Bay, 20-17, on Sunday.

Lions LT Taylor Decker scores first touchdown in loss to Rams

Play designed by Jim Bob Cooter last week

DETROIT — You want a creative and imaginative offensive play? Jim Bob Cooter drew one up last week for the Lions.

On Sunday it resulted in 11-yard touchdown pass to left tackle Taylor Decker in the 30-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. With Decker’s score, the Lions were down just 16-13 late in the third quarter.

It was Decker’s first-ever NFL touchdown. And if you happened to catch the ball that he sailed into the stands afterward, he’d like it back. Thank you.

It was not a play that had been in the works for months. Decker said it all came about “pretty late in the week.”

“Walked into breakfast one morning and heard they were going to have a little wrinkle for me and I literally said, ‘I’m going to score a touchdown,’’’ Decker said.

It’s not like they had a lot of practice time to fine-tune it.

“I think we ran it once (in practice). It’s more of a scheme thing, it’s not like I”m beating man coverage,’’ Decker said.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Quarterback Matthew Stafford said it was a Cooter-designed play and that he and Decker got a couple throws in on the side at practice.

“That was Jim Bob this week. I thought it was a great add. Situation was perfect, to tell you the truth, to call it and it worked,’’ Stafford said. “I think our crowd got a little loud when he was telling everyone that 68 was reporting as eligible, which I thought was great. Our guys executed it well. It was a big play and obviously gave us a touchdown.”

Decker said he was a little hyped when he heard the play called. He was so tired afterward he got oxygen on the sideline.

“Obviously didn’t get the result we wanted, but it was a cool moment for me’’ Decker said.

“He’s a big target. So I was happy for him, happy for those guys,’’ Stafford said. “Always good to watch a big guy score, man, they enjoy it. I think he threw it in the stands, huh? Copycat.”

Frustrated Lions DT Ricky Jean Francois after loss to Rams: We can’t keep losing

He doesn’t believe in moral victories

DETROIT — While Detroit lost 30-16 to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday at Ford Field, the Lions’ defense showed positive signs against one of the NFL’s top offenses.

However, no one was claiming a moral victory.

“It sounds cute, that’s all it is. It sounds good enough to make a story that we gave a run to the L.A. Rams. At the end of the day we still lost. There’s no such thing as moral victories. We don’t have that in our head,’’ defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said. “… We didn’t go out there, we didn’t do our job, we didn’t win. At the end of the day there’s no such thing as a moral victory, I still see an L instead of a W.’’

Francois is one of the outspoken leaders on the team who is not afraid to show his emotions after a loss. Sunday was no different.

The veteran was frustrated to see the Lions fall to 4-8, dropping five of their last six games.

“I can’t speak for them, I can’t speak for none of the guys in the locker room. I know I’m tired (of losing), I’m done with that (expletive). That is unfamiliar to me, losing all the time. At some point, we have to have a breaking point,” Francois said. “Tonight, we have to go home and look at ourselves in the mirror and check ourselves. Are we doing enough to win? Are we helping this team to win, and are we helping ourselves and our team to put us in a position to start putting wins up? Last few games we were playing playoff caliber teams. It’s not going to get easier. We just played probably one of the teams that’s going to be in for the NFC Championship, or probably further. We have to learn how to start playing at these levels. We have to learn how to start playing playoff teams. We have to learn how to execute and learn how to close. When we learn how to close, when we learn how to do that, we’re just going to keep having this conversation.”

He wasn’t done.

“That’s the most high-powered offense in the NFL, we held them to the point they had to grind for every point. They did it though,’’ Francois said. “They were physically and mentally ready to come in and win this game. You have to cash in, you have to get to that point where you’re tired of losing. That has to irk you, that has to keep you up at night. We can’t keep losing.’’

Losing doesn’t sit well on him and it hasn’t since the preseason.

“Nobody has to teach you how to learn, you have to have that within you , you’ve got to know how to win yourself. No matter what the situation is you’ve got to know how to master, how to close that game,’’ Francois said. “You’ve got to know how to cash in on situations, win the two minutes, win the end of the half, all types of stuff. No coach in this building, no coach in the NFL can teach an NFL player how to win you have to have that within you.’’

When specifically asked about what was wrong with the Lions, he had a Bo Schembechler like answer: “The team, the team, the team.’’

Next Sunday the Lions play at Arizona (3-9). The Cardinals upset the Packers, 20-17, at Green Bay on Sunday.

Francois said he hopes all three phases can learn something from Sunday’s loss.

“I understand what (Arizona’s) record is, but that’s a hard-playing team. …  I’m just tired of losing. All of us in this building are tired of losing,’’ Francois said.

Lions without Kerryon Johnson, Mike Roberts; Teez Tabor inactive again

Nick Bellore misses first game

DETROIT >> The Detroit Lions (4-7) will face the Los Angeles Rams (10-1) today without top running back Kerryon Johnson who misses his second straight game with a knee injury. Expect LeGarrette Blount to pick up more carries like he did against the Bears on Thanksgiving.

Fullback Nick Bellore (ankle) and wide receiver Brandon Powell (calf) were also declared out on Friday. Tight end Michael Roberts (shoulder) was doubtful and is out.

Cornerback Teez Tabor will miss his second straight game. He’s healthy —  it’s a coach’s decision.

Wide receiver Bruce Ellington (back) and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (neck) were questionable but are active.

Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.

Other inactives: Linebaker Trevor Bates and defensive end Kerry Hyder.