Five things to watch as Lions face 49ers

Both teams want to avoid 0-2 start

After Monday night’s 48-17 loss, the Detroit Lions have much to prove today at the San Francisco 49ers.

They can quiet the rumors that the team doesn’t buy into new coach Matt Patricia. The defense can show that Patricia and Paul Pasqualoni have drawn up a scheme that complements the players’ talents.

They can prove this team is ready to take a step up from a 9-7 record last season. They can show that they can compete for a playoff spot.

(Kickoff is at 4:05 p.m. on FOX)

The Lions’ short turn-around from playing on Monday night is no excuse. This is the NFL, this is what they do.

In the past 10 seasons only 10 NFL teams  made the playoffs after an 0-2 start. Here’s the thing, though. San Francisco is 0-1 too — although they looked more competitive in the 24-16 loss at the Vikings.

It all sets up for a Week 2 game with plenty on the line for both teams.

Five things to watch:

1. Matthew Stafford should have a better game. The four interceptions were not all on him, but he made some bad decisions in the first game of this tenth season. He is better than that. Of course when he delivers a ball to a receiver, they cannot drop it. Golden Tate alone had two drops. He knows he can do better.

2. The offensive line last week didn’t allow Stafford to be sacked. However, the quarterback faced much pressure. With T.J. Lang (foot) out at right guard we could see Kenny Wiggins start in his place. He is experienced after starting all 16 games last season for the Chargers. The line — all five of them — have to play better than last week not just in protecting Stafford but opening up holes for the running backs.

3. That run game that has been talked about since the final snap of the 2017 season, needs to get in gear early. Let’s see more of rookie Kerryon Johnson and veteran LeGarrette Blount. Last week Ameer Abdullah was inactive (coach’s decision) and would expect the same at San Francisco. The Lions only had 39 yards rushing in Monday night’s loss to the Jets. They had to get away from the run in the second half because they fell so far behind. In the first half they managed just 18 rushing yards. It’s befuddling, that’s for sure. If it’s not corrected, their chances of beating the 49ers are diminished.

4. Detroit’s defense got off to a terrific start with Quandre Diggs intercepting Sam Darnold on the Jets’ first play from scrimmage. It was pretty much downhill from there with the defense giving up five touchdowns, 169 rushing yards and 48 total points. It doesn’t get easier. Coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense has plenty of weapons with Jimmy Garoppolo connecting on passes of 36 yards or more to three different receivers last week. Shanahan said he watched Patriots’ film from the Super Bowl to acquaint himself with Patricia’s defensive scheme. The line must get pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo to force him to throw interceptions. Last week he threw three, which is uncharacteristic for him. In six games last season he was picked off just five times. The Vikings made him uncomfortable (he was sacked three times) and it worked.

5. Special teams must get its act together after a lousy start against the Jets. They gave up a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown and Matt Prater missed two field goals (56 and 44 yards). Sam Martin’s punts averaged a healthy 50.7 yards but those were returned for a total of 137 yards. Special teams can be overlooked, but this unit needs to step up.

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Lions Golden Tate: ‘We have a chance to write this story a little differently’

Lions play at San Francisco 49ers Sunday

ALLEN PARK >> It’s been a week of introspection for Golden Tate and many of his Detroit Lions’ teammates.

Losing a season opener 48-17 will do that to a player, even an NFL veteran.

“Personally it’s been tough because we showed up in April and put a lot of work in, a lot of hours in, a lot of expectations and the first opportunity you get to do that it hurts. Like I said, it’s a new week, it’s a new opportunity,’’ Tate said. “On Sunday we have a chance to write this story a little differently.’’

The Lions (0-1)  will look for redemption when they play at the San Francisco 49ers (0-1) at 4:05 p.m. on Sunday.

“The season is just now starting. we’ve got a long season, a lot of things are going to happen between now and then. As far as I’m concerned, we’re starting our season this week,’’ Tate said. “Unfortunately we didn’t get it done last week, we didn’t give our fan base much to cheer about. We’re refocused, looking in the mirror working even harder, excited to get back on the field, get on the road against another good opponent and fix this.

“We come back to Detroit 1-1, doesn’t matter what we did in Week 1,’’ he added.

And if they come back 0-2? Let’s take the weeks as they come.

Five thoughts from Tate moving forward:

1. While some Lions said they didn’t hear the boos at Ford Field or tuned them out, Tate definitely heard them. “It was tough, the boos got louder and the Jets’ fan base got louder, to be at home and that be the case it definitely hurts,’’ Tate said. “I can’t say we didn’t deserve it — we didn’t put a great product out there. Like I say, it’s only week 1, we have 15 more opportunities at least to go out there and paint this picture. I have no doubt with the competitors we have that we’re going to get this fixed.’’

2. The wide receiver thinks this is a perfect time to go on the road even though it’s a cross-country trip after a Monday night game. “I like to go on the road this time after last week we played so bad we needed something different,’’ Tate said. “But overall I’d much rather be home, I don’t mind going on the road this time.’’

3. He’s kind of befuddled by the Jets’ claims that their defense was able to read the Lions offense by formation and hand signals, leading them to intercept Matthew Stafford four times. “It kind of surprised me. If it’s true to have all this knowledge of our offense the first week I’m not sure how they got it, i guess we did have a few players over there but I don’t know,’’ Tate said. “I’ve thought about it, I don’t know how they would have got such information especially when we’re at home, they did a good job but now we’re trying to move on to the San Francisco 49ers … We’re excited to get back on the field and get this taste out of our mouth. For not only us but the city, we know we’re a good team and we have some good players we just need to go out there and put it all together.’’

4. Tate takes his share of the blame for the embarrassing loss despite seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. “Anyone who’s satisfied with their performance last week definitely has to look into the mirror,’’ Tate said. “We’re having a week of practice where we’re trying to dial in on details and be better, just collectively, play better team ball and get out there and win. You guys have been around here for a while we have a lot of the same characters, we have a good team, we have good players all over the place we just need to go out there and put it together.’’

5. Tate played with 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman for three seasons (2011-2013) while they were both in Seattle. So the Lions wide receiver knows what to expect. “Richard is an incredible leader, one of the guys who has been known to be the best at what he does for a bunch of years. I can only imagine the impact that he’s had on all of those young DBs over there with similar body styles, similar game play, so we will have our hands full for sure,’’ Tate said. “We’re going to have to be on our Ps and Qs this weekend. I think if anybody can do it we can, we’ve got some talent over here as well. I think our game plan is going to be good, we just have to go out and execute as best we can.’’

Lions Matt Patricia stresses hard work, execution on day after stunning loss

Jets’ defense knew the Lions’ plays

The day after the debacle, Lions coach Matt Patricia stayed on message. He’s moving on from the 48-17 loss to the Jets on Monday Night Football

Patricia, on a Tuesday evening conference call, said the team is working hard to get better every day.

Pure coach speak. With the way the Lions stunk up Ford Field, it seems Patricia would be a little more fiery and address the areas that failed (basically all of them).

Here are two concerns:

— Have the played bought in to his message?

— How come the Jets defense knew what was coming on Detroit’s offense?

If he’s worried that some of the players may have tuned him out, he did not let on.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

“The good thing about this game, one of the things we try to do is build mental toughness, that’s part of the game and what we’re all about,’’ Patricia said in a Tuesday conference call.

Really, it could have been any coach of any team in any sport uttering those same words.

This is an area that cannot be overlooked. If Patricia has lost the team — and it’s an if — one game into the season, it could turn into a four-month nightmare. Lions’ fans know the script.

Along with messaging, it certainly can’t be overlooked that Jets defensive and offensive players said they knew what plays the Lions were running and were able to adjust. This is the first game of the season so they must have gone back to last season for film — and maybe to Patriots’ film on defense. Afterall they intercepted Matthew Stafford four times and Matt Cassel once.

Patricia doesn’t seem fazed by this.

“I would say in general, there are a lot of things that go on in the games that are identifiable to the players on both sides of the ball through the course of the game and that happens at times. Those things come up,’’ Patricia said. “There are certainly very specific things that are used in the course of a game where guys do a good job of steering things or studying things and seeing stuff at that standpoint. We try to do the best we can to keep it moving on both sides of the ball. We certainly have the same situation from our side, we study opponents the same as everybody else does and you kind of, group, I would say, things into categories based on schemes and systems. And that’s really important to understand. So, if you do that, sometimes that’s helpful and sometimes it’s not.”

Got that?

The offensive woes on Monday night were possibly most worrisome since it’s basically the same offense that Jim Bob Cooter ran last year. It seems like he would have changed formations and signals, or maybe he did.

Patricia brought in a new defensive scheme. Do the Lions have enough talent and depth on defense to execute it? He didn’t really say.

“We have the players that we have that are going to help us try to get better. I think the biggest part of it for us, again I’ll start with myself, some of the coaching and some of that stuff has to be better and some of the execution of some of the things we were trying to do last night has to be better,’’ Patricia said. “I don’t think it was a situation where we were outmatched or out-manned , we just got out-executed, give credit to the Jets.’’

Veteran safety Glover Quin said it felt like the defense never was in control of the game.

The Lions finished 2017 with a 9-7 record. They’ve won at least nine games in three of the last four seasons. Patricia doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. This is not a rebuild. This is not a young team by NFL standards. These guys know football.

“I feel like we were right in the game in a good situation at the beginning of the third quarter and we let things spiral out of control from there,” veteran linebacker Devon Kennard said. “Like I said, being a defensive guy, I would’ve loved to get a stop after our offense scored and put them in position to maybe score again. But we didn’t do that and things got out of control.”

 

Lions, Matt Patricia had seven months to prepare for Jets; results inexcusable

Lopsided loss raises doubts

Seven months. Coach Matt Patricia and his staff had seven months to prepare for the N.Y. Jets. The results are shameful.

The Lions are coming off a 9-7 season which was not good enough to keep Jim Caldwell around. On paper it’s a decent NFL team. Not elite, but it should be at least an eight- or nine-win team.

This is not a rebuild. This is a team that should re ready to take the next step, a playoff win.

Then came a stinker like Monday when the Lions lost 48-17 at Ford Field to the Jets and their rookie quarterback Sam Darnold.

Color me befuddled.

It would be understandable if Stafford happened to have a bad day but the defense and special teams held their own. Or any variation of that – defense bad and Stafford and special teams good. Or, if one of the key players had been out with an injury it would have been a little less befuddling.

But it was all three phases that stunk in Monday night’s debacle. Even Matt Prater missed two field goals.

Stafford threw four interceptions and afterward several Jets defenders said they knew what play the Lions were going to run by their formations and Stafford’s hand signals, according to Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports.

How can that happen? Patricia is a defensive guru — he’s the guy who has been looking for tells on other offenses. How can he not see them in his own offense?

He took partial blame, but should have put it all on his shoulders. That’s what Stafford did – he told his teammates that loss was on him. That’s a sign of a leader.

Seven months.

Look back to 2009 when Jim Schwartz, also a first-year head coach, took over the Lions who had stumbled to an 0-16 record in 2008. That was a job no one wanted. The roster he inherited had more weak points than strengths (Calvin Johnson). Matthew Stafford was a 21-year-old rookie. The team culture was all about losing. The roster didn’t have near the talent or depth that today’s does.

The 2009 season opener was in New Orleans, a tough place for any NFL team to win except the Saints. Drew Brees threw six touchdown passes and zero interceptions while Stafford threw three interceptions and zero touchdowns. And, yes, the Lions lost, but the score was 45-27. Detroit had 33 rushing yards, even then it was a weak point. It was not a great start for Schwartz, but considering where the Lions came from, it was not that upsetting.

In 2014, Jim Caldwell won his first game as Lions coach on a Monday night against the Giants, 35-14, at Ford Field. Those Lions were coming off a 7-9 season that got Schwartz fired.

That was then, this is now. Patricia’s message has been “last year was last year.”

Well, last year is looking pretty good.

Five thoughts on the Lions embarrassing 48-17 loss to the N.Y. Jets

Even Prater missed a pair of field goals

DETROIT — It wasn’t just a loss. The Lions through the years have dropped many games they were supposed to win.

No, Monday night’s season-opening 48-17 loss to the N.Y. Jets was humiliating, embarrassing and all-around atrocious.

To say it was awful is just too kind.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The Lions were beat solidly in every phase on Monday night in the friendly confines of Ford Field by rookie Sam Darnold, the youngest quarterback to ever start a game in the NFL.

Five thoughts:

1. Let’s start with the coaching. Did Matt Patricia have this bunch fully prepared? It did not look like it. Patricia’s first start as an NFL head coach was abysmal.

“Look we’re just trying to come out here everyday and get better. It’s a team game but it starts with me and we’ve got to do it better,’’ Patricia said afterwards. “Look we work hard, try to do the right things, we try to coach it the right way, we try to run it the right way, we try to execute the right way we obviously didn’t do a good enough job tonight.” Obviously.

2. Matthew Stafford is a talented quarterback with a big arm. He is not just a gunslinger. His former backup, Dan Orlovsky, said on WJR’s pre-game show that most people don’t understand the level of Stafford’s intelligence. It was the first game of Stafford’s 10th season and he threw four interceptions. Four. His record is five in a game but that was back when he was a rookie. Stafford got dinged twice in the game, but made it through until there was absolutely no need for him to be on the field.

“The story of the game was turnovers, we had too many of them, I had too many of them. I told those guys in there I’ll take (the blame) for this one. I hope I never have to say that again, I don’t want to do it, I’ll push myself as hard as I can to make sure I don’t have to. Felt prepared coming into the game, but didn’t make enough good decisions or good throws,’’ Stafford said.

3.  It is not the first time opponents said they knew what plays the Lions offense was running before the ball was snapped. Dan Wetzel, Yahoo columnist, tweeted that “a number of  Jets defenders said they knew what plays the Lions were going to run based on formation and Stafford hand signals.’’ Could explain why the Jets defense intercepted Stafford four times and Matt Cassel once. This is inexcusable and it can be blamed on coaching. Patricia knows better than this.

4. Defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said finger-pointing will not help. He emphasized that players and coaches have to examine their roles in the debacle. Francois started with himself.

“We just got beat across the board. Tonight is a game we need to look at, we need to look at each individual self including my damn self. I need to look myself in the mirror and look at this game. I have to put it behind me fast,’’ Francois said. “This is a game we need to learn off of. The bad part about it, we got beat this way. The good part about it is we get to learn from it. We’ve got 16 more weeks to play.’’

5. Bailing out the water from this sinking ship can’t be a drawn-out process. It has to be done before Sunday when the Lions play at the 49ers.

“There’s not a lot to be happy about here. I think in general all of us have to be better, start from the top and work our way down, I don’t think there’s anything you can say other than it’s all execution and coaching it all has to be better from that standpoint,’’ Patricia said.

BONUS 1: Wide receiver Kenny Golladay (7 catches for 114 yards) and rookie running back Kerryon Johnson (5 carries for 17 yards; 3 catches for 20 yards) provided highlights on offense. … Safety Quandre Diggs intercepted Darnold on the first play from scrimmage and ran it back 37 yards for a touchdown. It was a great way to start a game. … Detroit’s defense allowed 169 rushing yards and 349 yards overall. … Matt Prater missed two field goal attempts (55 yards short and wide right from 44 yards). … Ziggy Ansah had a sack early, but couldn’t finish the game due to a shoulder injury. Devon Kennard also sacked Darnold. … Ameer Abdullah and A’Shawn Robinson were inactive.

BONUS 2: Ricky Jean Francois gets the final words: “As long as nobody in this locker room, this organization lost faith, I could care less (what’s said) outside the door. None of them play for us. The only people who play for us are the people in this locker room, who I go to practice every day. As long as they still have confidence, as long as they know we have 16 weeks and as long as they know we’ve got a quick turnaround for this game we have to play (Sunday). That’s all that matters to this Lions organization.’’

 

Detroit Lions inactives include Ameer Abdullah, A’Shawn Robinson

Matt Patricia makes his Lions’ debut

DETROIT — Running back Ameer Abdullah, who was not on the injury report, will be inactive for the Lions tonight when they open their regular season against the New York Jets at Ford Field. Kickoff is 7:10 p.m. on ESPN. Abdullah was the Lions’ leading running back in 2017 with 552 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns.

That leaves active running backs: Theo Riddick, LeGarrette Blount, rookie Kerryon Johnson and fullback Nick Bellore.

Also defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, who started every game in 2017, is inactive and was not on injury report this week. He had lost his starting role during camp. Sylvester Williams and Ricky Jean Francois are expected to start at defensive tackle.

Other Lions inactives:

Wide receiver Brandon Powell

Cornerback Dee Virgin

Defensive end Romeo Okwara

Guard Joe Dahl

Tackle Andre Donnal (knee) did not practice on Saturday and was listed as out on the injury report that day.

It’s the debut of head coach Matt Patricia has been targeting this day since he was hired in February.

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions open against the N.Y. Jets

All eyes are on Matt Patricia

ALLEN PARK >> Every move that GM Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia have made since January has led up to tonight.

The Lions are 6.5-point favorites against the visiting N.Y. Jets. Kickoff is 7:10 p.m.

The pressure is on Quinn who fired Jim Caldwell after last year’s 9-7 season. He said at the time the team was better than their record.

All eyes are on Patricia in his first stint as a head coach at any level. If 9-7 wasn’t good enough for another year for Caldwell, certainly more is expected of Patricia.

“I think external expectations, they are what they are. I can’t control them, there are probably a lot of people outside this building that have no idea what goes on inside the building from that standpoint,’’ Patricia said. “So, we’re just always going to try to take it day-by-day, we’re going to take it game-by-game. That’s the only thing that matters to us. I think to put numbers on what 16 games are going to look like is just unrealistic for anybody. So, we’re going to try to make sure that we do the best job we can with this game.”

A win against the Jets would be a good start for the Lions who play at the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday and return home to the New England Patriots in Week 3.

Five things to watch in the opener versus the Jets:

1. Watch the running backs — either three or four of them will be active. Patricia refused to elaborate on the number in his Saturday morning press conference. He also wouldn’t say if Ameer Abdullah, who is listed as the kick returner on the depth chart, will indeed have that responsibility. Quinn has said during the offseason that three running backs will be active. Theo Riddick? Check. LeGarrette Blount? Check. Abdullah? Probably. So what about Kerryon Johnson? He will be active. Count on it. We’ll know 90 minutes before the 7:10 game time. “We’re going to try to do what we can that particular week to best fit what the game plan is, to go out and execute at a high level,’’ Patricia said on Saturday. “It might be more running backs, it might be more wide receivers, could be an extra lineman. We might have a situation where we need to go in a different personnel group from that standpoint. So, I wouldn’t always just lock in a number from that look.

2. One game doesn’t mean everything, but it could give us a better indication of what to expect from defensive end Ziggy Ansah this season. He seems healthy and is coming off a season where he had 12.5 sacks with six of them occurring in the last two games. It seemed like an off year for Ansah. The pass rush is critical to an improved defense and Ansah should lead the way.

3. Patricia, in his first game as head coach, will leave play calling to his coordinators Jim Bob Cooter and Paul Pasqualoni. Obviously he’ll chip in when he feels a need. Many Lions fans criticized Jim Caldwell for not displaying emotion on the sideline and yet finished with a 36-28 record. Patricia has been more vocal on the practice field, we’ll see how he is on game day.

4. Matthew Stafford enters his 10th season and 113th consecutive start. No doubt he has a handle on the offense which has been tweaked but not overhauled since last season. If the reworked offensive line and the run game are effective, Stafford will look good not perfect. Don’t jump off the ledge if he throws an interception. That happens, especially if the Lions fall behind. He’ll do his part but will everyone else?

5. The new-look defense will feature multiple looks and packages. This has been a focus of Patricia and Pasqualoni. First, watch for pressure up front and contain on the edges. Jarrad Davis will play a key role and needs to step up from his rookie season. Patricia seems to love Quandre Diggs, who was signed to a three-year extension this week. He’s listed on the depth chart as the starting strong safety, but could also play nickel. Glover Quin and Darius Slay are expected to pick up where they left off. Nevin Lawson had a rough preseason game, but he’s a better corner than that. Or is he?

Prediction: Lions 30, Jets 21. Opening at home will be key for the Lions. This is a game they should win. The Jets, coming off a 5-11 season, feature a rookie starting quarterback in Sam Darnold.

(The game will air on ESPN with Beth Mowins on play by play, Brian Griese as analyst and Laura Rutledge on the sidelines.)