Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Washington Redskins

ALLEN PARK — It’s one of those games, the Detroit Lions should absolutely win. But this is the NFL and nothing is a certainty, especially when it involves the Lions’ struggling defense.

The Lions (3-6-1) face the lowly Redskins (1-9) at Washington, D.C., on Sunday. 

Quarterback Matthew Stafford (back) has been ruled out, giving Jeff Driskel his third straight start.

In preparation, Lions coach Matt Patricia said he looks more at the film than the record of the opponent.

“The tape tells us a lot, that’s really what we have to focus on. Especially with a team like this, that we don’t really know very well from a stand point of we don’t play them a lot,’’ Patricia said. “We have to really dive into their personnel and figure out who they are, how they play, how it affects what they do. They have some experienced veterans that are on that team and that they’ve added to that team, and they have some young players that are really good, up and coming players. We really need to learn those guys as we go through the course of the week.”

Five things to watch:

1. Driskel has found some success in his first two starts and is getting more comfortable with each passing play. The offense was not the reason Detroit lost 35-27 to the Dallas Cowboys. Driskel is no Stafford, but he is proving to be a fine fill-in.

2. Detroit’s defense will face rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins who has had a rough start, throwing for a pair of touchdowns and five interceptions. Putting pressure on the rookie will be key, get him out of his comfort zone. This has not exactly been the strength of the defense in the first 10 games. They need to step it up. Haskins is still quite raw. “I think the game becomes faster for a player and they don’t have to think as much, it comes a little bit easier. That’s probably the thing that we’re emphasizing and we’re working through right now,’’ interim coach Bill Callahan said on a conference call this week.

3. Adrian Peterson, who is 34, is the Redskins leading rusher averaging 4.2 yards per carry. “I had the opportunity to experience playing against him years back when he was a young guy. I’m watching the film, and I don’t see it being a whole heck of a lot different,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. “He’s powerful, he breaks tackles, he’s physical. He’s got great size, we all know that. So, I just think that you’ve got to be in good position to tackle him. Everybody’s got to understand that they’re in the point of attack because the ball could end up hitting any gap on any given play. He’s got great vision, he’s got great feet. He’s powerful. There’s not much different for me when I watch the film.”

4. The Redskins offense has been outscored 253-125 overall and 75-34 in the fourth quarter. The Lions have generally faded in the second half on both sides of the ball and have been outscored 92-64 in the fourth. Could be a snoozer if neither team jumps out and tries to take advantage of the other’s weakness.

5. Lions running back Bo Scarbrough, who made his NFL debut on Sunday, could get the start again. Scarbrough, who is low-key, had 14 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys. “I thought he came in and really did a nice job of bringing a physical presence for us. He was really hitting the hole hard, he was running downhill, breaking tackles at the first level, breaking tackles at the second level,’’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “I mean that’s kind of what we were looking for in the run game. I thought he kind of gave us a little bit of a spark, and you could see the tenacity that he brought to it and kind of the style that we would like to play.”

PREDICTION: Lions 24, Redskins 23 (This is a tough one. Lions should win, but not much confidence after loss to the Cowboys.)

Lions’ QB Matthew Stafford has no plans to shut down for the season

ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford said shutting down for the season has not been discussed. 

“This is what I do. I understand your question, this is what I love to do, I love playing football,’’ Stafford said on Wednesday.

The Detroit Lions quarterback, who is dealing with a back injury (he offered no specifics) has missed two straight games. Stafford would not rule himself out for Sunday at the Washington Redskins, but he didn’t practice on Wednesday and it seems unlikely he will get the green light.

“I appreciate all the hard work that all the guys in this locker room and in this organization put into going out there and trying to win games on Sunday and I love being a part of it,’’ Stafford said. “It’s tough for me to sit there without the pads on and not be able to impact the game on the field like I’m used to doing. That’s driving me to get back out there when we all deem it’s the right time.’’

When he is healthy he will be back. No consideration will be given to his future health or the fact the Lions are 3-6-1.

“I think for me if I’m healthy enough to go play I’m going to go play. Every time I step out on a football field the next week, the next play, the next year’s health is in question because it’s a violent game, I understand that,’’ Stafford said.

He repeatedly said he’s doing everything to get back out there as soon as possible.

“It’s not just myself going through it, there’s a bunch of people looking into it, a bunch of people going in on the decision on when is the best time for me to come back,’’ said Stafford who was injured late in the loss at Chicago on Nov. 10.

In the first nine games, he had thrown for 2,499 yards with 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. 

“I was having a blast out there playing and it’s obviously just difficult to not be out there,’’ Stafford said.

Lions’ awful defense not all Patricia’s fault, but it’s up to him to fix it

This defense worse than the 0-16 team in 2008

ALLEN PARK — The Lions’ defense is bad, it’s ranked 30th in the NFL giving up 412.8 yards per game. In Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys, the defense gave up 509 total yards. No other team amassed more yards on Sunday.

It might not be the Lions’ worst defense ever, but if not it comes close.

In 2008, you remember the season the Lions went 0-16, Detroit’s defense allowed 404.4 yards per game. It was the worst in the NFL but still allowed less yards than this season’s bunch.

So what now?

The Lions (3-6-1) play at the woeful Washington Redskins (1-9) on Sunday. The Redskins ended their streak of 16 straight quarters without a touchdown when they scored a pair late in a 34-17 loss to the Jets on Sunday. The Lions are 2.5-point favorites.

With a championship, playoffs and likely a winning season out of the realm of possibility, coach Matt Patricia on Monday said: “We’re playing for this game, that’s what we do and that’s really honestly that’s how the week is for us. It’s one-game seasons, that’s what they are, that’s how the NFL works.’’

While Lions’ penalties were an issue Sunday (11, costing 89 yards) and are most every game day, the defense is the reason the Lions lost to Dallas, 35-27.

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said he had time to go through his progressions two or three times. It was crazy. It seemed like he had all day because he did. No wonder he passed for 444 yards — the most against the Lions this season. Often his receivers were wide open. Four of them had single catches of 21 yards or more (21, 23, 41,49). That’s a little crazy too.

So Patricia was asked if there will be changes on defensive play-calling immediately after the game. He danced around a straight answer.

He was asked again on Monday and remained vague. It’s uncertain if he or coordinator Paul Pasqualoni are making the calls during the game. 

This was Patricia’s reply on Monday: “I think for us as a staff, and how we’re doing things on defense, I think we need to continually improve it. I definitely feel that that has been my message to those guys throughout the entire season, so that we can help the players more. I try to do as much as I can and will continually try to do that, but I think the coaches are working really hard to try to get it right from that aspect of it. We obviously have to do more, and we will. Sometimes I look at it and think I have to teach it differently too. I always try to evaluate, ‘OK, what can I say differently here? How can I explain it different? How can I term it different that we’ll at least maybe understand it and maybe be able to play a little bit better from that aspect of it?’’’

When pressed on an answer about play calling he said his role on game days changes game by game. 

“So, some games it’s been more, some games it’s been less, and that’s been consistent throughout the season. That’s true,’’ Patricia said.

Whether it’s Patricia or Pasqualoni making the calls, improvement must be made.

This mess of a defense is not all on coaching, but that is definitely a part of it. Patricia went 6-10 last season and now is 3-6-1. Is the team still listening to him? “I think there’s nothing that would give me an indication that they’re not,’’ Patricia said. 

Not so long ago — actually in 2014 under coach Jim Caldwell in his first season — the Lions finished the season with the second-best defense in the NFL, allowing 300.9 yards per game. It was Ndamukong Suh’s last season in Detroit.

It’s been downhill since.

Last season, the defense ranked 10th (335 yards per game) after it made a turnaround during the season (after the acquisition of Damon “Snacks” Harrison) and toughened up.

This season’s new low is not all because of Patricia’s defensive philosophy, but it’s up to him to right a sinking ship. 

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Bo Scarbrough adds punch to Detroit Lions’ run game in loss to Cowboys

DETROIT — Bo Scarbrough made one heck of an NFL debut on Sunday.

The Detroit Lions running back, who had been promoted from the practice squad on Saturday, got the start in the 35-27 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Scarbrough, a seventh-round pick of the Cowboys in 2018, had 14 carries for 55 yards including a 23-yard scamper and a touchdown.

“I kind of grabbed him after the game and just told him how proud I was of him. He ran the ball super hard. He knew what he was doing,’’ quarterback Jeff Driskel said. “He hasn’t been here very long at all and he stepped right in there, and it was awesome to see him run that ball that hard. He kind of brought some life to our run game and it was awesome. He’s a good player and I’m happy he’s on our side.”

Scarbrough’s 5-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, following a fumble recovery, gave the Lions a 7-0 lead. 

“That touchdown doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just another score on the board for us to get ahead. But if we can contribute and win, it’d be different,’’ the 23-year-old Scarbrough said.

His fresh legs let the Lions keep Ty Johnson, who was coming off concussion protocol, for most of the game. 

Scarbrough did not say when he found out that he would start.

 “It’s an opportunity, week-in and week-out. Everybody needs an opportunity. It felt regular to me. Playing under coach (Nick) Saban – this is what we’ve always done. Every week was a different guy up, so you just have to be ready when your number is called. If you number is called, you just have to take advantage of it and run with it.”

Scarbrough played at Alabama including the two national championship seasons (2015 and 2017). He was signed to the Lions practice squad on Nov. 6 after being out of football since Aug. 31 by the Seahawks.

He said he didn’t have extra motivation today because the Cowboys were the team that originally drafted him.

“No, like I told you before, it’s what I do. ‘Matty P’ (Patricia) says that and that’s what he wanted me to do. So I’m going to do my job, whatever it is, to help the team win,’’ Scarbrough said. “If I have to give someone a cup of water, then that’s what I do.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

Detroit Lions’ defense fails again, this time in loss to Dallas Cowboys

DETROIT — Detroit’s defense is not getting the job done.

It happened again on Sunday when the Dallas Cowboys beat the Lions 35-27 at Ford Field. If you’ve lost count, the Lions have lost six of the last seven and are now 3-6-1.

On offense the Lions had a backup quarterback (Jeff Driskel) starting his second game for this team and a running back (Bo Scarbrough) who never had a carry in the NFL. Still they managed to score 27 points which should be enough to win an NFL game.

Do not blame this on Driskel or the offense. 

This is all on the Lions’ sad-sack defense, especially against the pass.

In the last five games the defense has allowed quarterbacks to throw 16 touchdown passes and has not made an interception. 

“We just need to make more plays. We just left too many plays out there. It’s another game – I feel like a broken record at this point, but another game I feel like the offense played well enough for us to win, but we have to figure it out collectively as a defense,’’ linebacker Devon Kennard said. “We have to play better, and we can play better.”

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott threw three touchdown passes for 444 yards (just shy of his all-time high of 463). He had all the time in the world in the pocket and often his receivers were wide open, without a defender within a few yards. Dallas finished with 509 yards of offense.

“We had pressure. I think we missed like three (sacks). We were getting what we needed to go, we just have to make the plays, like I said. We had a couple guys that probably had some sacks but missed it. We had a couple guys that had chances to make PBUs and we didn’t make it, and I am one of them,’’ cornerback Darius Slay said. “So, it’s all accountable for all of us, so we all just have to put it together.”

Coach Matt Patricia, known as a defensive guru when he was hired from the Patriots, has talked about finding consistency since Week 1. He is still searching for it.

“It’s something we’re trying to figure out,’’ Patricia said in his post-game presser.

Echoing his coach, Kennard said they need to be consistent in everything they do.

“I feel like last week we came out and played one of our better games defensively overall, and we needed to build on that and not take a step back. Defensively, I think we took a step back today,’’ Kennard said.

Yes, there have been injuries but that is no excuse. Every team is dealing with that at this time of the season.

Nothing that they saw from Dallas should have been a surprise. The Cowboys had the NFL’s best offense (437.3 yards per game) when they arrived at Ford Field.

“We didn’t play well enough to win. Give the Cowboys credit. They made a lot more plays than we did,” Patricia said. “Certainly, I’d say, in all three phases they’re plays out there that we need to do a better job of, so continually trying to improve this and get it better.”

No offense but this is basically what’s been said every week just change the name of the opponent.

Prescott is a solid quarterback with plenty of talent surrounding him.

On a somewhat positive note, running back Ezekiel Elliott was held to 45 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. In only one game has he been held to less yards (35) this season. 

Two Cowboys’ receivers — Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb — finished with more than 100 receiving yards. Gallup’s 148 yards were the most he’s had since Week 1. Cobb’s 115 receiving yards were a season-high.

Driskel might be young but he’s not crazy. He wasn’t going to get into a debate on whether the offense is carrying the defense and if there is any resentment in the locker room.

“I mean the beautiful thing about football is it’s a team sport, it’s a total team sport. Our first touchdown of the day they gave us a short field. I don’t know where we got the ball exactly, but they did a nice job of getting the ball off of them,’’ Driskel said referring to the recovered fumble at the Cowboys’ 28-yard line in the first quarter.

“We did a nice job of scoring a touchdown. We got the ball later – I think it was still in the first quarter – around midfield after a huge return, so, it’s a total team game,’’ Driskel said. “I think everyone just has to look themselves in the mirror and see what each individual could have done better to give us a better chance to win.”

No one would disagree.

This team can do better with the talent on the roster, but it is the defense that is holding the Lions back. Of that, there is no question.

Detroit Lions RB Ty Johnson and S Tracy Walker return; Stafford out vs. Cowboys

DETROIT — While Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford, Da’Shawn Hand and Rick Wagner were ruled out on Friday, Romeo Okwarais is also inactive in today’s matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.

Running back Ty Johnson, who sustained a concussion last week at Chicago, will return which will be a boost to the running back bunch. On Saturday, the Lions signed RB Bo Scarbrough to the active roster from the practice squad and released RB Paul Perkins.

Damon “Snacks” Harrison (groin), Sam Martin (abdomen) and Tracy Walker (knee) are active. They had all been listed as questionable on Friday. 

It’s the second straight game that Stafford (back/hip) will sit out. Coach Matt Patricia said on Friday that he is following a doctor’s plan and doing well. Jeff Driskel will start his second consecutive game. He took first-team snaps in practice this week so should be more prepared.

Right tackle Rick Wagner, who sustained a concussion in the loss at Chicago last week, will miss his first start this season.

Defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (ankle) has played in just two games this season. This will be his second straight game sitting out.

Other Lions inactives: T Dan Skipper, G Beau Benzschawel and CB Michael Jackson.

The Lions (3-5-1) have lost five of their last six while the Cowboys (5-4) are coming off a loss to the Vikings.

 

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Detroit Cowboys

Detroit’s defense, which has struggled and is a huge reason the Lions have lost five of their last six, will face another huge test in the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

The Lions (3-5-1) are coming off a 20-13 loss at Chicago while the Cowboys (5-4) lost to the Vikings 28-24 on Sunday night.

Detroit will be without quarterback Matthew Stafford (back/hip) who will miss his second straight start. Jeff Driskel will step in once again. 

The Lions have been in close games — they’ve lost their last two by one touchdown — but have had trouble scoring or holding onto a lead in the second half.

“I would say for our guys – maybe with the exception of one week this year – even though we fought through every single game, I would say each game is coming down to maybe one or two plays here or there,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “I think our guys are continually trying to battle through that and trying to find ways to come out on the plus side of it, so are we as coaches.’’

Five things to watch in the Lions-Cowboys matchup:

1. The Lions’ defense must play better overall. Coordinator Paul Pasqualoni is bullish on the group and sees positive signs despite the losses. “I don’t know if there is anything missing, but I just keep talking about playing with consistency and winning them. So, we have to focus on what we need to do to win games and just being as consistent as we can be every snap because these games – the margin of error, as you guys know is not very, very big,’’ Pasqualoni said. “That’s the National Football League, so just focusing and concentrating on what we have to do to win games.”

2/ must find a way to pressure quarterback Dak Prescott who has completed 68.3 percent of his passes.  “You know I would say, one of the things is – watching him from last year when we played him early, to this year – I think he’s doing a great job at the line of scrimmage. He’s changing plays, he’s audibling, he’s making adjustments based on what he sees from the defense. I would say his post-snap read of coverage is a lot better,’’ Patricia said. “He’s doing a really good job of kind of deciphering some of the different looks that he’s getting and really taking advantage of the skill players that he has out there with the speed and some of the one-on-one matchups that are being created out there because of the run game, and some of the different things that defenses have to do.” 

3. Stopping the run has also been an issue for the Lions defense — they’ve allowed 129.7 yards per game. Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott can be dangerous.  “Well, I think that he has great balance. I think his pads, he’s always moving forward. He (is) very, very hard to keep him from going forward, he does a great job with that,’’ Pasqualoni said. “He runs hard, he has really, really good vision and he has good instincts. He has all of those critical factors that running backs need to have. A lot of it is vision and balance and a feel for it, and he does a great job of making his cuts, staying square and moving downfield.”

4. Driskel did fine in his start at Chicago. Considering his lack of experience (five previous starts with the Bengals) he moved the offense as well as could be expected, but he is no Stafford. The Lions need to put plenty of points on the board against the Cowboys, because it’s a given that Dallas should barrel through the Lions’ defense. 

5. Injuries have decimated the running back group. Ty Johnson could provide a huge boost if he can return after suffering a concussion last week in Chicago. He was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report. 

PREDICTION: Cowboys 31, Lions 17