Lions backup David Blough will start against Bears on Thanksgiving

ALLEN PARK — Lions backup quarterback Jeff Driskel seemed optimistic on Tuesday that he would start against the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving. However, his hamstring will keep him out of the starting role.

David Blough, a rookie who has never played in an NFL regular season game, will get the start for the Lions at Ford Field.

Blough, who played at Purdue, was signed as an undrafted free agent last June by the Cleveland Browns and then was traded to Detroit. Driskel is expected to serve as the backup. Matthew Stafford (back) will miss his fourth straight game.

Thanksgiving spirits might not be so bright since the Lions (3-7-1) have lost four straight and seven of their last eight. They’ll face the Chicago Bears (5-6) for the second straight year 

Ready or not, they’ll be the only NFL game on national TV at 12:30 p.m.

For us, we’re going to obviously try and go out and play as hard as we can. We know how important this game is, we know how important it is to our organization, our ownership and obviously the fans,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “It’s a great privilege to be in this game. For us, we understand that, we’re very blessed to be here, I think Thanksgiving is a great time, a great week to reflect.’’

Five things to watch:

1. Certainly don’t know what to expect from Blough, although seems likely the run game will need to carry the offense. 

2. Running back Bo Scarbrough has been the highlight of the past two weeks. From the practice squad two weeks ago he has had games of 55 and 98 rushing yards. Although now defenses know to prepare for him. “It’s kind of why you just hesitate to have too many conversations about those guys and not help opponents figure out who they are ahead of time. You try to let the opponents figure it out on their own. Certainly, I think you watch Bo run and some of the things that he did last week, he’s running really hard,’’ Patricia said. The big back (6-foot-1, 235 pounds) has five more games to prove himself. He could be the answer to the question of who will back up Kerryon Johnson next season. 

3. Lions linebacker Devon Kennard thinks the defense is showing signs of improvement in recent weeks (despite four straight losses), especially against the run. But overall the defense has been ineffective and is a big reason the Lions have lost seven of the last eight. If they are close to turning it around, Thanksgiving would be a good start especially with Blough starting at quarterback.

4. Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky leads the NFL’s 29th best offense averaging just 269.3 yards per game. The quarterback has thrown just 10 touchdown passes in 10 games and three of them were in the first matchup with the Lions — one each to Ben Braunecker, Tarik Cohen and Taylor Gabriel. He was sacked five times by the Lions in that game — perhaps a little more of that type of pressure could be applied.

5. Patricia and the players have talked a good game this week. They say they’re focused solely on the Bears and they take the season one game at a time. There’s been a lot of talk in Detroit from fans who are beyond frustrated at the lack of wins. Some of them want Patricia and/or GM Bob Quinn fired. Fans didn’t seem to expect that the Lions, who were 9-7 in 2017, would fall so low in an effort to rebuild. On Thursday at Ford Field, the team has to show the focus they discuss and they need to do it in all four quarters.

PREDICTION: Bears 23, Lions 10. Not sure the Lions can pull it together.

(Photo courtesy of the Detroit Lions)

Lions LB Devon Kennard believes in Matt Patricia and the process, despite results

ALLEN PARK — Devon Kennard doesn’t listen to all the “noise” in this town concerning the 3-7-1 Lions, their coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn.

The volume was cranked up after the Lions lost to the lowly Washington Redskins on Sunday, still Kennard is a believer in Patricia and remains focused on Thursday’s game against the Chicago Bears (5-6). The Lions’ linebacker said he’s learned a lot of football since he came to Detroit last season.

“It hasn’t been a good season so far. I’m a firm believer, I’m riding with (Patricia) until the wheels fall off and that’s my mentality,’’ Kennard said on Monday evening.

His focus is on the Bears, not on the season as a whole. 

“It’s obviously where we’re at, but I’m not the type to be in the middle of the season and be jumping ship,’’ Kennard said. “I’m trying to win a game, I’m trying to win on Thursday, all that other talk and all of that, that’s noise. I think it’s disrespectful to the game to be worried about that kind of stuff. Got a big game on Thursday —  it’s a big thing for fans, this organization to be thinking about anything else but how we’re going to stop losing and how we’re going to get a big win on Thursday. That’s where our minds need to be.’’

In the first meeting two weeks ago, the Bears (5-6) defeated the Lions 20-13. The Lions have lost four straight and seven of their last eight. 

Kennard starting smiling just thinking about the possibility of a win on Thursday.

“It will feel really good. You won’t see me monotone if we get a freaking win I’ll be feeling good. I think it will be a good start it’s one win, you can’t look at anything bigger than that,’’ Kennard said. “It will feel great right now especially on Thursday against a really good team that we’ve lost to a bunch since I’ve been here. Being able to get that win will be huge.’’

Patricia, who is 9-17-1 in his first two seasons, said he’s always disappointed when they don’t win. He’s a competitive guy.

The coach also says this is all a process. 

I know there’s a lot in play here that we’re going through, and we’re trying to build, and we’re trying to do the best we can to improve and get better,’’ Patricia said. “Sometimes, for us, we try to just stay on (the) task at hand for the week. It’s one-week seasons for us. On top of that, we’re looking at other things as far as the development of some of the younger players and the guys that are out there and just how those – even the guys that have been around for a while are improving and going through and learning and improving. For us, it’s just part of the process as we go forward.”

Kennard, who had a sack and a forced fumble in the loss to the Redskins, sees improvement in the defense.

“I actually think the last few weeks there’s been some things we’ve done better. I feel like we’ve stopped the run better the last few weeks — that’s something that’s frustrating me a lot early in the season and I feel like we’re playing better ball when it comes to that,’’ Kennard said. “That needs to continue. That’s a start for me personally and us getting things where we want them, we have to pick up in other areas. I know penalties are killing us, third down is killing us defensively. Those are things we need to address and get fixed.’’

Five things to know about Detroit Lions’ 31-26 win over N.Y. Giants

DETROIT — After three straight losses, the Detroit Lions absolutely needed to beat the N.Y. Giants to have a chance to turn the season around.

And so they did.

The Giants hung tough, but Detroit won 31-26 on Sunday at Ford Field. With the Bears’ loss to the Chargers, the Lions (3-3-1) moved up to third in the NFC North.

Detroit’s defense scored first when Devon Kennard returned a fumble for a touchdown. It turned out to be a good sign of things to come.

“It was a lot of fun. It was my first time scoring since high school, so touching the paint and getting in the end zone was a lot of fun for me,’’ Kennard said.

A flea-flicker play that resulted in a 41-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Kenny Golladay provided a little razzle-dazzle, but it was mostly grind-it-out football by both teams.

Five things to know about the win:

1. Stafford’s stellar season continues. He passed for 342 yards (25-32), three touchdowns and one interception. He has thrown for at least three touchdowns in three of the last four games. Stafford led the offense to convert 8-of-14 third-down chances and two of those were scores. Stafford, of course, shines the light on his teammates. “There’s a bunch of great players around me, just trying to get the ball to those guys, they make some great plays and we get in the end zone,’’ Stafford said. “It doesn’t matter to me if I’m throwing it in or we’re running it in I just want to score points, obviously left a few out there today but made enough plays to win the game.’’

2. Golladay’s half-dozen catches for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns were key. Just before the flea-flicker touchdown catch, he caught an 18-yard pass on second-and-9 with his arms totally outstretched and somehow on his way to the turf managed to hold on to the ball. The offense had practiced the flea-flicker —  the handoff to J.D. McKissic, who tossed it back to Stafford, who found Golladay — in the past two weeks. It worked in practice so coordinator Darrell Bevell found the perfect time to put it in play. Golladay’s first touchdown reception came on third-and-2 at the Giants’ 9-yard line. “The defender tried to undercut it, so I pretty much just had to do just hands it and not really let it get too close to him. I just snatched it away, quick turn, and made sure both feet were in,’’ Golladay said. 

3. Detroit’s defense had its hands full with running back Saquon Barkley who not only is a phenomenal runner but can also pick up yards after the catch. Barkley had 19 carries for 64 yards and eight catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. The Lions were able to contain the Giants enough for the win. It was tough late in the game when they lost safety Tracy Walker to a knee injury especially since Darius Slay (hamstring) was inactive and they traded Quandre Diggs earlier in the week. 

4. Defensive end Trey Flowers who had one sack in the first six games had back-to-back sacks in the fourth quarter. The first one came on the Giants’ first-and-10 on Detroit’s 43. Flowers knocked the ball out of quarterback Daniel Jones’ grip but Jones was able to recover for a loss of 10 yards. On the next play Flowers sacked him again for  a 6-yard loss. So Giants went from first and 10 to third-and-26 courtesy of Flowers. It was key because the Giants were down by 12 points but there were six-plus minutes left in the game. “(Credit) to the defense on those plays that allowed me to be able to get back there, and I just made the play when it came to me,’’ Flowers said. “There are a lot of guys on this defense that are capable of doing it, and we’re just going to continue to work.”

5. With Kerryon Johnson on injured reserve, running-back-by-committee looked to be the best option. And it was. But not many expected Tra Carson, who the Lions signed on Oct. 17, to be the starting back. He ran on three of the Lions first plays in their opening possession and gained 23 yards. He finished with a dozen carries for 34 yards. Ty Johnson (7 for 25), Paul Perkins (3 for 4 yards) and McKissic (one for minus-1) also got in on the action.

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Eagles in Philadelphia

ALLEN PARK — After two weeks, the Lions remain undefeated even though that first-week tie still seems kind of ugly.

Onward.

The Lions are 5-point underdogs on the road at Philadelphia at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford said he doesn’t think at all about being 1-0-1.

“It’s just a huge challenge for us this week. Going to Philadelphia is a tough place to play. They have a bunch of good players and have been a really good team for a long time, so it’s just a new challenge for us, something we have to attack on its own,’’ Stafford said.

Stafford and his teammates agree that Sunday’s comeback win against the Chargers doesn’t mean much this week.

I think just because you did it last week doesn’t mean you’re going to do it again the next week, but also if you didn’t do it the week before, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it the next week,’’ Stafford said. “No, we take every challenge head-on as a new one.”

Five things to know about the Lions at the Eagles (1-1):

1. In the win over the Chargers, Stafford was let loose. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell called an aggressive game even after Stafford had thrown two interceptions. Afterward Stafford was smiling and it wasn’t just because of the win. Bevell is known for depending on the run game and certainly a balance (not necessarily 50-50) is key to an offense putting up points in the NFL, but Stafford has to be allowed to throw the bombs, to throw on an important third down. Maybe this is the change the Lions have needed over the past few years. Now we’ll see if it continues.

2. Stafford must be kept clean again. It’s rare when he goes through a game without being sacked like he did on Sunday. In the last five seasons he’s been sacked 213 times with only 7 games with no sacks. “Keeping the quarterback safe and protected is No. 1. You know obviously you’ve seen us do different things with Matthew (and the first thing is always trying to take care of him and how we keep him upright, even if he gets an opportunity to run,’’ Bevell said. “That’s always in the forefront of our minds because those guys are really hard to find, and we have a good one and we want to protect that guy.”

3. After missing left tackle Taylor Decker for one game and linebacker Jarrad Davis for two, it looks like the Lions will be mostly healthy in Philadelphia. Both practiced all week and are officially listed as questionable. Tyrell Crosby did a commendable job filling in for Decker on Sunday, but having a healthy Decker return would be a positive facing Fletcher Cox and the Eagles’ defensive line. “They have a solid front with Fletcher and Brandon Graham on the same side. They can move those guys around with (Derek) Barnett. It’s an active front,’’ Bevell said. “They do a great job of getting penetration and really trying to work up the field and wreak havoc that way. Fletcher has been a good player for a long time and something that we’ll have to make sure that we have answers for. It’s a good combination of him and Brandon Graham working on the side together.”

4. Matt Patricia did not confirm that Jarrad Davis will play on Sunday, but seemed optimistic before Friday’s practice. Davis’ presence would be huge against the EAgles offense led by Carson Wentz and fueled by TE Zach Ertz. “I think J.D., just in general, obviously this is a kid that loves the game,’’ Patricia said. “He just loves to come in and prepare every week and he loves to learn and he’s just every single day – that intensity to get better, as a coach, is something you love to see. I think he obviously provides a layer of leadership, I’ll say comfort or calmness, to the middle of the defense when he’s out there because of his knowledge and his ability to control the middle part of what we do in the defensive scheme. I think those other guys have done a great job and really Devon Kennard I think has stepped in great as far as the communication on the field. I think he’s done a phenomenal job of that too.’’

5. Special teams have not gotten off to a good start this season. Would expect that Matt Prater’s missed 40-yard field goal and missed extra point are just anomalies. Patricia said punt returner Jamal Agnew was benched for that game after a fumble, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be back as the return guy. Patricia does have options in Danny Amendola and Ty Johnson. Special teams also had too many penalties which is something that should be easy to clean up.

PREDICTION: Eagles 27, Lions 24. (Philadelphia is banged up while Detroit is mostly healthy. Still, it’s a tough place to play and pulling out a win would be a tough task.)