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