Five reasons the Detroit Lions beat Carolina Panthers, 20-19

Offense, defense and special teams came up big

DETROIT — Perhaps the Lions’ game ball should have gone to Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera. He made the decision to go for a 2-point conversion after a touchdown catch by D.J. Moore that pulled Carolina within one point with 1:07 left.

The conversion failed when quarterback Cam Newton couldn’t find an open receiver and sailed one high into the end zone. Panthers’ kicker Graham Gano had missed a field goal and extra-point earlier and Newton had momentum, it just didn’t work out.

That decision allowed the Lions (4-6) to snap a three-game losing streak with a 20-19 win over the Panthers who fall to 6-4.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford wasn’t thinking about Rivera’s 2-point decision at the time.

“I’m kind of just locked in on what my two-minute calls are going to be, what I’m going to have to do to go down and score and get a field goal to win the game. I trust our defense a ton to make a play but as a player you have to be ready for what’s ahead,’’ Stafford said. “It’s either going to be two-minute or take a knee. … Obviously we didn’t need (the two-minute) which was awesome.’’

He wasn’t surprised they went for 2 points since they’re so aggressive and it gave them a chance to steal one on the road.

“Obviously our defense made a great play there at the end. They were rolling a little bit there in the second half on a couple drives. I bet they felt confident, but I was confident in our guys and I’m glad we made the play,’’ Stafford said.

Five reasons the Lions won:

1. Two huge defensive plays on a Panthers’ drive early in the fourth quarter were key. Cornerback Darius Slay turned on the jets and somehow caught D.J. Moore at Detroit’s 12-yard line after an 82-yard gain that looked sure to be a touchdown. Then three plays later on third-and-2, at Detroit’s 4, linebacker Jarrad Davis sacked Cam Newton for a 12-yard loss and forced the Panthers to attempt a field goal which kicker Graham Gano clunked off the post. Big Play Slay certainly lived up to his nickname on that one play. He limped off the field but was able to finish the game.  “We knew that’s what we had to do. If we stop (Newton) ‚ he’s the show — if we stop the show, we can win,’’ Slay said. “And he’s the show and we stopped him and did our best we could against him and handled that.”

2. Kenny Golladay had a big day (eight catches for 113 yards). With Marvin Jones Jr., out, Golladay was the top wide receiver on the field. No catch was bigger than his 19-yard touchdown with just five minutes left in the game. Golladay was covered by James Bradberry, but he leapt up and dove backward into the end zone, keeping control of the ball on his way down. That score gave the Lions a 20-13 lead. “(Stafford) just gave me a nice, pretty, high ball. I like balls like that for me to just use my size, hands, athletic ability to go up there and make the catch and that’s what I did,’’ Golladay said.

3. The offensive line came up big protecting Matthew Stafford. He was sacked just once (by his old nemesis Julius Peppers) and hit just once. He had been sacked 16 times in the past two games. “I was just trying to do a good job of keeping us ahead of the sticks. If I had to take 3 or 4 (yards) on first down and not wait on something that was 10 or 15, I was going to do it,’’ Stafford said. “Credit to our guys getting open and making the catches when we were able to do that. Obviously running the ball helps … I was proud of our guys up front, they pushed them around in the run game and kept me clean for most of the day which was awesome.’’

4. Running back Kerryon Johnson ran in from 8 yards out for a touchdown on the Lions’ first possession. Johnson had a great day with 15 carries for 87 yards, along with two catches for 10 yards, until he injured his knee late in the third quarter and was unable to return. In his post-game press conference, Patricia said he had no update on Johnson. FOX reported that Johnson was crying once he got in the tunnel on the way to the locker room. “He’s got some big-play ability, you see it. Some 20-plus runs, I’ve got the best view in the house right behind him,’’ Stafford said. “Sometimes splits a seam and he’s out. He’s done a nice job for us and it was more of the same today.”

5. Stafford and Jim Bob Cooter fashioned together an offense without Marvin Jones Jr., and it worked. “We knew it was going to be a collective effort. It was going to take everybody doing a little bit here and there to make that thing go for us,’’ Stafford said. “We didn’t light up the scoreboard by any means but we got enough points to win the game which was nice.’’ Along with Golladay’s eight catches, Bruce Ellington had six for 52 yards and Theo Riddick finished with five receptions for 30 yards. Stafford was 23 of 37 for 220 yards and one touchdown. The quarterback has been criticized early and often for the last three losses, he deserves credit here too.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

UP NEXT: Lions host the Chicago Bears at 12:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. It’s a short-turnaround for Detroit or as Stafford said, “We’ve got to flip it quick.” The Lions lost to the Bears, 34-22, two weeks ago.

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Five main reasons Detroit Lions lost to Seattle Seahawks

Detroit falls to 3-4; next up at Vikings

DETROIT — It’s not just that the Seahawks were well rested coming off  a bye week, they were better prepared for whatever they would face against the Detroit Lions.

Quality coaching by Pete Carroll and overall solid execution led to a 28-14 win over the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday.

For the Lions (3-4), it was complete failure in all three phases. It was ugly.

Coach Matt Patricia took partial blame afterward, as well he should.

“It was a bad job coaching, bad job playing. We have to do a better job getting prepared during the week. (We) played a very good Seattle Seahawks team. Give them credit. They came out, they out-performed us,’’ Patricia said. “Pete (Carroll) had his crew ready to go coming off the Bye week and we just couldn’t stay with them at all. So, I have to do a better job getting the team ready.’’

And certainly much is on him.

Veteran defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, who is not afraid to speak his mind, said the team came out flat and unfocused.

“We didn’t focus on nothing, we couldn’t stop the run, and we let the Seattle offense control the game. We killed ourselves in penalties, we didn’t connect with their plays and we didn’t focus at all. We were just out there playing,’’ Francois said.

When running back Ameer Abdullah was asked if the team hit cruise control, he had a one-word answer: “Obviously.”

That is on coaching.

After winning two straight, it looked like the Lions were turning the corner in Patricia’s first season. Now it looks like they’ve fallen down the stairs and it’s uncertain if they can climb back up.

Five main reasons the Lions lost:

1. The defense did not in any fashion resemble the same bunch that beat the Patriots and Packers. It looked like they’d reverted to their status when they were embarrassed by the Jets in the season opener. Patricia, supposedly a defensive guru, has problems here. They can’t be this inconsistent week to week if they want to win. On the snaps where newly acquired nose tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison was on the field, they were more effective at stopping running backs Chris Carson (25 carries, 105 yards) and Mike Davis (10 carries, 33 yards). That’s potentially a good sign, but it can’t all be up to the new guy. “Seattle’s run the ball really well, so we knew it was going to be a big challenge for us. It’s a full-team effort in the run game,’’ Patricia said. “We have to get everybody executing better. … We have to get the fits right and we have to get off some blocks and we need to get our fundamentals better. So, that’s the bottom line.’’

2. Matthew Stafford fumbled and lost the ball and also threw an interception. Both were fourth-quarter miscues. Can’t happen. Stafford said if he would’ve had two hands on the ball he wouldn’t have lost it. He only blamed himself. The Lions were first-and-goal at Seattle’s 4-yard line when cornerback Justin Coleman stepped in front of Golden Tate at the 1-yard line and got his mitts on the ball. A touchdown would have closed the gap to a 7-point deficit and left the chance the Lions could pull out a last-second comeback. Stafford finished 27 of 40 for 310 yards, two touchdowns and a 96.9 rating.

3. Special teams play stunk too. They had penalties on a punt and on two kickoffs. Ameer Abdullah, who was returning kickoffs, fumbled and lost the ball in the second quarter. Sam Martin shanked a 28-yard punt late in the third quarter to give the Seahawks the ball at their own 28, when the defense needed them to be backed up. Patricia wouldn’t specifically address the special teams woes. “Right now, I’m not really pleased with any phase,’’ the coach said.

4. When the Lions run the ball well, offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter looks like a genius. They only rushed for 34 yards with just 13 carries. They stuck with the run early but once they were down 21-7 in the second quarter they need to play catch-up by passing the ball. It’s why an early lead is so essential, it can change everything. “We were coming in with a balanced game plan and obviously the score got to where it was, we had to try and do some things to get back into it,’’ Stafford said.

5. Get the ball to Kenny Golladay. The wide receiver had one catch for 12 yards. Last week he had two for 21 yards. “We don’t really go into a week thinking, ‘Throw this guy a ball a bunch of times,’ we just go out there and call plays and I need to make sure I get it to the right guy,’’ Stafford said. Makes sense. However, when you’ve got a talented guy like Golladay maybe find ways to get him more involved. On the bright side, Marvin Jones Jr. had seven catches for 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Golden Tate had seven for 50 yards.

UP NEXT: The Lions (3-4) play at the Vikings next Sunday, and then at the Chicago Bears on Nov. 11. Two huge divisional opponents who are tough to play on the road. It will be interesting to see which Lions team shows up.

 

Five things to watch as Lions host Seahawks; plus prediction

Both teams at 3-3 heading into match-up at Ford Field

ALLEN PARK — To have a chance to win the NFC North, the Lions have to win at home.

So far they’re 2-1 at Ford Field with impressive wins over the Patriots and Packers and an  embarrassing loss to the Jets.

Sunday’s game at Ford Field against the Seattle Seahawks isn’t a must-win but almost halfway through the season it’s time to get on the right side of the .500 mark.

The Seahawks (3-3) have won three of their last four just like the Lions (3-3). Tee up another tough one for the home team. Seattle is coming off its bye week so should be rested and ready to go.

“I think Seattle has a little bit of jump on us this week and got going early. I know coach (Pete) Carroll is going to have his group ready to go,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “We just have to be ready to go from the start. We can’t let whatever happened last week affect us this week. We have to move on and get ready to go and just expect their best right away. They are a fast-starting aggressive team, we know that just in general so we’re going to have to be ready to go as soon as that thing kicks off. But we know that they’re energy, the competitiveness that Seattle brings, they’re going to do a great job of trying to get on top early and keep the throttle going all the way through the game.”

The Seahawks have outscored opponents 28-21 in the first quarters of their six games while the Lions have a 45-13 scoring edge in the first quarter.

Here are five things to watch:

1. No room for complacency on the Lions run game. Feed the ball to Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount. Don’t shy away. Keep pounding. Got that Jim Bob Cooter? I think he does, actually. Cooter has looked like an offensive genius since Johnson has found his groove.

2. Matthew Stafford has been playing out of his mind. In the last five games he’s thrown 11 touchdowns and one interception and finished each game with a rating of more than 100 (158.3 is perfect). He has the respect of the Carroll, the Seahawks and everyone else. “He’s a terrific player, I have great respect for him. He’s one of the great ones in the game. He’s got all the background, all of the experience, he’s thrown a million passes in unbelievable situations late in the game, two minutes, you name it, big third down guy, big red zone guy,’’ Carroll said on a conference call this week. “He’s a great player and he’s one of the classic quarterbacks in this league and has been for a long time.” The Seahawks’ passing defense is ranked third in the NFL allowing just 206.0 passing yards per game and they have nine interceptions, tied for sixth in the NFL

3. Will have to wait and see whether NT Damon “Snacks” Harrison will make his Lions’ debut. Patricia wouldn’t say either way prior to Friday’s practice. The nose tackle, acquired for the Giants, practiced with the team on Thursday and Friday. Stafford, who has played against him, said he’s not only good for stopping the run, but he’s also sneaky good in the pass game too. The defense has improved at stopping the run, but Harrison’s addition could be huge.

4. Detroit’s defense has to make Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson uncomfortable which is tough because he’s still dangerous when he gets outside the pocket. “Russell Wilson is still Russell Wilson, moves around a lot, makes a lot of plays for them. They are getting back to what they like to do is run the ball, run the ball, control the game up front and then take some shots off the run game,’’ Lions safety Glover Quin said. Wilson has thrown 13 touchdowns against just four interceptions.

5. Keep an eye on Seattle running backs Chris Carson (4.5 yards per carry) and Mike Davis (4.6 yards per carry).  The Seahawks average 127.8 rushing yards per game. “Coach ( Brian (Schottenheimer) and I went against each other for a long time when he was at the Jets and I know he likes that downhill kind of pound-it run game,’’ Patricia said. “And I think he just has two backs that he feels are big, physical guys that will be hard to tackle for 60 minutes. And I think they’re in a situation where they’re handing the ball off 30-plus times here recently in order to control the game and I think that’s what they want to do. I think that’s what he likes is just having those bigger backs that—it takes a toll. When you have those big guys, you may stop them for a yard or two early but those one or two-yard runs turn into five or six and then all of sudden it’s a 10 to 12 to 20-yard run and that’s the biggest problem with guys like that. And I think they’ve just settled into a system that fits them really well.”

PREDICTION: Lions 27, Seahawks 21

Five reasons the Lions beat the Packers

Stafford: A total team win

DETROIT — The Lions’ offense was good but not spectacular, the defense shut down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers for a half and special teams had a good day.

It was the perfect equation for the Lions’ 31-23 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Ford Field.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford called it a “total team win.’’ It is exactly what this team strives for every week but it doesn’t always happen.

The Lions now own a 2-3 record, (1-0 in the NFC North) heading into their bye week.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Oddly enough Detroit has beaten two of the best quarterbacks (Tom Brady and Rodgers) and fallen short against lesser teams.

“I think I’ve said it for forever and you guys hate hearing it. You have to prove it every week,’’ Stafford said. “And we’ve been close in a couple other games too, and just haven’t gotten it done at the end of the game. So, proud of our guys for getting it done at the end of the game.’’

In other words, it’s the NFL.

The Lions jumped out to a 24-0 lead at the half. Yet everyone knew the game was just getting interesting.

Five reasons the Lions hung on to win:

1. Packers kicker Mason Crosby missed four straight field goals and a point-after attempt. The first three misses were from 38, 41 and 42 yards — chip shots. The fourth was from 56 yards. He finally made a 41-yarder when it was so late it didn’t matter. Had he been on his game, the Packers could have won. “So, this one unfortunately was really bad and going to have to really look at this one, and you know this one hurts a bunch.  I left a lot of points on the field for this team and I’m disappointed in my performance,” Crosby said. “And, this is, I look back, I’m thinking in my childhood, you know high school, this is definitely a lot worse.  I’m bummed about that.”

2. The Lions secondary was a patched-up group thanks to injuries and yet effective. Tavon  Wilson was inactive, Darius Slay was injured in the second half but able to return and Jamal Agnew was carted off the field with a knee injury in the fourth quarter. Aaron Rodgers threw for 141 yards in the first half but wasn’t able to get the Packers on the board. In the second quarter he threw a 30-yard bomb to Davante Adams to get to Detroit’s 9-yard line but Detroit’s defense held and Crosby missed the field goal. Rodgers scored touchdowns on the first three possessions of the second half. But then a huge stop came on third-and-15 from Detroit’s 38, forcing a field goal attempt that was missed.

3. Aaron Rodgers was sacked three times and lost two fumbles. It appears the Matt Patricia defense is starting to click. Rodgers can make defenses look weak but Detroit found a way to pressure him. He finished with 442 passing yards and three touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough. Rodgers was taken off the injury list this week, but he was missing two of his best receivers in Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison. Also the Packers rushed for just 98 yards against the Lions’ rushing defense which is the worst in the NFL. “Defense is hard. It’s always hard every single week going against great quarterbacks, schemes, coaches. They do a phenomenal job and we’re just trying to dial it in,’’ Patricia said. “I think the biggest thing for us is some continuity. Maybe a little bit of continuity here the last couple games, which is good. That helps the communication from that aspect of it.’’

4. Even though they had a 24-0 lead at the half, the Lions’ offense remained aggressive in the second half. That was the plan. Stafford said he and Jim Bob Cooter talked throughout about remaining aggressive. Stafford finished 14 of 26 for 183 yards, two touchdowns and a 101.9 rating. The offense can play to its strengths when playing with a lead. “This is the way you want to play the game, out in front and to not have to come back. I just think that we had a great week of practice and it showed in the game,’’ Stafford said. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay had the gaudy numbers with four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown.

5. Once again, the run game helped balance the offense. Veteran running back LeGarrette Blount was signed as a short-yardage back and he got the job done on Sunday. He ran for a yard to convert a third-and-1 and then rammed through for a one-yard touchdown run early in the first quarter. He had a dozen carries for 22 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson’s first scamper was for 16 yards and he finished with a dozen carries for 70 yards (5.8 yards per carry). Johnson injured his ankle early in the fourth after a 24-yard run that led to Stafford’s 5-yard pass to Kenny Golladay for a touchdown to vie the Lions a 31-14 lead. His ankle was taped up but he didn’t get back into the game.

Detroit Lions: Diggs, Abdullah active; Ansah, Lang, Roberts out vs. Packers

Green Bay without 2 of top wide receivers

DETROIT — Defensive back Quandre Diggs, who broke his hand in the loss at Dallas last week, is active today against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field. Diggs practiced all week with a cast on his left hand.

Lions running back Ameer Abdullah is active against today. He could see his first action this season after he was healthy but inactive the first four games.

Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder), guard T.J. Lang (concussion)  and tight ten Michael Roberts (knee) were ruled out on Friday’s injury report.

It’s the fourth straight game that Ansah has missed since he was injured in the opener.

Wide receiver Brandon Powell, safety Tavon Wilson (back),  linebacker Eli Harold (not injury related) and offensive lineman Andrew Donnel are also inactive.

Defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand (ankle), wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. (ankle), cornerback Nevin Lawson (illness) and defensive back Tracy Walker (ankle) were listed as questionable on Friday but are active today.

For the Packers, Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison, two of their top wide receivers, are inactive. That leaves Davante Adams and three rookie wide receivers as targets for Aaron Rodgers.

Other Packers inactives include QB Tim Boyle (healthy scratch), CB Jaire Alexander (groin), CB Bashaud Breeland (hamstring), S Jermaine Whitehead (back) and T/G Alex Light (healthy).

Five things to watch as Lions face Packers in crucial NFC North match-up

A loss would drop Detroit to 1-4

ALLEN PARK — It is huge. The Lions face the Green Bay Packers in their first NFC North game this season on Sunday at Ford Field.

“Division games they count two, so obviously we’re not in the spot where we want to be right now but getting a big division win against GB is huge. We get a win in our column, we’re able to give them a loss in their column. That’s huge,’’ safety Glover Quin said.

Detroit owns a lousy 1-3 record while the Packers stand at 2-1-1 despite the gimpy knee of quarterback Aaron Rodgers who was injured in the opener. This will be Green Bay’s third divisional game — they tied with the Minnesota Vikings and beat the Chicago Bears.

If Detroit drops to 1-4, the season isn’t over but even making it to 8-8 would be challenging. And remember this is a team that finished 9-7 last season which resulted in the firing of Jim Caldwell. General manager Bob Quinn said at the time he thought they were better than 9-7 so he hired Matt Patricia.

And here we are.

Five things to watch as the Lions face the Packers:

1. Even on one leg, Aaron Rodgers has been effective throwing seven touchdowns against just one interception. His top three wide receivers have been on the injury list this week — Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison are questionable while Randall Cobb has been ruled out. “(Rodgers) will be moving around very fast. He’s an extremely athletic player even if you go back to the Washington game where you can say he wasn’t moving as well but he still scrambled and ran for first downs on third down and no one could catch him,’’ Patricia said. “So, this guy is very dangerous when he’s out in space. This guy can make and create a lot of plays not only with his arm, but with his legs.’’ Rodgers is 13-3 against the Lions and, of course, threw the Hail Mary game-winning touchdown pass in 2015 that took the air out of Ford Field.

2. The Lions have not been able to stop the run. Period. They rank 32nd in the NFL allowing 157.8 rushing yards per game. There really is no excuse. Safety Glover Quin this week said they’ve had too many missed tackles, among other issues. He said more film work and concentrating on this in practice is the way to improve. Packers running backs Jamaal Williams, Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones were watching film too. “They do a really good job of creating space and separation in the defensive front and a little bit of a zone and stretch run team. Those guys are very explosive backs that do a good job of getting into the secondary very quickly,’’ Patricia said. “And the guys up front do a real good job blocking and obviously the backs are taking advantage of that and finding space. But, definitely a big part of their offense is their ability to run the ball, which obviously opens up the rest of it for them in the passing game.’’

3. Matthew Stafford needs five passing touchdowns to become the all-time leader in that category against the Packers. Five in one game would be a ton, but it shows that he has had success moving the offense against the Packers, if not beating them. Currently Johnny Unitas is tops with 34 touchdowns and Fran Tarkenton is second with 33. Stafford has been on solid ground after the opener when he threw four interceptions. For the first time in his career, Stafford will be facing the Packers with a defensive coordinator not named Dom Capers. Mike Pettine has taken over the Packers’ defense. “I wouldn’t say it was easier (with Capers), but I was more familiar with what they were all about. Obviously, (they have) a new defensive coordinator this year so I have quite a bit of learning to do on these guys,’’ Stafford said. “Do I know a few of their players maybe better than some non-divisional opponents? Yes, but they have plenty of new guys around, too, to get to know and to learn.”

4. Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson was limited to nine carries last week in the loss at Dallas. There’s clamoring from the Lions’ faithful that he needs to get more touches, but the Lions’ coaches will continue with their plan for the rookie. “Every game’s a little different. You don’t know situationally what’s going to happen with each game from a reps perspective, from a situational perspective, from a match-up perspective,’’ Patricia said. “So, the ultimate goal is just to win the game. That’s the goal each week. That’s what we put all our thought into, all our work into and that’s the emphasis for us.”

5. Injuries will affect both teams. The Lions have ruled out Ziggy Ansah, T.J. Lang and Michael Roberts while the list of questionable players is long. Defensive back Quandre Diggs has been practicing with a cast on his broken left hand so would not be a surprise if he plays. The Packers have ruled out Randall Cobb, but have a half-dozen listed as questionable. Tight end Jimmy Graham and Aaron Rodgers were taken off the injury report.

Prediction: Packers 27, Lions 24

Don’t count out Lions Quandre Diggs against the Packers

Glover Quin has played with a broken hand with success

ALLEN PARK — Don’t count out Quandre Diggs for Sunday just yet.

The Detroit Lions nickel cornerback/strong safety broke his left hand in Sunday’s loss at Dallas.

Diggs had limited participation in Wednesday’s practice which is a good sign that he could be available on Sunday. He was wearing what appeared to be a cast on his left hand.

Diggs has been an integral part of the new Matt Patricia-style defense. He’s started all four games, playing 100 percent of the defensive snaps in Weeks 2 and 3, and 97 percent in the opener.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The Lions (1-3) host the Green Bay Packers (2-1-1) on Sunday at Ford Field. Defending quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a monumental task so having the whole complement of the Lions’ secondary on the field is huge.

Glover Quin said a safety can play with a broken hand. He has done it.

Quin said in his second season (2010), playing for Houston Texans, he broke his hand in a game against the Jets. In the next game he had three interceptions in a win over the Tennessee Titans. (A check of NFL stats proved his claim. By the way, they were his only three interceptions that season.)

“There are definitely some challenges (playing with a cast), especially as a defensive back. You use your hands a lot,’’ Quin said on Wednesday. “You can deal with the pain, you can make it.’’

Of course not all broken hands are equal. If Diggs fracture is more serious he could be forced to the sidelines.

In the first four games Diggs, who signed a three-year, $18.6 million extension last month, has 16 tackles, four pass defenses and an interception in the first four games.