Five keys to Detroit Lions’ 23-20 loss to Green Bay Packers

DETROIT — Absolutely fitting that the Detroit Lions wrapped up the disappointing season by leading the Green Bay Packers for the entire game until Mason Crosby kicked the game-winning field goal as time ran out.

The Packers earned a first-round bye with the 23-20 win over the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday. The Lions lost their ninth straight game and finished with 3-12-1, their worst record since 2009 (2-14). Matt Patricia is 9-22-1 in his first two seasons. On a positive note, they are guaranteed at least the No. 3 pick in the draft.

Once again Patricia said he was proud of his team.

“The team fought as hard as we could, we really tried to do everything we could to give ourselves a chance, obviously we needed to make a couple more plays, give Green Bay credit they made some plays at the end especially that they needed to to win,” Patricia said. “I think this team, like I’ve said all year and today was another great example of how hard this team works, how hard they fight.’’

With so many injuries he played guys in different positions just to get through.

“I’m proud of the toughness of this team, I think it’s the foundation of what we’re looking for — I think we want to be tough, we want to be a team that competes, we want to be a team that goes out and works hard every day,’’ the coach added.

Five keys to the loss:

1. The Lions defense kept Aaron Rodgers in check in the first half when Rodgers went just 6 of 18 got 90 yards. The Lions held a 17-3 lead heading into the third quarter, but Rodgers came back in the second half on fire and looked more like the quarterback of a 13-3 team. 

2. Once again, the Lions could not hold a fourth-quarter lead. It was the seventh game Detroit has lost when holding the lead in the fourth quarter. Finishing is an issue on both sides of the ball. The Lions knew it but didn’t have any answers.

3. Green Bay placekicker Mason Crosby was just 2 of 3 on field goals on Sunday, but had no problem with the game winner of 33 yards. This is the second game this season that Crosby has beaten the Lions by kicking a field goal as time ran out. On Oct. 14, the Packers beat the Lions 23-22 at Green Bay with the same scenario. 

4. Rookie quarterback David Blough, in his fifth start, had a solid effort (12-29, 122 yards) and looked like he might be on his way to his first win. But in the fourth quarter he threw a pass intended for Chris Lacy but it was so short it was easily intercepted by Blake Martinez. The Lions were at midfield with about eight minutes left and a 20-13 lead. But on the ensuing possession, Rodgers marched the Packers down to Detroit’s 28-yard line and then threw a touchdown pass to Allen Lazard. The extra point tied the game. The Lions got possession twice more, but had to punt both times. Rodgers was able to get in field goal range. It was the difference in the game.

5. Matt Prater kicked two key field goals including one of 56 yards to keep the Lions in the game. Prater moved past Jason Hanson into second place all time in the NFL for most 50-yard or longer field goals with 53.

UP NEXT: A long offseason.

 

Lions’ trick touchdown play had been in the works since training camp

DETROIT — The Lions had been working on a trick play since training camp. They saw a good opportunity to use it early in the 23-20 loss to Green Bay on Sunday and executed it to perfection.

Wide receiver Danny Amendola threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to quarterback David Blough who was wide open in the end zone. It gave the Lions a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

It was the second straight year the Lions have used a trick play against Green Bay in the final game of the season.

“Honestly, a lot of those plays that we have – we work on them through the course of the season. Sometimes they come up in the games that we can call them and sometimes they don’t,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “Certainly, we had one dialed up that we had been working on for a while, and we’re just kind of waiting for the right situation. Obviously, we couldn’t really wait past today. So, thought we’d take a shot.”

They’ve been working on it or a version of it since training camp under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell who has run a similar play for years with various teams.

It was a great call by Bev, Danny threw a great ball, I couldn’t have been more open,’’ Blough said. “We got some alerts on it to see if it’s man or zone, nobody’s got the quarterback in man coverage. It was kind of a fun play,’’ Blough said. “We’ve had in a couple times this year, just got it off the card, awesome timing for the call, Danny sold it great. That’s how you hope it comes out.’’

Blough said when the ball was in the air he was thinking “don’t drop it.”

“You play football, catching passes in the yard as a kid, we’ve run it a bunch of times in practice and you just catch it and I kind of knew I was open — I had a couple catches in college — but this was pretty special,’’ Blough said.

He was so excited that he threw the ball up in the stands immediately afterward.

I feel bad because I could’ve given it to Danny. It was the second of his career, I don’t know I was kind of excited obviously. I don’t really remember it all that great,’’

Amendola also threw a touchdown pass last season when he was with the Dolphins.

Five things to watch as Lions face Packers to wrap up the season

While the Lions have nothing to play for except memories heading into the offseason, Green Bay should be motivated at Ford Field on Sunday.

With a win, the Packers can earn a bye in the first round of the playoffs, giving them a week off to rest and recuperate.

The Lions at 3-11-1 are going nowhere. The result won’t change the status of coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn who will return next season. The Packers staged a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Lions in their first meeting on Oct. 14.

“I think (the Packers are) probably quite similar other than the fact that they’re playing so well right now and with so much confidence. I think that since we played them last, they’ve really, really built momentum and confidence,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. “They play together. It’s like they know each other very, very well. That probably wasn’t quite the case when we played them the first time, just based on number of games they have under their belt right now. I think the difference probably would be (that) they were playing at a pretty high level then, they’ll play even better now.”

Five things to watch.

1. David Blough will get his fifth start. As expected, he’s looked like a rookie at times and shows potential at others. That shows in his stats with four touchdowns and five interceptions. 

2. Perhaps you’ve heard this before and it might be too late for this season, but the Lions have to find a way to finish games. Once again at Denver last week they were up 17-13 in the fourth quarter, then collapsed and lost. In their first meeting against Green NBAy, the Lions held a 22-13 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Packers came back and won 23-22. It’s been a theme of the season, giving up leads late in the game. They’ve been outscored 136-84 in the fourth quarter in the first 15 games.

3. Green Bay’s running game propels the offense. In the previous matchup they gashed the Lions’ defense for 170 rushing yards led by Jamaal Williams with 104 yards. Just like always, Detroit’s secondary will have its hands full with Aaron Rodgers. Before the Packers quarterback was intercepted on Monday night he had gone eight games without a pick.

4. The game could play a role in whether the team wants to keep or take another look at a few younger players who haven’t seen much game time. With all the injuries — 16 Lions are on injured reserve — it’s a great time for the rookies and young guys to show what they have against a good team like the Packers. 

5. The Packers are coming off a tough 23-10 win at the Vikings on Monday night. With a short week interrupted by Christmas, it might be a good time to face the Pack. Still, they will be motivated and the Lions are decimated by injuries with nearly 20 players on injured reserve.

PREDICTION:  Packers 34, Lions 17 

Detroit Lions: Ten best Thanksgiving Day games

This will be 80th Lions’ Turkey Day game

ALLEN PARK — Thanksgiving has been special for the Lions for 80 years.

When they meet the Chicago Bears at Ford Field, it will be the 17th meeting between the rivals on Thanksgiving. It started in 1934, the Lions’ first game on Thanksgiving.

In some years, the game plays a pivotal role in the season. This week? Not so much. The Lions (3-7-1) are still licking their wounds after a 19-16 loss at the Redskins on Sunday. The Bears (5-6) haven’t exactly lit up the NFC North either. A year ago, the Bears beat the Lions 23-16 on Thanksgiving.

This list of 10 of the most memorable Thanksgiving games was assembled a few years ago. It still stands:

1. Nov. 22, 1962, Lions 26, Packers 14 —  Roger Brown, the Lions defensive tackle, remembers this game like it was yesterday. The Packers were 10-0 and had beaten the Lions seven weeks earlier. The Lions wanted revenge and got it big-time. Brown sacked Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr seven times. Sacks weren’t an official NFL stat, but they were recorded. Starr was 11 of 19 for 49 yards and minus-6 yards rushing on four carries.

2. Nov. 26, 1970, Lions 28, Raiders 14 —  The Lions fell behind 14-0, then the late Charlie Sanders went to work. The tight end’s first touchdown — a pass from Greg Landry — was the most memorable.  “If you actually look at it you can actually see my fingernails gripping the ball. It didn’t hit in the palm of my hand, it was being gripped by my fingernails. If you look at that, if you are teaching technique, that would not be the technique,’’ Sanders said in the book “Game of My Life Detroit Lions.” The Lions won the next five games and got into the playoffs. They lost 5-0 to Dallas, the eventual Super Bowl winner, in the first round.

3. Nov. 25, 1976. Lions 27, Bills 14 — This was the O.J. Simpson show. The Buffalo running back ran for 273 yards and two touchdowns but the rest of the Bills offense only contributed 49 yards at the Silverdome. Lions quarterback Greg Landry threw touchdown passes of 21 yards and 24 yards to David Hill. Simpson’s touchdowns came late in the game after the Lions had grabbed a 20-0 lead.

4. Nov. 23, 1978 Lions 17, Broncos 14 —  The Broncos were heavily favored but Detroit’s defensive line was ready with a new coach, Floyd Peters, who stressed aggressive play. Defensive tackle Doug English remembers he had four sacks of quarterback Craig Morton. Stats were not an official NFL stat at the time, but there was no question that the D-line made sure it would not be Morton’s best Thanksgiving. The Lions scored on two rushing touchdowns (Rick Kane and Horace King) and a Benny Ricardo field goal. It was quarterback Gary Danielson’s best day but he did enough to get the win.

5. Nov, 28, 1991, Lions 16, Bears 6 —  This might have been one of the more emotional games. It was played 11 days after a freak on-field incident paralyzed guard Mike Utley who was in the hospital watching the game. Before the game Utley’s teammate Lomas Brown read a message on national television: “You’re still as big a part of this team as you ever were. Keep the faith.’’ The Lions defense intercepted Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh four times and recovered two Bears’ fumbles.

6. Nov. 23, 1995, Lions 44, Vikings 38 — The last time the Lions played the Vikings on Thanksgiving, quarterback Scott Mitchell had a career afternoon completing 30 of 45 passes for 410 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Brett Perriman caught two and Herman Moore and Johnnie Morton each had one. Barry Sanders’ 138 rushing yards included a 50-yard scamper for a touchdown that was possible thank to downfield blocks from Morton and Moore. Minnesota’s Warren Moon had a big day too with 384 passing yards, three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. The Lions were 5-6 entering the game and won the remaining games in their schedule to finish 10-6 earning a wild-card playoff berth. 

7. Nov. 26, 1998, Lions 19, Steelers 16 OT — How many games are known for the overtime coin toss? That’s certainly what set this one apart. When the captains at the center of the field, referee Phil Luckett asked the visiting Steelers to make the coin toss in the air to determine who would have possession. Jerome Bettis said “tails” — it was clear —, but Luckett heard “heads”, and when the coin came up tails, he awarded the ball to the Lions. The Steelers and Bettis argued but Luckett would not change. The Lions got possession, Charlie Batch and Barry Sanders got them down the field. Jason Hanson kicked the game-winner. It was not the Steelers’ best Thanksgiving.

8. Nov. 24, 2011, Packers 27, Lions 15 — The outcome for this one isn’t remembered as much as Ndamukong Suh’s misdeed. In the third quarter he pushed Green Bay’s Evan Dietrich-Smith’s head into the turf and then stomped on his upper right arm. Afterward Suh claimed he was trying to get his balance and it wasn’t intentional. The NFL thought otherwise and he was suspended for two games.

9. Nov. 22, 2012, Texans 34, Lions 31 OT —  Lions coach Jim Schwartz let his emotions get the best of him and possibly cost his team the game. In the third quarter, Houston’s running back Justin Forsett (who is now with the Lions)  went straight up the gut, looked like he got tackled with his left knee and left elbow on the turf. But he got up and kept going 81 yards into the end zone. The Lions didn’t chase him because they thought he was down and they were right. Even though all scoring plays are reviewed, Schwartz was so hot that he threw the red review flag which at the time prevented a replay due to NFL rules. The Lion were up by 10 before that Forsett touchdown. It took the wind out of their sails. Matthew Stafford was 31 of 61 for 441 yards, two touchdowns

10. Nov. 26, 2015, Lions 45, Eagles 14 — Matthew Stafford threw for five touchdowns with three of them landing in the mitts of Calvin Johnson. It was the third straight win for Detroit after Jim Bob Cooter had taken over as offensive coordinator, bringing their record to 4-7. Ziggy Ansah was on fire with 3.5 sacks (a career high) and a recovered fumble on the Eagles’ 14-yard line. Coach Jim Caldwell called it their most complete win.

Honorable mentions: In 2000, Patriots backup quarterback Tom Brady saw his first NFL action. He was one of three for six yards when the Lions won 34-9. … In 1997’s 55-20 rout of the Bears, Barry Sanders had 19 carries for 167 yards and three touchdowns. … In 2004, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning threw six touchdown passes in a 41-9 beatdown of the Lions. It was the start of a nine-game losing streak on Thanksgiving. … In 2006, Dolphins quarterback Joey Harrington threw for three touchdowns in a 27-10 win. When he was with the Lions, Harrington was 1-3 with zero touchdowns on Thanksgiving.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Lions Matthew Stafford ‘playing outstanding’ despite 2 straight losses

Vikings’ game crucial in NFC North race

ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford needs 87 yards to reach the 40,000- yard mark for his career.

Against the Vikings on Sunday at Ford Field, he’d be perfectly happy to pass for 86 yards if the Lions could pick up the win against the NFC North opponent.

That’s the kind of quarterback Stafford is and has been since he arrived in Detroit.

The Lions (2-2-1) are coming off losses to Kansas City and Green Bay, so this game is crucial to their chances of making the playoffs. 

With the officiating blunders in the Packers game, Stafford and the Lions have said they’re turned the page and their focus is solely on the Vikings not on what could have been on Monday night.

“The one nice thing about playing Monday night and going into a Sunday is that you lose that game on Monday night, the quicker you get to go out on the field and change that last outcome,’’ Stafford said on Wednesday. “We’re doing everything we can to get prepared. Obviously, a little bit behind the eight-ball time-wise, but our guys did a great job today coming in and trying to lock down the early stuff that we have to get going and get ready for the game.”

Let’s be honest, it’d be difficult for Stafford to pass for less than 87 yards, especially the way he’s been playing. He’s thrown nine touchdown passes and his only two interceptions in the first five games were in the win over the Chargers.

 “I think Stafford is playing outstanding. Maybe the best I’ve ever seen him,’’ Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said on a conference call. “He’s throwing the ball into a lot of tight windows, he’s pulling the trigger, he’s still scrambling like he has. I feel like he’s making the right reads, getting the ball out quick. Obviously, they have some outstanding receivers. I think (T.J.) Hockenson is a really, really good tight end. The receivers they have are really good. They are running the football some. They have play-actions, they have the quick throws, they have the shots down the field. (The offense) looks really good to me.”

If Stafford can reach 87 passing yards within his next four games, he will top his friend Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (151 games) for the fewest games needed to produce 40,000 passing yards in NFL history.

“I think when you step back and look at stuff like that, I think it’s just pretty amazing. I think it goes to his resiliency and his drive and his competitiveness that he shows every single day,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “To be honest with you, we were just having a conversation and comparing some notes on Minnesota – it just takes me back a minute every single time that he and I have those conversations of just how hard this guy works, how competitive he is, how much he wants to win, how much he just continually leads this team. That’s why you hear something like that or a stat like that and you’re like, ‘It’s super impressive, and it’s super amazing,’ but I also kind of step back, and I look at it and I go, ‘Yeah, that’s about right,’ because that’s just who the guy is. I think he’s just that driven. That’s pretty cool.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

NFL admits 1 bad call against Lions; Matt Patricia mum on penalties in MNF loss

Coach says they must control what they can control

Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, admitted that the second illegal hands to the face penalty on Lions defensive lineman Trey Flowers should not have been called. It factored into the 23-22 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Monday night.

Both penalties were called on Flowers in the fourth quarter. Vincent stood behind the officials for calling the first one.

“There was one that was clear, that we support,” Vincent told reporters, referring to a prior penalty. “But there was another that when you look at it and you review the play, it’s not something that you want to see called in that particular pass rush. One you can support, but the other one, when you review it and you have seen some slow-mos, the foul wasn’t there.”

Vincent was speaking at NFL’s fall league meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 

The flag on that second all against Flowers came on third-and-4 and ended up extending the game-winning drive.

Vincent did not address the personal foul called on the Lions’ Tracy Walker who was clearly going for the ball, but in the process had a helmet-to-helmet hit on the receiver.

He also did not speak to the non-call on a pass interference on Marvin Jones Jr. when Packers cornerback Will Redmond draped his arm across Jones’ chest before the ball arrived.

Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell would not speak to specifics from Monday night. But he had a short answer when asked how pass interference is being called this season: “It’s not.”

As expected, Lions coach Matt Patricia did not want to discuss the officiating.

The coach said he had been in meetings all day Tuesday and had not talked to anyone from the NFL yet or heard about Vincent’s comments.

“For me obviously there were some calls in the game that everyone’s focused on right now. I’m focused on the ones we have to do right out on the field through execution and coaching and playing,’’ Patricia said in a conference call on Tuesday. “If you go through a game and you’re relying on the officials to tell you if you’ve won I don’t really think you’re going to turn out in a favorable manner more times than not.’’

He repeatedly said they have to control what they can control to give themselves a chance to win.

“The things we can control are definitely a lot of the plays out there that we know we can do a better job,’’ Patricia said.

While he’s been sequestered planning for Sunday’s home game against the Vikings, the Lions fans are in an uproar over the state of the NFL officiating and the way it always seems to work against the Lions.

“I love our fan base and I love their passion, I love all of it. I appreciate it more than you know,’’ Patricia said. “I just want the fans to know we’re going to work to get things right, do things the right way. We’re tough, we’re built tough, we’re blue collar – just like this city, just like this state. We’ll continue to be tough and in the end toughness is going to prevail. And we’re going to do everything possible to make sure that happens.’’

“I think the game is going the way of player safety and we understand that. We’ve just got to be careful, there’s a fine line. Just be careful in regards to what we’re doing,’’ defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said on a conference call on Tuesday. 

After each game, NFL teams submit questionable calls to the NFL for clarification. Patricia would not say if that number after last night is more or less than usual. 

He did explain what keeps him going.

“Football is an emotional game, that’s why we love it so much,’’ Patricia said.

Four bad calls helped doom Detroit; Packers edge Lions 23-22 at Lambeau

NFL official offers explanations via pool reports

In case you missed it, the Detroit Lions led the Packers on Monday night until Mason Crosby kicked a 23-yard field goal with no time left to win the game for Green Bay, 23-22.

Yes, the Lions settling for field goals instead of touchdowns definitely hurt their chances, but the officials were the talking point on ESPN and Twitter afterward. That is never a good sign. The Lions drop to 2-2-1 while the Packers are 5-1.

The Lions opened with a 66-yard flea-flicker from Matthew Stafford to Kenny Golladay,  but had to settle for a field goal, their first of five thanks to Matt Prater’s big leg.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

However, the officials made four second-half calls that were costly to the Lions. All four were at the very least questionable and likely just bad.

Lions coach Matt Patricia said they will take a look at the film to see what they could have done better. “We know how detrimental those penalties are,’’ Patricia said. It’s safe to say the Lions will communicate with the NFL asking for explanations. 

Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, who is admittedly biased, checked in on Twitter: “That is sickening… the @NFL needs to look at a way to prevent that from happening. Two phantom hands to the face calls really hurts us tonight. Yes, we could have scored TDs, but @Lions played too well to have the game end this way.”

The four calls:

— Tracy Walker was called for unnecessary roughness for helmet-to-helmet hit on Geronimo Allison early in the third. The Lions safety was clearly going for the ball, not to make the hit. The NFL is trying to cut down on head injuries — and that’s all good — but Walker was not going for the head. “The rules are pretty clear, it’s on the defense to make sure we don’t make contact there,’’ Patricia said. It was a good politically correct answer but it would have been very hard, maybe physically impossible, for Walker to put on the brakes on that play.

Here’s what NBC analyst Tony Dungy tweeted: “That’s incredible. The Lions DB is trying to make an interception. He is playing the ball all the way and gets an unnecessary roughness penalty. Hard to believe.”

A pool reporter asked the official Clete Blakeman if Walker had a right to go after the ball and does that offset any helmet-to-helmet hit? Blakeman: “That’s a good question but the reality is, it is strict liability for a defensive player. In this case, he may be going for the ball and not intending to hit the helmet but when there’s helmet contact it is a foul in that situation.” Blakeman also said if he had impacted the helmet and made the interception it still would have been a foul.

— Defensive lineman Trey Flowers was called with hands to the face twice in the fourth quarter and neither one looked like a good call. With less than 12 minutes left, on third-and-10, Rodgers was sacked and Flowers was called for illegal hands to the face, giving the Packers an automatic first down. Then on the Packers’ next possession, on third-and-4 from Detroit’s 16 with less than 2 minutes left, Rodgers’ pass to Jake Kumerow was incomplete but Flowers was whistled again for illegal use of hands even though his hands were clearly on the shoulder pads.

According to ESPN, Flowers had never been called for this penalty in his entire career and he was called twice in one quarter.

After the game Patricia sat next to Flowers at his locker and had a few words for his D-lineman before giving him a hug, per FOX 2’s Jennifer Hammond.

Flowers told reporters (via Brad Galli’s Twitter): “I was working a move and they saw something different than what actually happened and they called what they thought they saw. I actually changed the position of my hand. It was to the chest initially, I was doing it all game, I didn’t know it was a flag to the chest so I changed it. I didn’t think hands to the chest was a penalty, I thought hands to the face, but I had them right here on the chest then I changed it. It’s part of a move that I do.

A pool reporter asked Blakeman about the Flowers’ calls. The pool report says: “The umpire threw both of them. The last one was really the only one I’ve discussed with him. Basically, it’s for illegal use of the hands, hands-to-the-face foul. To be a foul, we basically need some forceful contact that’s prolonged to the head and neck area of the defender. So, in his mind, he had pinned him back, it was prolonged and that’s what created the foul.” The pool reporter asked for clarification: “Head or neck area?” Official replied: “Head or neck area, yes.”

—  In the fourth quarter, on a second-and-6, Green Bay cornerback Will Redmond had his arm across wide receiver Marvin Jones’s chest before the ball arrived. It was clearly pass interference, but there was no call. Jones was looking for the flag, but it never came. While NFL coaches can ask for a review on pass interference, it’s been made clear early in the season it’s unlikely a call or non-call will be overturned.

Dungy again checked in on Twitter: “That was clearly DPI on the Packers. Coaches are afraid to challenge now though because these plays have not been overturned recently.”

Former Lions and Packers offensive guard T.J. Lang tweeted: “In my 11 years involved with the NFL, I’ve never seen worse officiating than this year and it’s not even close.”

Dan Orlovsky, an ESPN analyst and former Lions quarterback, tweeted: “Enough is enough is enough is enough @NFLOfficiating. I choose my words wisely, and I love the #NFL You’re ruining football for fans.”