Five things to know about Lions’ 26-23 win at Arizona

Matthew Stafford played his best game early this season and he got big-time help from the Lions’ defense which intercepted Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray three times.

The 26-23 win came courtesy of Matt Prater’s 39-yard field goal with the clock running out on Sunday in Arizona. It snapped the Lions’ 11-game losing streak.

“A chance to end the game on offense is what I want, that’s what we all practice for is to go out there and control the game at the end of it and win it,’’ Stafford said. “Obviously a good operation by our special teams at the end to get the win.”

However, it was definitely a team effort.  Mistakes? Sure. Penalties? A few killers. Missed opportunities? Oh yes.

Still the Lions overcame them and got the ball back with 1:52 left, the game tied at 23-23 and lousy field position at their own 9.

Stafford was four of five on that final drive. His 53-yard pass to Marvin Hall looked like a touchdown or at least a catch at the 1-yard line, but a holding call on Halapoulivaati Vaitai negated the play.

“We just had to move on to the next play. It is what it is, we’re all fighting tooth and nail,’’ Stafford said.

They could have folded or shrugged their shoulders, instead they marched down the field with some authority.

Five keys to the win:

1. Matthew Stafford had a good game, looked more like his old self. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 270 yards and a pair of touchdowns even though he was sacked four times. “I’ve been doing this a long time, I feel real comfortable in that situation, that’s the situation I want,’’ Stafford said. “I hate sitting on the bench and watching another phase trying to win the game for us. I love it. Had an opportunity in week 1 to get it done and got close, didn’t get it done. We had another opportunity today I wasn’t going to let that slip through my fingers.’’ It was his 29th fourth-quarter comeback, the most in the NFL since he joined the NFL in 2009. It was also his 35th game-winning drive, the second most in the NFL since 2009.

2. Kenny Golladay’s return, after missing the first two games with a hamstring, was huge. “Obviously a big weapon for us, made a great play in the red zone,’’ Stafford said. “Just an undersized safety (covering), I just tried to throw one up to a good spot for him, he went up and made a great play and got in which was awesome.’’ That touchdown gave the Lions a 17-13 lead with less than a minute left in the first half.

3. After zero takeaways in the first two games, this was a point of emphasis with the defense preparing for this week. Nice job. Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray had been intercepted just twice total in the first two games, but the Lions picked him off three times. Credit to rookie Jeff Okudah, Jamie Collins and Duron Harmon. Collins’ interception led to a Lions touchdown, while Okudah’s in the third quarter led to a Matt Prater field goal which gave Detroit a 20-16 lead. Win the turnover battle and often you win the game.

4. The defensive pressure up front which was lacking in the first two games is what helped with the interceptions. Murray was only sacked once (by Romeo Okwara) but he’s a mobile quarterback who is tough to get down. “You can see how dangerous he is when he gets in space. He’s got unbelievable quickness and acceleration,’’ Patricia said of Murray. Still much work to do on defense, but certainly the group looked better against the Cardinals who are now 2-1.

5. Running back Adrian Peterson got the workload in the running game. He finished with 22 carries for 75 yards and started with a 27-yard scamper on the Lions’ second play of the game from scrimmage. Not bad for a 35-year-old back. Kerryon Johnson had just three carries for 16 yards, but his work on pass protection was huge.

BY THE NUMBERS: Matt Prater kicked four field goals (37, 24, 35 and 39 yards). … Stafford completed passes to nine different guys. … Jason Fox averaged 55.5 yards on his four punts and had a long one of 65 yards. … The Lions were just 2 of 6 in the Red Zone while the Cardinals were 3 of 3. … Each team had seven penalties – Lions for 46 yards, Cardinals for 48. … Tracy Walker led the defense with 11 tackles. Collins and Okudah each had six.

NEXT SUNDAY: The Lions (1-2) play the New Orleans Saints at Ford Field at 1 p.m. e help from the Lions’ defense which picked off Cardinals quarterback Kyler 

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Five keys as Detroit Lions visit Green Bay Packers

Matthew Stafford will need to play better than in Sunday’s loss to the Bears if the Lions are to have a shot at upsetting the Packers in Green Bay on Sunday.

Of course, so will everyone around him — including the coaches.

“I think every time we go there and play, we’re playing a really good team in a tough place to play,’’ Stafford said. “Obviously it’s going to be an interesting venue this year with no fans like everywhere. The toughest part about going to play at Lambeau is the Packers. They’re a really good football team.’’

Green Bay defeated the Vikings 43-34 in their opener with Aaron Rodgers tossing four touchdown passes.

Five keys to Sunday’s game at Lambeau Field:

  1. Stafford threw an interception in the fourth quarter against the Bears trying to make the comeback after owning a 23-6 lead to start the fourth quarter. He’s going to throw interceptions throughout the season, but experience lets him move on quickly. “Obviously I can’t let it happen. I’ve been playing this game a long time, I get the ball in my hand late in the game, I know my guys trust me, I have to make good decisions with it and not try to do too much, keep us moving.’’ Same with the game this week. Last week is ancient history, the team needs to hit a reset button.

2. While the whole offseason the emphasis was on finishing, getting a good start is a bonus too. Stafford had missed the final half of last season with a broken back and had no preseason games which could be why the offense struggled early to find a rhythm. “I felt like it took me a little bit too long to get settled into this one, I wasn’t efficient enough early and I don’t know if it’s because I hadn’t played a game or just didn’t get into the flow,’’ Stafford said. “Either way I’m trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again …’’

3. The defense, especially without cornerbacks Justin Coleman (on injured reserve) and Desmond Trufant (out with hamstring), will have its hands full. It could be quite a welcome to the NFL moment for rookie corner Jeff Okudah thanks to Aaron Rodgers.

4.  Pressure up front will be critical. Last Sunday Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky was sacked just once by the Lions. But new defensive coordinator Cory Undlin didn’t put all of it on the defensive line. “When you talk about pass rush, it’s not just the four guys that are rushing by themselves. It has a lot to do with the linebackers in coverage, it has to do with the secondary in coverage and it all works together,’’ Undlin said on a conference call this week. “You guys have heard that phrase before.”

5. Once again the Lions will be without wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring). Rookie wide receiver Quintez Cephus (fifth-round pick) led the Lions with 10 targets last week but only made three catches. “I know as a player out there I have a lot of confidence in him, I know the coaching staff does as well. He’s just a guy that continues to work hard, learn and try to prove himself,’’ Stafford said. “Look for the offense to spread the ball around. Tight end T.J. Hockenson proved that his good camp was not a fluke with a solid effort in the loss to the Bears.

PREDICTION: Packers 41, Lions 27.

Jeff Okudah expected to start, but on first day with pads he lines up with reserves

Lions open season on Sept. 13 against Bears

Don’t read much into the fact that cornerback Jeff Okudah, the  Lions first-round draft pick, lined up with the reserves in the team’s first padded practice on Monday.

In the most uncommon of training camps, it’s not an uncommon move by coach Matt Patricia.

“The rookies, we’re trying to take it slow with. There’s a lot of information that they have to learn and certainly being on the field for the first time in an NFL practice with pads on,’’ Patricia said on Monday via Zoom. “There’s just a lot coming at those guys from different directions.’’

Okudah, the third overall pick, was not drafted to sit on the bench. With Patricia, though, he’ll have to earn it and compete for the role.

“Always, you know how I am with the whole starters thing. I don’t know who our starters are in Day One of pads,’’ Patricia said. “I’m pretty sure Matthew Stafford is good, the rest of that stuff we’ll figure out.’’

Patricia noted that cornerback Amani Oruwariye has been working hard, Justin Coleman too and obviously Desmond Trufant who signed as a free agent after Darius Slay left.

“We’ll see how it shakes out,’’ Patricia said.

So far the coach, entering his third season with the Lions, seems happy with Okudah in the early goings.

“Jeff is working really hard, he’s trying to do everything. He’s learning our system which is great and competing. We’ll rotate that as we go through with different looks and different packages,’’ Patricia said.

Overall he seemed happy with the first padded practice. 

“It was a really competitive day which was very pleasing for me. We talked yesterday that we’re four weeks out from yesterday before our first game. I do feel a little bit like ‘Oh man, we’ve got to go, we’ve got to get all this stuff in, we’ve got to get rolling.’

“We wake up this morning and we’re going out for a 90-minute practice because that’s all we’re allowed to do. So you’re just trying to scheme it and put it together so it moves as fast as possible. I thought the team really answered that bell,’’ Patricia said.

The Lions open their season on Sept. 13 at home against the Chicago Bears. All NFL preseason games have been eliminated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That makes every minute on the field crucial.

“I could be out there for another six hours just working on fundamentals — pad level, hand placement and footwork,’’ Patricia said. “I’m excited just to see guys trying to do it right. The key will be to go out tomorrow and improve on what we did today.’’