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.

Justin Coleman reunites with high school buddies Darius Slay, Tracy Walker

Slot corner signed 4-year, $36 million deal with Lions

 

ALLEN PARK — Justin Coleman has cleared up the biggest mystery since he was rumored earlier this week to be signing as a free agent with the Detroit Lions.

Detroit cornerback Darius Slay claims he and Coleman are cousins.

Slay, Coleman and Lions safety Tracy Walker are all from Brunswick, Ga., and all went to the same high school there, but Coleman said they are not blood relatives.

“Man, the city where we’re from everybody are cousins. We’re not blood-related but we definitely are close, we grew up together,’’ Coleman said at his introductory press conference on Thursday at the Lions headquarters.

Slay and Coleman played for a few years together in high school. At age 24, Walker is younger and is indeed blood relatives with Slay.

“It was great playing with (Slay), we never knew that we were both going to get to this point. In high school he was one of the best players on the field, he kind of motivated me to get on the field and play a lot more,’’ Coleman said. “He kind of helped me along the way being the leader that he is. I tried to compete with him so I could get better myself and it helped me to get further along the way.’’

Slay, 28, was drafted by the Lions in the second round in 2013, while Coleman was undrafted but played in 10 games with two starts for the Patriots as a rookie in 2015. He also played for Matt Patricia in New England in 2016 before moving to the Seahawks for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

“It was definitely a dream that we would come together at some point. I definitely looked up to (Slay) as a young kid to get to where he was going because I knew he was going to do something big with his life. Step by step, he led the way and we just grew up real close together, that allowed us to compete and get to this point,’’ said Coleman who turns 26 on March 27.

Coleman said he didn’t talk to Slay before he signed his four-year, $36 million ($19 million guaranteed) contract with the Lions.

But he’s heard from him since then. Slay told him, “Man, I’m so happy man, I told them they need to pay you.’’

Coleman ranks as the highest paid slot corner in the NFL, but that doesn’t seem to mean much to him.

“I kind of consider myself just another player coming to help the team. The money doesn’t matter. Of course it matters off the field — it helps my family out and helps the people close to me — but I just came here to help the team win and get to where we need to be,’’ Coleman said.

He would not be specific about how Patricia used him in New England’s defense instead saying he’s just happy to have the opportunity in Detroit.

His best traits?

“I feel like I give a lot of effort when it comes to finishing plays and just getting involved. That’s pretty much how I got here — a lot of effort, a lot of hard work,’’ Coleman said. “I’m not the biggest or the strongest or the fastest, but I can put myself in position to make it seem that way.’’

Trey Flowers arrives in Detroit, discusses his connection with Matt Patricia

DE spent last 3 seasons with New England Patriots

ALLEN PARK — Trey Flowers’ 6-year-old daughter Skyler has attended three Super Bowls. She might be kind of spoiled when it comes to her daddy playing for a winning NFL team.

The Detroit Lions newest defensive end, who spent the last four seasons with the New England Patriots, tried to explain to her why he signed with the Lions as a free agent. 

“I kind of hinted it to her what if Daddy is a Lion? Do you like Lions?’’ Flowers said.

It’s not an easy conversation with a 6-year-old.

“Her favorite color is blue. (I told her) they’ve got blue, your favorite color. She said, ‘Oh OK, I get it.’ It’s just things like that, bringing your family along that’s very important for me,’’ Flower said at an introductory press conference on Thursday.

He mentioned that she may be able to have more McDonald’s too — his contract is worth $90 million over five years with $56 million guaranteed.

Flowers is one of three former Patriots who signed with Detroit this week. Not a surprise with GM Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia’s ties to New England. They also signed slot corner Justin Coleman and wide receiver Danny Amendola.

Flowers, who is 25, was at least in part attracted to the Lions because he had played for Patricia. He was a fourth-round pick by the Patriots in the 2015 draft.

“Definitely the familiarity was there, he kind of taught me a lot of things …’’ Flowers said. “He’s just a great guy to work for, obviously he demands a high standard of excellence from his players. When you get somebody who can challenge like that, day in and day out for the team to get better those are the type of guys you want to play for.’’

No one thinks Flowers is overpaid — he was the top free agent edge rusher available.

He’s versatile — can play any spot on the line — and will be a good fit on a line along with Snacks Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson and Da’Shawn Hand. 

“I think it’s just me understanding that wherever I am on the field, I want to be productive and if it’s a foreign position to me I’m going to work hard at it. I’m going to work after practice, I’m going to put in the time, energy and effort to kind of get great at it,’’ Flowers said. “I think just precision and detail, attention to detail with fundamentals and technique and understanding different guys along the line knowing you can’t play the tackles as same as you play guards. Film study helps better understand the game and understand what I’m doing is something I can take advantage of.’’

The words echo Patricia’s philosophy.

Flowers didn’t want to get into specifics about which teams were most interested in signing him.

He said he has no big plans to spend his newfound money except for maybe helping out his folks.

Flowers also has a 3-month-old daughter, Shylo. The question is when will she see her Daddy play in a Super Bowl wearing a Lions uniform?