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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Lions play poorly in 34-22 loss at Chicago: Five key reasons they lost third straight

Blame starts with coaching staff

When an NFL coach talks about working on fundamentals midway through a season, it’s a sign that something is not right in the kingdom. That’s exactly what coach Matt Patricia discussed after an embarrassing loss at the Vikings a week ago.

This season, Patricia’s first, was not billed as a rebuild season. This team finished 9-7 last season and was supposed to improve.

So what happened on Sunday in Chicago — a 34-22 beat-down by the Bears — should not have come as a surprise.

The Lions are 3-6. The season is toast. Would they have an outside chance if they ran the table? Perhaps, but the way they have played the last three weeks the odds of winning a Mega Millions jackpot are better.

Sunday’s loss was just more of the same:

1. Matt Patricia does not get a pass. This team was not ready to play. Part of that might be on the players, but he is ultimately responsible. He was welcomed to Detroit as a savior of sorts direct from the Patriots. He has much to prove in his first stint as an NFL head coach. Jim Caldwell was fired because GM Bob Quinn thought the 9-7 team last year was talented and under-performed with Caldwell. Well, guess what? They’ve added two running backs and key pieces on the defense and they continue sliding backward. Those wins against the Patriots and Packers are befuddling. Patricia talks a ton about changing the culture, but Caldwell did a good job of that. Patricia should be fine-tuning this squad, not reinventing the wheel.

2. The defense made Mitch Trubisky look perfect. He nearly was, finishing with 355 passing yards and three touchdowns.. Several of his big-play passes — he threw eight of more than 20 yards — went to receivers who were wide open and it wasn’t even close. Of course the Lions missed cornerback Darius Slay who was out with a knee injury, but not sure his presence would have made much difference. Offensively the Bears finished with 402 net yards compared to 305 for the Lions. At one points the Bears had a 244-44 edge in yards.

3. Matthew Stafford was sacked six times. In the fourth quarter Khalil Mack ran over left tackle Taylor Decker like he was a pylon. There’s blame all around for the sacks. Receivers are well covered which is why Stafford often waits too long. The offensive line was playing without right guard T.J. Lang, but they have to be better. They focused on protection during the week after Stafford was sacked 10 times by the Vikings a week ago. Much more work to do.

4. The offensive fits and starts have become commonplace. Stafford has to run a better show even without Golden Tate. Stafford finished 25 of 42 for 274 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions, was sacked six times and had a 74.9 rating. Tate was his go-to guy on third downs maybe that’s why the Lions were 4 of 15 (27 percent) on third-down conversions.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

5. Rookie Kerryon Johnson (6 carries, a rushing and a passing touchdown) continues to be one of the few bright spots along with wide receiver Kenny Golladay. The running back averaged 3.6 per carry. Golladay (6 catches, 78 yards, 1 touchdown) caught the first pass on the first play from scrimmage and he caught a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter when it was too late to matter. Without Tate, Golladay has to take advantage of his opportunities. Also it’s up to Stafford and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter to get him involved start to finish.

UP  NEXT: Lions host the Carolina Panthers (6-3) on Sunday, Nov. 18 at Ford Field. Then on Thanksgiving they face the Bears again at Ford Field.

 

Herman Moore: Lions Kenny Golladay has potential to dominate in NFL

But first he has to get the ball

ALLEN PARK — Kenny Golladay’s total production in the last two games was three catches for 49 yards.

Even though the Lions’ second-year wide receiver and Golden Tate played different roles on the offense, look for Golladay to get more targets since Tate has been shipped off to the Eagles. Sunday the Lions (3-4) will play their first Tate-less game against the Vikings (4-3-1)at Minnesota.

So far it appears that Golladay has been under-used. He has 30 catches for 477 yards and three touchdowns so far.

“He’s going to get some different attention based on game-plan or just general game-plans might go in different directions based on what we feel we need to do win that particular week,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “So it does change week-by-week, but there is a learning process that we’re still going through and that he’s going to see a bunch of different things that maybe necessarily he hasn’t seen before from a coverage standpoint and we just have to keep working to just keep growing and developing him as a player and also as an offense.’’

Golladay had a dozen targets, seven catches and 114 yards in the season opener but hasn’t had close to that much attention since with just 32 targets over the past six games.

He had one target and one catch for 12 yards in the loss to Seattle last week. It came on the first pass of the third quarter after he was a non-factor in the first half.

Golladay has gotten the attention of former record-setting Lions wide receiver Herman Moore who thinks, with some work, that Golladay can dominate in the NFL.

“He reminds me of almost like a Jermaine Crowell in terms of how lean he is, he’s tall and he has straight-ahead speed. He has upper-body strength,’’ Moore said. “If he can hone in the craft and say, ‘It’s not just going to be the deeper passes, I’ve got to learn how to catch the shorter ones, break tackles, make plays when plays aren’t there and just be dependable.

“He could turn out to be one of the great ones, I don’t say that lightly. Those chapters have to be written, but he has all the physical attributes for today’s NFL if you look at a prototypical dominant receiver. He has the ability to do that,’’ Moore added.

First, the ball has to be thrown his way.

“Kenny is still playing good football, we’re going to keep doing that. (Matthew) Stafford is going to keep throwing the ball to who gets the right one on one look,’’ offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. “It could be a defensive decision, it could be something their doing on their side of the ball. So that thing is a little bit different week. … The ball finds its way around usually when you have multiple guys working to get open.”

Cooter and Stafford have both repeatedly said that they don’t go into a game, planning to throw more passes to one receiver than another. It just depends on how the game develops.

Moore spent some time with Golladay last year during his rookie season. Moore, a first-round pick who struggled as a rookie, could identify.

“I talked with him as he was going through some of his injuries, the frustration that he was having. He knew he had far more abilities and talent than he was able to display,’’  said Moore who was inducted into the Lions’ ring of honor on Sunday.

First he encouraged him to work through getting healthy. “The second part was learning the system and don’t become one-dimensional. Try and show you have the ability to work across the board. I think he’s improving on that,’’ Moore said.

Lions Matt Patricia offers insights on Golden Tate trade, moving forward

It will take a team effort to replace leading WR

ALLEN PARK — Matt Patricia said he was open with the team about the trade of Golden Tate to the Eagles. The Lions coach talked to his players before their first practice on Wednesday minus Tate, their leading receiver.

“The biggest point for me is to make sure everybody understands this also shows a lot of confidence in the people that are in that room,’’ Patricia said. “There are great players in that room and there are a lot of them. There’s a lot of guys who have opportunities to make plays and go out there and play at a high level. The biggest thing for us is we have to turn the page and be ready to go. If we spend all Wednesday talking about this, Minnesota is getting ready to kick the ball off at 1 o’clock on Sunday, whether we’re there or not. We better show up ready to go.’’

Patricia admitted it wasn’t an easy decision. Detroit got a third-round pick in exchange for giving away their leading receiver (44 catches, 517 yards, three touchdowns).

The Lions (3-4) are still in the thick of the NFC North race and face the Vikings (4-3-1) on Sunday in a big divisional game in Minnesota. Then the Lions had to Chicago (4-3)  on Nov. 11.

“The decisions are not easy. It’s more than just players, it’s relationships, it’s friendships, it’s working together for a long time,’’ Patricia said. “I talked to Golden at length yesterday, I talked to him last night. I wanted to make sure he was alright moving forward. I know he’s going to a good place with people who will take good care of him.’’

No one on the roster currently has the same talents as Tate has so it’s going to take some adjustment on the offense. Along with Marvin Jones Jr. (26 catches for 387 yards, five touchdowns) and Kenny Golladay (30 catches for 477 yards, three touchdowns), the other wide receivers on the roster are TJ Jones (3 catches, 36 yards) and rookie Brandon Powell who has only played on special teams. Running back Theo Riddick, who has missed two games with a knee injury, can line up in the slot.

“You never try to walk in and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to replace this guy with this.’ It’s a team effort,’’ Patricia said. “It’s totally however we think scheme-wise what will help us win this week.  It might be different the next week and might be different the week after that. We have a lot of good players that can step up in different roles depending on how we decide it’s best to play this game.’’

General manager Bob Quinn may have made the call, but he worked with Patricia on the decision to trade Tate for a third-round pick.

“You have to work together with all those situations. There certainly is good conversation that goes on and it’s good to have that, it really is. You can get caught up either way to one side. You may make decisions that are more emotional than logical. At some point you’re trying to make the best logical decision that you can, that’s the important thing,’’ Patricia said.

“Football is great, there’s a lot of emotion in it, there’s a lot of emotion on game day, there’s a lot of emotion during the game when we work and the relationships are emotional. That’s what makes it so special,’’ Patricia said. “… There’s a huge emotional part of this when you’re running a business or need to make decisions for the greater good.’’

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer can’t be quite sure how to prepare for the Tate-less Lions.

“I think Golden is a heck of a football player, he’s definitely a great run-after-catch guy. He’s always giving us problems,’’ Zimmer said in a conference call on Wednesday morning. “It changes some of the things with our game plans. It’s part of the NFL everything changes all the time.’’

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.

 

Detroit Lions wide receiver trio takes a certain pride in run blocking

Tate, Golladay, Jones contribute to improved run game

ALLEN PARK — Robert Prince, the Detroit Lions wide receivers coach, knows his group is loaded with talent.

The skillsets of Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr., and Kenny Golladay complement each other and they all have developed good communication with quarterback Matthew Stafford. The trio accounts for nine of the Lions 10 passing touchdowns in the first five games.

Prince wants receivers who are well-rounded.

Proof? Tate set a key block on Sunday during LeGarrette Blount’s second touchdown in the 31-23 win over the Green Bay Packers.

“It’s a game plan thing. It depends on what they are going to do. I feel like Coach Prince, our position coach, prepares us moreso for the run blocking than he does the passes at times,’’ Tate said on Monday.

He wasn’t kidding.

“It’s so important and he knows we all can run routes, he knows we all can catch, he knows we all can block as well, but when a receiver goes in and makes a key block to help a big first down or touchdown I think he gets more excited about that, showing that to the other coaches and Bob Quinn in front of the offensive linemen and running backs, than us going out and catching a touchdown. That’s what we’re supposed to do I guess,’’ Tate said.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Improving the run game was a huge focus entering this season. Credit rookie Kerryon Johnson and the veteran Blount with providing a one-two punch that has the Lions averaging 4.3 yards per carry (tied for 13th in the NFL) and 97.2 rushing yards per game (21st in NFL).

Credit the wide receivers with pitching in on run blocks.

“The way defenses are playing now days, when you have a run game they bring those safeties in the box and they read the run pretty danged well. Sometimes they have an extra guy and you need the receiver to go in through certain linemen or just find a way to get on them,’’ Tate said. “A lot of times that is the block that springs a 7- or 10-yard run or even break a 50-yarder or a run at the goal line. It’s very important especially in this offense. It’s something I know that Bob Quinn looks for in a receiver — a guy who can catch the ball but also can do the dirty work.’’

Funny he used the words “dirty work” — the exact words coach Matt Patricia used to describe Tate’s efforts to help block the run.

“He’s usually closer to the formation being in his normal alignment so he kind of has to dig some of those guys out and get in there pretty quick, which he does a good job of,’’ Patricia said.

The wide receivers take a certain pride in this phase of their work.

“It’s not difficult, but you have to be in the right mind frame, if you’re not you’re not going to block effectively, especially when you’re blocking somebody 250 or 200-and-whatever (pounds). You have to be in the right mind frame, you have to do your job,’’ Jones said. “We have the receivers to do it. I don’t think it’s been that hard, we just have to do it.’’

Lions WR Kenny Golladay comes up big in NFC North win over Packers

His touchdown in the fourth was key

DETROIT >> Kenny Golladay is not a big talker. Doesn’t matter much since the Lions wide receiver lets his actions speak for him.

Golladay had four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown in the Lions’ 31-23 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Ford Field.

“Like I have been saying, whenever my number is called, I’m just trying to make the play,’’ Golladay said. “So if they want to throw it to me five times or four times a game or nine times a game, I just want to make all the plays.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

His touchdown came early in the fourth quarter on a second-and-five play from the Green Bay 5-yard line while covered by cornerback Josh Jackson. It was a beauty of a play as he jumped up for the ball in the back of the end zone. Without missing a beat, after he caught it, he zinged the ball into the crowd.

In his second season, his relationship with quarterback Matthew Stafford continues to grow.

“He’s obviously a big kid (6-foot-4), physical kid, can run, wants to be a really good player. Smart, has dialogue with me. All of our guys do, really, which is great,’’ Stafford said. “What they’re seeing out there, what they think we can do — so, I’m just happy for our team to get a win. Obviously happy for Kenny. He had a good one.”

Along with Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr., the Lions have one of the best receiving trios in the NFL. They can’t all have big numbers each game, but it works.

“This is just a game of matchups. Last week, GT (Golden Tate) went for 100 and whatever, this week Kenny had a big one. Marv (Marvin Jones Jr.) will have a big one next week. That’s what makes this offense difficult to defend, we have a lot of guys that can make plays,’’ Stafford said. “I was happy that Kenny had some opportunities today and made some big ones. I had a couple chances at some others and for one reason or another those got called back or whatever. So, just proud of the way we fought as a team. Kenny obviously had a nice game.”

In the first five games this season, Golladay has 27 catches for 428 yards and three touchdowns. Tate has 33 receptions for 431 yards and three touchdowns. Jones had 16 catches for 241 yards and three touchdowns.