Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford’s favorite target changes game to game

ALLEN PARK — Give credit to Matt Patricia for consistently preaching that on offense and defense, the personnel used each week in part depends on the opponent and the way the game unfolds.

It makes it tough to name a No. 1 wide receiver. And, seriously, there is no need to do that since the receiver with the most success has changed in each of the first three games including Sunday’s 27-24 win at Philadelphia.

“Whatever it takes that week, that play, that game, that particularly situation we’re going to do the best we can to go out and execute the play, go through the progressions and try to get the ball to the guy who is either open or hand off to a play we think is going to work in that situation,’’ coach Matt Patricia said on Monday. “Certainly give credit to Matt Stafford to be able to go through all that, find the right guy in those situations.’’

In that big win over the Eagles, it was Marvin Jones Jr., who topped the 100-yard mark with six catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.

“To be honest with you, (Jones has) had two really good weeks or practice it’s the stuff we’ve seen every day through the course of the last couple weeks —  that consistency in his play style,’’ Patricia said. “It’s great to see it show up in the game. When you put that amount of work into it and work that hard, you want the guy to be able to perform well on Sundays. That was a real positive.

In the Week 2 win over the L.A. Chargers, Kenny Golladay finished with eight catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. He had just two catches in Philadelphia (8 targets) but it didn’t matter because Jones found a way to get open.

In Week 1, both Danny Amendola (7 catches, 107 yards, 1 TD- and T.J. Hockenson (6 catches, 131 yards, 1 TD) surpassed the 100-yard mark.

It’s a wealth of riches on the offensive side of the ball but none of it would matter unless Matthew Stafford was playing as well as he has so far.

“Whatever it takes that week that play that game that particular situation we’re going to do the best we can to go out and execute the play, go through the progressions and try to get the ball to the guy who is either open or hand off to a play we think is going to work in that situation,’’ Patricia said. “Certainly give credit to Matt Stafford to be able to go through all that, find the right guy in those situations.’’

In three games Stafford has completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 831 yards, 6 touchdowns and two interceptions. With two touchdowns a game he’s on pace for 32 this season which is considerably more than the 21 he threw in 2018.

The last two games Stafford has been pressured, but has not been sacked thanks, in part, to the protection by offensive line and also because he has successfully thrown under pressure.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

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Detroit Lions camp: Three draft picks among the early stand-outs

ALLEN PARK — After a week of training camp, three of the Detroit Lions draft picks have stood out.

That doesn’t mean the others will not contribute this season, but early on it’s clear that first-round pick tight end T.J. Hockenson (first round), linebacker Jahlani Tavai (second round) and cornerback Amani Oruwariye (fifth round) have what it takes. 

All eyes have been on Hockenson since Day 1. No. 88 is so smooth for a rookie and appears to have developed quite a connection with quarterback Matthew Stafford. He makes the tough catches especially in the corner of the end zone on goal-line drills. He beats defenders in one-on-one drills. It’s early but there isn’t much to not like about the kid.

“He knows that he has a lot to learn and he’s got a long way to go, but he is a hard worker. He loves the game, the guys got a great attitude, the guy just loves the grind and the passion of the game,” coach Matt Patricia said. “So, you take it, you work with it, you go forward, and he’s got a skill set that hopefully we got to see out on the field.”

The Lions were roundly criticized when they drafted Tavai in the second round out of Hawaii because no one else had him going that high. Didn’t matter. Tavai is exactly who they wanted and they got him. He snagged an interception this week from Stafford. Watch one practice and you won’t be able to keep your eyes off No. 51. Again, it’s early but he’s been impressive so far.

Oruwarije (in photo) has seen plenty of reps in camp with Darius Slay on the sidelines (non-football injury). 

“We all know what (Slay) can do, he’s a great player and so I just try to ask him as many questions as I can, I have to use my resources. He’s got so much experience and knowledge I’d be dumb to not ask him questions and learn some things I can take from his game I can take to mine.”

In fact, Oruwarije got some first-team reps on Thursday and grabbed his first interception on a ball intended for none other than Kenny Golladay. 

“Just kind of like being a little tighter, just play with my upper leverage and worked on the technique that (defensive backs) coach Brian Stewart teaches me, came down with the play,’’ Oruwariye said. Like it was that simple.

 

 

Five things to know about Lions WR Kenny Golladay after his career game

Second-year receiver surpassed 1,000 yards for season

ALLEN PARK — Kenny Golladay’s personal goals this season, are so personal he wouldn’t even tell his mom what numbers he set for himself.

The Detroit Lions wide receiver had a career game in the 14-13 loss at Buffalo on Sunday with 146 yards which tipped him over the 1,000 receiving yard mark (1,005) for the season.

“That’s huge you come into the season with goals and once you pass a goal, or try to break that. We’ve got two games left and just trying to add on to it,’’ Golladay said on Monday.

The second-year receiver said his goals were set before Golden Tate was traded to the Eagles and while Marvin Jones Jr. was still healthy.

“It’s different the goals I did set. I kind of blew those out of the water, which is good. It just gives these coaches an opportunity to see what I can do myself without the help of other guys around me,’’ said Golladay who still sets the bar high for himself.

Five things to know about Golladay:

1. He is trying to take advantage of being the No. 1 receiver.  “Really I just look at it like this, with Marv being out it was just more for me to prove to these coaches, like I am able to produce without those guys being the main focus for the defense. With me being pretty much the No. 1, I’m just happy to make the plays that they call,’’ Golladay said.

2. Because he’s the top receiver, he’s been able to develop more chemistry with quarterback Matthew Stafford. “Actually I think it’s pretty good, it kind of brings us together. He trusts I’m going to be in the spot that I’m supposed to be in and I’m going to be in the spot I’m supposed to be in,’’ Golladay said.

3. Several of his seven catches at Buffalo came with defenders as close as they could be to him without getting called for interference. But he wouldn’t say he needs to work on getting separation. “A catch is a catch, it really doesn’t matter,’’ Golladay said. “You’re not going to get much separation in the NFL. To say creating separation is something I need to get better at, I went 7 for 8 (targets).’’

4. He can’t pinpoint one thing that he has improved on this season it’s more his overall game. “All-around pretty much, just having one year under my belt, this is Year 2,’’ Golladay said. “Really just staying on top of my body. I’m fortunate to have not missed games, I want to keep that going.’’

5. Even though the Lions are out of the playoffs, they have two more games starting Sunday at home against the Vikings. In the final two games he said the offense has to stay together. “The season isn’t going how we wanted it to at all. Do it in these last two games, pretty much try to do it for next year, that’s pretty much what you have to do and run up the scoreboard,’’ Golladay said. “We’ve showed flashes good and bad, but we have to continue to work.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Five reasons Detroit Lions lost to Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills

Lions scoreless in 2nd half for 1st time this season

Any slim chance the Detroit Lions had to make the playoffs are absolutely gone after their 14-13 loss to the Bills at Buffalo on Sunday. Detroit drops to 5-9 in its first year under coach Matt Patricia.

The Lions came up short on offense, defense and special teams — it was an all-around team loss.

The Lions led 13-7 at the half, but were held scoreless in the second half for the first time all season.

Five of the biggest reasons the Lions lost:

1. This loss doesn’t all hang on special teams, but certainly they shoulder part of the blame. Matt Prater snapped his strong of 14 straight field goals on a 48-yard attempt that sailed wide right. That fourth-quarter attempt would have given the Lions a 16-14 lead. In the second quarter, a botched snap by Don Muhlbach forced holder Sam Martin to throw the ball away.

2. The Lions’ defense knew that quarterback Josh Allen could be a handful since the rookie can probably run the ball better than he can pass it. Yet, they could not stop him. His 42-yard touchdown pass to Robert Foster in the fourth quarter proved to be the game winner. Allen was 13 of 26 for 204 yards. He also connected with Foster for with passes of 28 yards and 31 yards. Allen finished with just nine carries for 16 yards, but that included a 3-yard touchdown scamper.

3. Detroit’s defense had stepped up big stopping the run in recent weeks (with the exception of the Rams’ Todd Gurley), but couldn’t get the job done Sunday. The Bills were without their top running backs, LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory. Then backup Marcus Murphy was injured early to they were forced to rely on rookie Keith Ford who was playing in his first game. Detroit’s defense allowed 117 rushing yards.

4. Matthew Stafford and Jim Bob Cooter’s offense sputtered in the second half after a so-so first half in which they led 13-7. Stafford was hurting with a bad back entering the game and early on came up limping with an injury to his left knee. He completed 75.9 percent of his passes (22-29) for 208 yards and a touchdown to Andy Jones. Once again, the tempo and play-calling were in question.

5. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay had 4 catches for 115 yards (a career high) in the first half. So why didn’t they go to him in the second half more often? He had just three catches for 31 yards in the second half. He is not Calvin Johnson, but he is an athletic, tall receiver who has a decent chance of coming down with the ball if it’s thrown in his immediate vicinity. It’s a head-scratcher the way he is used in this offense overall. He should have a much bigger role. With his 146 yards he topped the 1,000-yard mark for the season with 1,005.

NEXT UP: Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1) at Lions (5-9) at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Ford Field. The Vikings defeated the Dolphins, 41-17 Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

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.

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.