Lions without Kerryon Johnson, Mike Roberts; Teez Tabor inactive again

Nick Bellore misses first game

DETROIT >> The Detroit Lions (4-7) will face the Los Angeles Rams (10-1) today without top running back Kerryon Johnson who misses his second straight game with a knee injury. Expect LeGarrette Blount to pick up more carries like he did against the Bears on Thanksgiving.

Fullback Nick Bellore (ankle) and wide receiver Brandon Powell (calf) were also declared out on Friday. Tight end Michael Roberts (shoulder) was doubtful and is out.

Cornerback Teez Tabor will miss his second straight game. He’s healthy —  it’s a coach’s decision.

Wide receiver Bruce Ellington (back) and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (neck) were questionable but are active.

Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.

Other inactives: Linebaker Trevor Bates and defensive end Kerry Hyder.

 

 

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Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving

Bears beat the Lions easily in first meeting

ALLEN PARK — When it comes to Thanksgiving, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford says he’s no different from most people.

“I just eat a ton of food like everybody else. Eat a bunch of food, relax a little bit. It’s kind of a nice little couple days off for us,’’ Stafford said.

Unlike others, before he hits the dinner table he has a football game to try to win. Stafford and the LIons have won four of the last five games on Thanksgiving, losing, 30-23, to the Vikings a year ago.

Usually players on both teams love the Turkey Day spotlight.

“It’s awesome. I grew up watching it as a Cowboys fan. I’ve been a part of it now for 10 years here. It’s cool that the city and the fans and really our team, we embrace this game, we love it, we love playing it every year,’’ Stafford said. “So, it’s just a great tradition to be a part of and obviously a lot of fun when you win it.”

It will be a first for Bears coach Matt Nagy who looks forward to the chance to play with the nation watching on Thanksgiving.

“I know I am, and this will be my first time playing a game on Thanksgiving. What better way to come out and play a game on Thanksgiving? Not all players and people get these opportunities, these chances. So, the guys will be looking forward to it and it’ll be fun,’’ Bears coach Matt Nagy said on a Tuesday conference call.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The Lions will be without wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., and running back Kerryon Johnson. While Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is listed as “doubtful” which means it’s likely Chase Daniel will get the start.

Five things to watch:

1. The Lions must stop the run like they did when they lost to the Bears on Nov. 11. That day Detroit’s defense held Chicago to 54 rushing yards. Whatever that game plan was, Detroit needs to repeat in. After a horrid start on run defense, they’ve held opponents to less than 60 rushing yards for two straight weeks.

2. Don’t give up on the run game even without Kerryon Johnson (knee). Between LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner stick with the one who finds the most success as the game progresses. Don’t be surprised if it’s Zenner. The Lions only rushed for 66 yards against the Bears the last game, but part of the reason is that they were down 26-0 early. “We have a bunch of guys in that room that are talented. If they need to play more, they’ll play more. If they don’t, then we’ll roll with what we have,’’ Stafford said.

3. The Lions will be without Marvin Jones Jr., for the second straight game. Stafford was able to make the passing game work in the win over the Panthers by targeting Kenny Golladay 14 times. He finished with eight catches for 113 yards and a beauty of a touchdown. Stafford is still getting acquainted with newcomer Bruce Ellington who had six catches for 52 yards on Sunday. “I thought Bruce (did a really nice job stepping in. I don’t know how long he’s been here, maybe 10 days. So, it was really good for him to get out there and get his feet wet,’’ Stafford said.

4.  When the Lions and Bears last met, cornerback Darius Slay was on the sidelines. He’s back and that should be a huge boost. “He’s a great player. He’s been doing it for a while. I think there are a lot of different things that he does well,’’ Nagy said. “He definitely makes them better, and we know that and we have to know where he’s at at all times.”

5. Get pressure on the quarterback — likely Chase Daniel who hasn’t started a game since 2014. Trubisky was sacked just once by the Lions defense on Nov. 11. Because of Daniel’s lack of playing time, it should be easier to rattle him. The defense did a solid job against the Panthers’ Cam Newton sacking him three times, although he did pass for three touchdowns. Daniel is no Cam Newton but the defense can’t think that way.

EXTRA: In the Lions first Thanksgiving game on Nov. 29, 1934, the Bears beat the Lions, 19-16. The Lions are 8-8 against the Bears on Thanksgiving.

PREDICTION: Lions 28, Bears 21

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.

 

Five reasons the Lions lost to the Vikings

Stafford sacked career-high 10 times

In a crucial NFC North game, the Lions were no match for the Vikings who won 24-6 in Minnesota on Sunday.

It was a particularly ugly game for Detroit because, once again, they were ineffective in all three phases. Right off the bat, Sam Martin slipped and fell on the opening kickoff. It was an omen for another wretched loss.

The Vikings are now 5-3-1 and the Lions fall to 3-5.

It was their first game without leading wide receiver Golden Tate who was traded to the Eagles on Tuesday. The Vikings defense typically would have to account for Tate on every play. Now they don’t. Think about it. Yes, Theo Riddick can line up in the slot and catch the ball, but he is no Tate who was usually Stafford’s best option especially on third down. This is what would happen to most NFL teams if they all of a sudden lost their top wide receiver.

Hey, this loss was not all because Tate is gone, but that is a part of it.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The offensive line had no answer for the Vikings’ bull rush.

The Lions defense had another bad day at the office even though coach Matt Patricia is a defensive specialist and he has some decent talent on the roster. They did hold the Vikings to 283 yards and 24 points and Darius Slay came up with a big interception. But it wasn’t enough.

Five reasons the Lions lost:

1. The Vikings defense came out fired up and the Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter had no answers. If he made adjustments, they were not apparent. The Lions had their lowest offensive output (in yards) for a game this season with just 209 and their lowest points with 9. The lowest had been 264 in the win over the Packers in Week 5.

2. Matthew Stafford was sacked 10 times, a career high for him and a Vikings’ franchise record. Ouch. The offensive line was responsible for not providing protection on most of the sacks, although Stafford could have thrown it away a few times. One time he was ground so far into the turf, the Lions had to call a timeout to dig pellets (from the field turf) out of Stafford’s left eye. Entering the game, he had just been sacked 13 times in the first 7 games. He completed 25 of 36 passes for 199 yards for a rating of 83.0. It was the first game this season he didn’t throw a touchdown pass.

3. The Lions also couldn’t get the run game established, finishing with 66 rushing yards. Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson, who was averaging 6.2 yards per carry, rushed 12 times for 37 yards (3.1 yards per carry).

4. Teez Tabor. Enough said.

5. Coaching. It just looked like the Lions weren’t prepared for the Vikings. It wasn’t just Patricia or Cooter or defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni — it was all of them. Patricia is kind of new to the NFC North and it showed. Watching, it was hard to imagine the Lions had won their last two games there at U.S. Bank Stadium. Wait, that was when they had Golden Tate and a mostly different coaching staff.

ALSO: Interestingly enough, the Lions had a big edge in time of possession: 36:45 to 23:15. … Vikings wide receiver had at least 100 receiving yards in each of the opening eight games but was held to four catches for 22 yards. …. The Lions play at the Chicago Bears (5-3) next Sunday. The Bears smacked Buffalo, 41-9 on Sunday.

Five reasons the Detroit Lions beat the Dolphins, 32-21, at Miami

Run game, led by Kerryon Johnson, was stellar

That was easy.

The Lions handed the Miami Dolphins their first home loss this season, winning 32-21 on Sunday in steamy Miami Gardens.

Amazing what a successful run game can do for an offense. Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter looked like a genius and quarterback Matthew Stafford had one of his more efficient games.

It was the first road win for the Lions who are now 3-3 and riding a two-game win streak.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Temps in the high 80s (and higher in the sun on the Lions’ bench) did not seem to be a factor. The Lions could not afford to wilt in the fourth quarter and they didn’t.

Five reasons the Lions won:

1. The run game. The run game. The run game. The Lions rushed for 248 yards, the most since Nov. 13, 1994 when they had 293 yards against Tampa. Barry Sanders had 237 rushing yards that day. On Sunday, rookie Kerryon Johnson finished with 158 yards, including a 71-yard scamper. He averaged 8.3 yards per carry. LeGarrette Blount had 10 carries for 50 yards and a touchdown. Long runs, short runs, they ran it all. The Lions have worked toward establishing a run game and there have been some strong hints it was coming, it arrived in Miami. Prior to the game the Dolphins defense was allowing 118.2 rushing yards per game.

2. Matthew Stafford completed 18 of 22 passes for 217 yards. Stafford was a mess in Week 1 with one touchdown and four interceptions. But since then, he has one interception and 11  touchdowns, including two touchdowns in Miami. He completed passes to eight teammates. He didn’t even connect with Kenny Golladay until the second half. One touchdown pass to Golladay was negated by a holding penalty by Frank Ragnow. Tight end Michael Roberts had three receptions for 48 yards – two of them were for touchdowns.

3. Detroit’s defense which has been improving against the run, had a solid effort again. They held Frank Gore to 29 rushing yards. The 14-year veteran had averaged 48 yards per game this season. Miami’s Kenyan Drake’s 54-yard touchdown scamper was the longest that the Lions allowed. This is a huge step forward for the defense which seems to be adjusting to Matt Patricia’s changes. It was kind of ugly at first. They allowed a combined 259 rushing yards in the first two games, both losses. Detroit outran Miami 248 to 107 yards.

4. Miami backup quarterback Brock Osweiler completed 71 percent of his passes and threw for a pair of touchdowns, but he was sacked four times and often under pressure. Ricky Jean Francois, who was playing in his hometown, had two of those sacks. It wasn’t an awful game for the backup, but Detroit’s defense held him in check after he had passed for 380 yards the previous game. So much for the talk of “Brock-tober.”

5. Matt Prater was perfect three of three on field goals, including a 50-yarder late in the fourth quarter. It was the kicker’s best game this season.

UP NEXT: The Lions play the Seattle Seahawks (3-3) at Ford Field at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28. The Seahawks will be coming off their bye week.

Five things to watch as the Lions play at the Miami Dolphins; plus prediction

Dolphins are 3-0 at home

Much has been made about today’s weather forecast in Miami which is expected to reach 87 hot and humid degrees.

The visitors bench at Hard Rock Stadium gets the sun unlike the home team.

“We’re not going down there to play against the weather, we’re going to play the Dolphins we have to make sure we’re ready to go,’’ safety Glover Quin said.

The Lions (2-3) are winless on the road while the Dolphins (4-2) are 3-0 at Hard Rock Stadium.

If the Lions are going to get back on track this season and somehow improve on last season’s 9-7 record, today is the time to get started.

“We just have to play good football. I think that’s our mindset, is do everything we can, prepare as hard as we can to play good football on Sunday and that’s what it boils down to,’’ Matthew Stafford said. “The games that we’ve won we’ve played well, the games that we haven’t we did not play well. So, it’s on us to go out there, have that sense of urgency and play well.”

Here are five things to watch:

1. The defense must stop Frank Gore (in his 14th season) who averages 4.9 yards per carry as the Dolphins top running back. “Frank has done an unbelievable job of taking care of his body and just executing at a high level for a long time. I know him really well,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “He’s a competitive guy, he’s a tough guy. He really loves the game of football. And he has an edge about him that has just been able to kind of carry him all the way through his career.’’ The Lions’ rushing defense tightened up a bit in the win against the Packers, but must continue that trend on Sunday.

2. Rattle quarterback Brock Osweiler who was announced as the starting quarterback on Wednesday with Ryan Tannehill injured. While many of the yards were after the catch, Osweiler passed for 380 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in the 31-28 win over the Bears last week. “He’s got a big arm, he can throw the ball, their offense they like to throw the ball deep, they’ve got fast guys he can definitely do that,’’ Quin said. The Lions will once again be playing without defensive end Ziggy Ansah who has been declared out with a shoulder injury.

3. The Lions third-down defense has excelled and needs to continue. “You’ve got to have a good scheme and you’ve got to be able to execute it. Like I said, for us it’s about understanding what teams are going to try to do against us, what different players like to do, figure a way to take that away on third downs,’’ Quin said. “… For us we have to be on the same page we have to be locked in and clued in to all the same things so we can execute at a high level.’’

4. Getting off to a fast start so important for both teams. In their win over the Packers on Oct. 7, the Lions took a 24-0 lead at the half. It didn’t guarantee a win but changed the way they played in the second half.

5. The Lions run game has to continue the upward trajectory. Theo Riddick (knee) is out. Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount do what they do but they also can catch the ball out of the backfield so they’ll likely get more snaps with Riddick’s absence.

PREDICTION: Dolphins 27, Lions 24.