Five things to watch as Lions host Vikings

ALLEN PARK — Turn the page, it’s been the Lions’ motto of this short week after the loss at Green Bay on Monday night.

While fans still lament the blunders from the officials in that game, the team has moved on. That’s been coach Matt Patricia’s message and the players have apparently bought in. They couldn’t even stick to the 24-hour rule —- there was no time for that.

Matthew Stafford said that by Tuesday morning he had moved onto the Minnesota Vikings who will play the Lions at Ford Field at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

The Vikings (4-2) are second the NFC North to Green Bay (5-1), while the Lions (2-2-1) are in the basement. Is there time left for the Lions to climb up the ladder? Yes, but not much. A win on Sunday would be huge. A loss would not mean the end of playoff hopes, but would certainly diminish them.

Five things to watch as the Lions play the Vikings: 

1. The Lions have to finish games. They have outscored opponents, 69-46, in first half action but have only scored 46 second-half points while opponents have scored 69. The fourth quarter is a standout ‚ they’ve been outscored 49-31 in the final stanza in the first five games. “We understand there are a lot of factors that go into closing out a game. Some of it happens earlier in the game, some of it happens later,’’ Patricia said. “That’s part of the process right now of trying to improve as a football team, is identifying some areas we think we can get better at. For us, that’s part of the work. That’s part of the improvement. … We have to stay dialed in and we have to make sure we finish it the right way, both coaching and playing, and I think everybody knows that.”

2. Perhaps you’ve heard this before, the Lions run game is too anemic. Detroit’s rushing game had its lowest output of the season at Lambeau with 56 rushing yards on 20 carries. “I think that we need to give credit to Green Bay. They did a nice job in some of the areas, but then I think it ultimately falls – it’s always going to come back to us and how we’re handling things,’’ Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “It kind of goes back to what I talked about a couple weeks ago in terms of – in the run game you have to really be on point. We were close on some of those runs. We just had either a guy falling off a block or just other issues where we were really one guy away again, and like I said, it’s happening too much. We have to get that corrected.” Kerryon Johnson had 13 carries for 34 yards against the Pack.

3. The offensive line needs to protect Stafford. Last year the Vikings sacked him 10 times in the Week 9 loss and twice in the Week 16 loss. “Obviously, they have a unique pressure system that is pretty good. But at the same time if they just want to rush four, they’re pretty good at that, too,’’ Stafford said. “They’ve got talent and scheme, which makes them a difficult out.”

4. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins may have gotten off to a slow start, but in the last two games — wins over the Giants and Eagles — he’s thrown six touchdown passes against just one interception. “He’s doing a really good job with decision making. I think he’s really trying to get the ball to his go-to players in just critical situations where I think they are very calculated plays,’’ Patricia said. “Give credit to Coach Stefanski (Vikings offensive coordinator) and the game plans that he set up. I think he’s doing an awesome job getting the run game going, letting the line of scrimmage kind of get going, take over up front. I think he’s using the tight ends really well. I would say (Kyle) Rudolph is in a little bit of a different role than he’s been in the past, but with the addition of Irv Smith and some of the things that he’s able to do, they are putting defenses in a lot more of a bind. … I think they’re giving plays to Kirk Cousins that are plays that he knows where the ball is going to go right now. He can get the ball out very quick, the decision making is very fast. When you balance that off with a consistent run game, I think that’s what you’re seeing that offense, or why you’re seeing that offense be so productive.”

5. It’s been a short week and while the players appear to have turned the page, they are only human. Deep inside it would only be normal if they’re still incensed about the bad calls against them. Will they come out angry and zeroed in? Or not. It should be clear early in the game. Patricia said he won’t know for sure about their mindsets until Sunday. He knows what he saw after the heart-breaking loss to the Chiefs two weeks ago. I’ll say this, in the game last week, I thought we were focused on that game. I thought the guys were trying to go out and compete hard in that game. Everything I would say, up to this point, about our team, I would say our team knows that,’’ Patricia said. “They’re mentally tough to do that and I anticipate our team doing that. Just doing everything they can to go play. We’ll see how Sunday turns out from that standpoint. We have to go play the game, but I think we’ll be out there fighting really hard. I love standing up in front of that group every single day knowing the mental toughness and the drive and the competitiveness that the team has to go try to win every week – it’s great for a coach because you can just put everything into it for them.”

Prediction: Vikings 24, Lions 17 (Expect the Lions to be focused, but Minnesota tough to handle.)

Five things to know about Detroit Lions’ 34-30 loss to Kansas City Chiefs

DETROIT — Any talk during the week  of the Lions-Chiefs matchup being a statement game, did not come from the Lions players or coaches.

So it fits that while it appeared the Lions proved they could play with one of the NFL’s elite teams in the 34-30 loss to Kansas City on Sunday, the Lions (2-1-1) didn’t like that storyline.

“I don’t think we need to prove anything to anybody – we love the way we practice, the way we work, the way we come out and play. We’re a good football team, lost to a good football team today,’’ Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “There were a bunch of great plays made in this game, a couple bad plays be each team made in this game, that’s the way it goes in the NFL. It came down to the last 15 seconds, they were undefeated coming into this game, so were we. Somebody was going to have to lose, obviously want to win them all at home, was a good opportunity to beat a good team and we were darned close.’’

Coach Matt Patricia was happy with the fight he saw in his team. “This team doesn’t blink, it just keeps going forward,’’ Patricia said.

Five things to know about the Lions’ loss:

1. The Lions scored touchdowns on two of their five trips to the red zone, but on three others they managed just three points. In the first quarter on fourth-and-7 from the 7-yard line they settled for a Matt Prater field goal. Then in the third quarter Stafford fumbled while trying to make a run on third-and-5 from the 5. The Chiefs recovered. Then Kerryon Johnson fumbled on a first-and-goal from the 1, the ball was scooped up by the Chiefs’ Bashaud Breeland and run back 99 yards for a touchdown (see below). On his fumble, Stafford looked like he was going to make a throw. “I thought Marvin Hall had a chance in the back of the end zone at least a chance to throw it away but I really probably should of eaten it for a sack on third and goal,’’ Stafford said. “Chances of making that play not so good, chances of Prater making a chip shot probably really good. Obviously disappointed I put the ball on the ground.’’

2. Kerryon Johnson took full responsibility for that fumble that led to the Chiefs’ touchdown. “My perspective is, they called it a fumble. We lost three or seven points, which turned into seven points for them, we lost by three points, so obviously it hurt. Big play in the game, we had a lot of momentum going for us, kind of killed it,’’ Johnson said. “I take full responsibility for it.” In a pool report. NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron said: “The officials ruled on the field that they did not see the ball carrier down. They did not see a body part other than the hand or foot down.’’ That’s why they didn’t blow the whistle.

3. To have a chance to beat the Chiefs, Detroit’s run game had to improve and it did. Kerryon Johnson had 26 carries for 125 yards and the Lions finished with 186 rushing yards. “I think for us the run game, we were close last week maybe a couple blocks or details away, we’ll see what the tape looks like, it appears that that was cleaned up … I think the group in general, they want to get better, they’re trying to improve, that’s all you can ask for as a coach, we have to coach them better and keep working with them,’’ Patricia said. In the first three games this season, Johnson finished with 49, 41 and 36 yards.

4. The defense played well to hold quarterback Patrick Mahomes to just 315 passing yards his lowest total this season. Also, he had no passing touchdowns — he’s had at least three in each of the first three games this season.. However, the Lions’ defense would like at least one play back. With 1:55 left and the Lions leading 30-27, the Chiefs had a fourth-and-8 at their own 34. The Lions stop them and it’s likely they could hold on for a win. Instead Mahomes sees a big gap straight down the middle and runs 15 yards to get the first down. Eight plays later, Chiefs running back Damien Williams runs up the gut for the game-winning touchdown. Patricia took the blame on that one, saying he needs to coach better. To their credit their pressure on the previous play (third-and-8) forced an incomplete pass to Demarcus Robinson.

5. It’s not unusual for a Lions team (we’re talking in recent years) to deflate after a big play. That did not happen after that Chiefs touchdown that was returned after the Kerryon Johnson fumble. Stafford tried to help his teammates stay tough. “My point was we score a touchdown there, the game wasn’t going to end,’’ Stafford said. “We didn’t win the game if we scored a touchdown there. They don’t win the game because they scored a touchdown, there was a lot of football left. I think there were 9 or 10 minutes left in the third quarter. There was a lot of football left to play.’’

BONUS on INJURIES: Stafford was questionable going into the game with a hip injury. He didn’t want to talk about it afterward but said it wasn’t the same injury as last season. … Safety Quandre Diggs injured a hamstring trying to run down a Mahomes pass late in the first quarter and didn’t return. Patricia did not have an update after the game. … Tight end T.J. Hockenson had to be carted off the field after he landed on his shoulder and head leaping to avoid a tackle. Patricia said he was in good spirits afterward and did not go to the hospital.

UP NEXT: The Lions have a bye weekend, then will play at Green Bay (3-1) on Monday night, Oct. 14.

Five things to know about Detroit Lions’ 27-24 win at Philadelphia Eagles

When the Eagles blocked a Matt Prater field goal attempt, with less than 2 minutes left it could have been really bad news for the Detroit Lions.

After a penalty, Philadelphia had the ball at midfield with 1:40 remaining. Plenty of time to score a touchdown to win or a field goal for the tie. But the Lions’ defense held on and Detroit left the City of Brotherly Love with a 27-24 win and a 2-0-1 record on the season.

NFL games are typically won due to a handful of plays. This was no different.

Perhaps Matthew Stafford’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones Jr. early in the fourth to grab a 27-17 lead was key.

Another key pass play was on third-and-11 when Stafford connected with Danny Amendola for 15 yards and a first down later in the fourth.

Then, of course, the defense in the fourth quarter came up big.

Five things to know about the win:

1. Matthew Stafford was kept clean. For the second straight week, the offensive line stepped up and he was not sacked. He brought cookies to the offensive line after last week’s performance, maybe it was just the ticket. Taylor Decker returned at left tackle. Stafford was pressured, but not sacked. His numbers were fine (18-of-32, 201 yards, 1 TD) not spectacular, but a win is a win. He missed a throw on third-and-8 with 3:45 remaining when he underthrew Jones. He had more time than he thought. He’ll be the first to admit that error.

2. Jamal Agnew, who was benched the previous week after a fumble on a return, lined up to return the kickoff on the Lions’ first possession. Then he ran down the left sideline 100 yards for a touchdown. The offense hadn’t taken the field and the Lions had a 7-3 lead. Special teams turned things around after a bad outing the week before. Other than one short punt by Sam Martin and allowing the late blocked field goal, they played well. 

3. Jarrad Davis returned and his presence was noticeable on defense. The linebacker rotated in and out early in his first game of the season. He went out once with a foot injury but before Twitter could explode with his absence, he was back on the field. No interceptions against Carson Wentz, but Darius Slay recovered a fumble and returned it 28 yards to the Eagles’ 22. Slay left the game and didn’t return with a hamstring after that play. It’s unknown how serious it is. The defense forced three fumbles. The Eagles had five drops which had something to do with the defensive pressure. The Lions’ defense also sacked Wentz three times — Chrtistian Jones, Damon “Snacks” Harrison and Trey Flowers came up big. Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, their biggest offensive threat, had six catches for 64 yards but no touchdowns.

4. Quietly wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., had a standout game with six catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. He was one of eight pass catchers found by Stafford. Kenny Golladay was targeted 8 times but only came up with 2 catches. Pedestrian numbers for the big guy but it wasn’t all on him, Stafford shared part of the blame there. 

5. The offense, under coordinator Darrell Bevell, stayed aggressive just like they did late in the win over the Chargers the previous week. It’s a good sign of things to come with this new offense. It’s a balanced attack with the run game coming around. Kerryon Johnson had 20 carries for 36 yards and a rushing touchdown, while J.D. McKissic had just one carry but it was for 44 yards.

UP NEXT: Next Sunday the Lions host Patrick Mahomes and the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) at Ford Field. The Chiefs beat the Ravens 33-28 Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)