Lions lose sixth straight, a look at five reasons why it happened

Minnesota Vikings win 20-7

In the first dozen games, at least the Lions had a chance. They only won three of them, but they held leads in all 12.

As former Lions coach Wayne Fontes would say, “At least we’ve got that going for us.”

Well, not so much on Sunday in the 20-7 loss to the Vikings at Minnesota.

A pre-game photo showed owner Martha Ford Firestone on the sidelines prior to the game with a grim look on her face and her arms folded. Her body language screamed displeasure. Can’t imagine what she was thinking when the clock ran out and the dust settled.

Not sure that wholesale changes in the staff would be the cure-all especially at this point with just three games left in the season.

But if Mrs. Ford was thinking about the immediate futures of coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn, certainly Sunday’s performance (or lack of it) could help shape her decision.

The Lions lost their sixth straight, fell to 3-9-1 and are now 0-5 in NFC North contests.

Five reasons the Lions lost:

1. David Blough looked more like a rookie quarterback in this game than he did during his first start on Thanksgiving in the loss to the Bears. He was 24-40 for 205 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Look, this loss is not all on him but he made a few mistakes that were costly. Late in the first half, instead of throwing the ball away on third-and-2 from Minnesota’s 15, he was sacked for a loss of 12 yards. That pushed the field goal attempt to 45 yards instead of 33. Matt Prater kicked it wide right. No word on when or if Matthew Stafford will return this season. 

2. The defense could have been worse, but Kirk Cousins was 12 of 12 for 114 yards and a touchdown on play-action in the first half. This has been an issue with Detroit’s defense all season. Cousins completed 80 percent of his passes (24-30) for 242 yards and one touchdown.The Vikings finished with 354 total yards while the Lions had 231. On a positive note, the Lions’ defense held the Vikings to just 3 second-half points. 

3. Blough was sacked five times, three of them by Danielle Hunter. The fault lies in three places – the offensive line, tight ends (particularly Jesse James on one of the Hunter sacks) and Blough for holding the ball too long. It was a good day for the sack-happy Vikings’ defense. Trey Flowers had Detroit’s only sack. 

4. Coaching. Matt Patricia will take some of the blame, he always does. This team didn’t look prepared to start the game. That’s on coaching. The Lions looked a little better in the second half on both sides of the ball, but obviously it was not enough.

5. The Lions are dealing with injuries. Matthew Stafford’s absence is key, but the defense is hurting (literally) too. A’Shawn Robinson did not play, Jarrad Davis was among those injured during the game. Still, it’s that time of year in the NFL. Injuries are an issue for most NFL teams – dealing with them separates the losers from the winners.

BONUS: Lions now hold the fifth pick in the NFL draft.

NEXT UP: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Minnesota Vikings

ALLEN PARK — Focus is key in this late-season NFC North contest between the LIons and the Minnesota Vikings.

The Lions (3-8-1) are out of the playoffs heading to Minnesota where the Vikings (8-4) are still trying to scrap together meaningful wins.

“I think for all of us we know how important the division is, that’s the first and foremost, but within each week that game is the most important. It’s a critical game because it’s our next game,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “That’s certainly how we approach it and things for next year always change. You can’t predict what’s going to happen as far as next year is concerned, from your team to other teams and across the League. What’s most important for us is this week.”

The Vikings won the first matchup, 42-30, on Oct. 20. After a tie at half-time, Detroit was outscored 21-9 in the second half.

Minnesota owns just a 1-2 record in the NFC North which is better than Detroit’s 0-4 mark.

Minnesota is coming off a loss at Seattle on Monday night. Coach Mike Zimmer is not afraid of losing focus because they’re facing a team that has lost five straight. 

“I don’t think so. It’s a division game, it’s important to us. We lost last week. We have to win games, and we have to go out and execute and do the things we have to do to win games,’’ Zimmer said on a conference call. “Trust me, we have all the respect in the world for the Lions and what they’re able to do and the players that they have.”

Five things to watch: 

1. The Lions defense has shown some improvement against the run in recent weeks. They need to maintain that against Vikings running back Dalvin Cook who gashed the Lions for 142 yards in their first meeting.  Cook has been injured but is expected to play.

2. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been dangerous this season with 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He’s thrown just two picks in the last 10 games. In the first game, he threw four touchdown passes against the Lions’ defense. “I would say they’re doing a great job of calling plays that fit right into his strong points,’’ Patricia said. “Obviously, the run game sets up a lot for the play-action, and the move out of the pocket sort of plays that they’re able to kind of get him out there and get him in space.’’

3. Protect quarterback David Blough in his second start. Even though the Lions lost to the Bears, the rookie was impressive in his debut on Thanksgiving. Stafford was sacked twice by the Vikings in their first meeting, both coming in the second half.

4. Let Bo Scarbrough run. The running back, who kind of came out of nowhere and has averaged 4.5 yards per carry with 53 touches for 236 yards in three games. Against Chicago, in key situations Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic got the ball when it was Scarbrough who was having success.

5. It’s up to Patricia to keep the team pumped up the rest of the season. It might be even tougher going into a tough environment like U.S. Bank Stadium where the Vikings are 5-0. The Lions are 1-4-1 on the road. 

PREDICTION:  Vikings 40, Lions 24

Five things to know about Detroit Lions home loss to Minnesota Vikings

Detroit’s defense allowed 503 yards

DETROIT — No blaming officials at Ford Field on Sunday.

The Lions defense had no answer for the Vikings offense in Minnesota’s 42-30 win in the NFC North matchup.

The Vikings’ offense, led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, finished with 503 net yards, 169 of them on the ground. Over the past three weeks Detroit’s defense has given up an average of 462 yards. You don’t win games in the NFL with that stat.

A subdued Matthew Stafford put the blame on his own shoulders but he did as much as he could completing 30 of 45 pass attempts for 364 yards and four touchdown passes.

It is the defense that is clearly the weak point for this 2-3-1 team.

Coach Matt Patricia offered the typical answers for the poor defensive showing: Coach better, be a stickler on fundamentals and execute. 

“In general, a disappointing day for all of us,’’ Patricia said. “We knew on a short week we’d have to come out and play well and play together and do everything we could to win. Thought the guys worked through the course of the week but obviously it didn’t show up here today on Sunday. Need to go back to work, improve, try to get better, get everybody on the field we can. …’’ Really, we’ve heard it all before.

Five things to know about the Lions’ loss.

1. Let’s start with a positive. Detroit wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., who had one touchdown catch in the first five games, had four against the Vikings. “It just kind of happened that way. We go play the game, I try to throw the ball where I think it needs to go,’’ Stafford said. “Marv was doing a good job making some plays. His first touchdown by no means did, when I cut it loose, go, ‘Oh year touchdown.’ He made a great play. Had some contested catches which was awesome. I was really happy for him and wish I could’ve done more.” On that first touchdown it looked like he was headed out of bounds after catching the ball inside the 20, but made a few spin moves and made it into the end zone.

2. Vikings running back Dalvin Cook had an amazing day (25 carries, 142 yards, 2 touchdowns), thanks to the Lions’ weak defense against the run. It’s not like it was a surprise, Cook is one of the stronger backs in the NFL (ranked fourth in the league before Sunday’s game). “Obviously they just did a great job running the ball, they knocked us off the line of scrimmage, we’ve got to get it coached better and we’ve got to play it better and definitely we’ve got to tackle we had some situations there we didn’t finish the plays off,’’ Patricia said. “(Cook is) a great running back, he’s a strong runner we know that, we know he can do a lot of things on the field, we know how dangerous they are in the run game. When you don’t get that settled down then the play action game and the balls downfield are really hard to defend.’’

3. If Patricia had a cure for the defense (not just against the run game) he would have administered it already. Linebacker Devon Kennard said, “… They scored 42 points. I feel like they had their way with us defensively. It’s very frustrating, disappointing and nobody is coming to save us. We have to bond together on defense and figure this thing out and find ways to stop these offenses.” Patricia said he’ll look at everything. “We’ll try to make sure we can settle down and get better at the fundamentals that’s really the biggest thing,’’ Patricia said. He doesn’t see it as a problem with talent, but with a lack of consistency.

4. The Lions run game seemed anemic once again with 81 total rushing yards, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Still, Stafford didn’t see it as a problem. “We were close on a lot of them, Kerryon (Johnson) was dinged up at some point in the game, we had some guys step up and do a nice job. I thought we were decently efficient but to have what everyone wants to call a great run game you’ve got to have some explosive ones and kind of help the average,’’ Stafford said. “By no means did I think our run game was a minus for us today. (They) picked up a big third-and-short, J.D. (McKissic) around the corner. There was some plays that we really needed in the game  — some second-and-longs that got us into third and manageables when we were able to run the ball which was huge for us.’’ Kerryon Johnson left the game in the first half with a knee injury. Ty Johnson (10 carries for 29 yards) and McKissic (5 for 29) picked up the slack.

5. Patricia mentioned several times that inconsistent play is the problem. That should not be an issue six games into his second season in Detroit. He said they can’t let any frustration build up from previous games and/or previous situations. They were coming off a Monday night loss at Green Bay. Patricia says all the right things, but he has to find a way to get the players totally prepared for Sundays. So far he’s 8-13-1 going back to last season.

NEXT UP: The N.Y. Giants will play the Lions at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 27, at Ford Field. On Sunday, the Giants (2-5) lost 27-21 to the Cardinals,The early line has the Lions as a 7.5-point favorite.

NFC NORTH: The Packers (6-1) remain atop the conference, the Vikings (5-2) are in second, the Bears in third and the Lions (2-2-1) in the basement.

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 reasons the Lions lost, 27-9, to playoff-bound Minnesota Vikings

Plenty of frustration, not many answers

DETROIT  — The Lions have gone five straight games without scoring more than 17 points. Not surprisingly four of those were losses including Sunday’s 27-9 beatdown by the Minnesota Vikings.

Coach Matt Patricia is big on talking about improving not just game to game, but also day to day in practice. If it’s happening, it’s not showing on Sunday.

The Lions dropped to 5-10. It’s their worst record since 2012 when they finished 4-12 in Jim Schwartz’s fourth season. It’s the fourth season since 2008 when the Lions finished 0-16 that the losses have been in double digits.

You can wrap it up and put a bow on it but there’s nothing pretty about this season. And, it’s not over yet. The Lions play the Packers at Green Bay next Sunday.

It’s been another season of frustration for all involved. The crowd gave up early on Sunday, leaving Ford Field en masse in the second half.

Perhaps Matthew Stafford summed up the frustration best. The quarterback can’t tell you one thing that is missing from this team.

“I think you look at each game as different. That’s part of the frustrating part, it’s not one thing where you say, ‘OK, let’s go fix it and we’ll be fine,’’’ Stafford said. “It’s tough to win games in the National Football League and, for one reason or another, execution and play-making we haven’t done enough of.’’

Five things to know about Sunday’s loss:

1. The offense struggled against a solid Vikings’ defense. The three field goals in the first half were dandy, but they needed to get in the end zone and could not do it. “Just didn’t execute well enough, had some chances, got down in the red zone the one time and didn’t execute I can give Kenny (Golladay) probably a better ball on that one down the sideline there,’’ Stafford said. “Got into field goal range a few times and had some negative plays — a screen that went for minus, a couple runs that went for minus and against that defense it’s tough. You have to stay ahead of the chains and we weren’t able to do it. You get third-and-long against those guys it’s tough.’’

2. The defense was solid stuffing the Vikings’ run game and preventing them from picking up a first down until late in the second quarter. But once the damn burst, it was trouble. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins connected with Adam Thielen for 40 yards on a third-and-17 at Detroit’s 49. Two plays later he found Stefon Diggs in the end zone for their first touchdown. One minutes and 33 seconds later, Cousins threw a 44-yard Hail Mary touchdown to Kyle Rudolph. Putting the Lions in a 14-9 hole at the half. “We just have to get a little bit better from an alignment standpoint, we have to get some of those guys in better position,’’ Patricia said about the Hail Mary. “Get the guy who caught the ball boxed out and get him out of there. So, a couple details there.”

3. While it appeared that those back-to-back touchdowns sucked the life out of the defense in the second half, Patricia said it wasn’t so. “We were out there trying to battle nonstop. I think those guys, even when the ball got put in some tough field position standpoints, everybody’s out there fighting real hard,’’ Patricia said. “So, it’s a tough game and that was a good team. They have a lot of good players. Our guys fight hard.”

4. Plenty of talk about needing to execute better from everyone involved. It’s the same thing that’s been said since Week One. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon, but it’s kind of a head-scratcher. “We just didn’t execute and do the things we needed to do to get off the field and get the ball back to our offense,’’ said cornerback Nevin Lawson who had his first career sack. Execute is the word of the season.

5. The play-calling on offense continues to be an issue. On third-and-13 in the first quarter from the Vikings’ 37 Theo Riddick’s sweep loses 4 yards. Two plays earlier LeGarrette Blount had lost 3 yards on a first-and-10. So effectively those two plays took the Lions out of field goal range. Earlier, on the third play of the game, running back Zach Zenner scampered for 29 yards. He’s their best running back at this point of the season, but they won’t stick with him. They keep going back to Blount and Riddick who are not getting the job done. Zenner averaged 5.9 yards per carry on Sunday while it was 2.6 yards per carry for Blount and minus-0.7 for Riddick. Go with what’s working. It’s a mystery, the same as when they repeatedly throw short passes in long-yardage situations. They want to protect Stafford, but the coaches (Patricia and  Jim Bob Cooter) have to unchain his handcuffs.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)