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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Lions LeGarrette Blount won’t point fingers after home loss to Bears but says everyone has much work to do

Loss drops Lions to 4-7, with Rams coming upu next

DETROIT — The Lions’ offense appeared to take a step backward in Thursday’s 23-16 loss to the Chicago Bears at Ford Field.

Yes, they were without wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., and running back Kerryon Johnson. But Chicago was forced to lean on quarterback Chase Daniel who hadn’t started a game since 2014.

That’s a wash.

No excuses.

Detroit running back LeGarrette Blount had a good day (19 carries for 88 yards). He was in no mood to celebrate. He didn’t even know his touchdown earned him a $350,000 bonus for his fifth touchdown of the season.

Blount has won three Super Bowl rings playing for the Patriots and the Eagles. He knows what it takes to be a winning team.

“I’m a Detroit Lion right now so that’s all I’m focused on. I think there’s a lot of things we need to fix in order for us to be a successful team,’’ Blount said. “There’s a lot of things that we’ve got to do that we haven’t done to put ourselves in position to win games like this. When it’s close games like this we have to finish them off. We’ve got to close them out and we didn’t. That’s our fault.’’

Quarterback Matthew Stafford had a rough day, throwing two interceptions in the fourth quarter with one returned for a touchdown by Eddie Jackson.

“I don’t like to point fingers and I don’t think it is his fault. I think as a team we’ve got to do better and I don’t think you should put all the blame on Stafford. Obviously he’s an elite quarterback. I think he’s one of the best in this league. I don’t think it’s his fault, I don’t think it’s fair for us to put it all on him,’’ Blount said. “You can go on and on about that. Like I said, he’s a great quarterback, he’s really good at what he does, he’s great at his craft. There’s no quarterback that’s going to go into a full season and not make any mistakes, he’s human he makes mistakes, I make mistakes, we all make mistakes and a lot of mistakes give you an ‘L’.’’

Blount also wouldn’t put the blame on offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter who called a conservative game except for a touchdown drive in the third quarter that feature a 43-yard pass play to Kenny Golladay.

“Our play caller calls plays but we have to go out there and execute the plays. Whether we’re doing it right or wrong, people may not know, but he does and we do,’’ Blount said. “It’s just minor details we have to fixed. Whenever we have those minor details that don’t get fixed, you have bad plays and you have plays that stall your offensive drive. We have to get back in the lab and be more detailed at what we do, pay a lot more attention to our craft and try to get this thing back on pace.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The Lions dropped to 4-7, matching their loss total for all of the 2017 season. Next up are the Los Angeles Rams who own the best record (10-1) in the NFL.

“We’re competitors, we’re warriors, we’re not going to go out there and lay down for anybody,’’ Blount said.

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.

Five reasons the Lions beat the Packers

Stafford: A total team win

DETROIT — The Lions’ offense was good but not spectacular, the defense shut down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers for a half and special teams had a good day.

It was the perfect equation for the Lions’ 31-23 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Ford Field.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford called it a “total team win.’’ It is exactly what this team strives for every week but it doesn’t always happen.

The Lions now own a 2-3 record, (1-0 in the NFC North) heading into their bye week.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Oddly enough Detroit has beaten two of the best quarterbacks (Tom Brady and Rodgers) and fallen short against lesser teams.

“I think I’ve said it for forever and you guys hate hearing it. You have to prove it every week,’’ Stafford said. “And we’ve been close in a couple other games too, and just haven’t gotten it done at the end of the game. So, proud of our guys for getting it done at the end of the game.’’

In other words, it’s the NFL.

The Lions jumped out to a 24-0 lead at the half. Yet everyone knew the game was just getting interesting.

Five reasons the Lions hung on to win:

1. Packers kicker Mason Crosby missed four straight field goals and a point-after attempt. The first three misses were from 38, 41 and 42 yards — chip shots. The fourth was from 56 yards. He finally made a 41-yarder when it was so late it didn’t matter. Had he been on his game, the Packers could have won. “So, this one unfortunately was really bad and going to have to really look at this one, and you know this one hurts a bunch.  I left a lot of points on the field for this team and I’m disappointed in my performance,” Crosby said. “And, this is, I look back, I’m thinking in my childhood, you know high school, this is definitely a lot worse.  I’m bummed about that.”

2. The Lions secondary was a patched-up group thanks to injuries and yet effective. Tavon  Wilson was inactive, Darius Slay was injured in the second half but able to return and Jamal Agnew was carted off the field with a knee injury in the fourth quarter. Aaron Rodgers threw for 141 yards in the first half but wasn’t able to get the Packers on the board. In the second quarter he threw a 30-yard bomb to Davante Adams to get to Detroit’s 9-yard line but Detroit’s defense held and Crosby missed the field goal. Rodgers scored touchdowns on the first three possessions of the second half. But then a huge stop came on third-and-15 from Detroit’s 38, forcing a field goal attempt that was missed.

3. Aaron Rodgers was sacked three times and lost two fumbles. It appears the Matt Patricia defense is starting to click. Rodgers can make defenses look weak but Detroit found a way to pressure him. He finished with 442 passing yards and three touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough. Rodgers was taken off the injury list this week, but he was missing two of his best receivers in Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison. Also the Packers rushed for just 98 yards against the Lions’ rushing defense which is the worst in the NFL. “Defense is hard. It’s always hard every single week going against great quarterbacks, schemes, coaches. They do a phenomenal job and we’re just trying to dial it in,’’ Patricia said. “I think the biggest thing for us is some continuity. Maybe a little bit of continuity here the last couple games, which is good. That helps the communication from that aspect of it.’’

4. Even though they had a 24-0 lead at the half, the Lions’ offense remained aggressive in the second half. That was the plan. Stafford said he and Jim Bob Cooter talked throughout about remaining aggressive. Stafford finished 14 of 26 for 183 yards, two touchdowns and a 101.9 rating. The offense can play to its strengths when playing with a lead. “This is the way you want to play the game, out in front and to not have to come back. I just think that we had a great week of practice and it showed in the game,’’ Stafford said. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay had the gaudy numbers with four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown.

5. Once again, the run game helped balance the offense. Veteran running back LeGarrette Blount was signed as a short-yardage back and he got the job done on Sunday. He ran for a yard to convert a third-and-1 and then rammed through for a one-yard touchdown run early in the first quarter. He had a dozen carries for 22 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson’s first scamper was for 16 yards and he finished with a dozen carries for 70 yards (5.8 yards per carry). Johnson injured his ankle early in the fourth after a 24-yard run that led to Stafford’s 5-yard pass to Kenny Golladay for a touchdown to vie the Lions a 31-14 lead. His ankle was taped up but he didn’t get back into the game.

Lions Matt Patricia unconcerned about Kerryon Johnson’s light workload

Running back had 9 carries in loss at Dallas

ALLEN PARK — Lions coach Matt Patricia does not seem concerned that Kerryon Johnson only had nine carries in Sunday’s 26-24 loss at the Cowboys.

The previous week — in a win over the Patriots — the rookie running back carried the ball 16 times for 101 yards, averaging 6.3 yards per carry.

It seemed like it was his NFL coming out party.

On the first play from the line of scrimmage in Dallas on Sunday, Johnson scampered for 32 yards. Was it the start of another 100-yard game?

Uh, no.

Johnson got the ball five more times in the first half, but only had three second-half carries. His grand total was nine carries for 55 yards, averaging 6.1 yards per carry.

That 6.1 average is key — that’s a good number for most running backs. It was the exact same average as Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliott who sliced and diced the Lions’ defense finishing with 25 carries for 152 yards. (He also had four catches for 88 yards.)

Patricia’s first question at his Monday press conference concerned Johnson’s workload or lack of it.

“I think we have a lot of good running backs and I think we try to use them appropriately. I think Kerryon played a significant amount of the game — 20 snaps of 55 —  that’s a good amount,’’ Patricia said. “Plus we have two other running backs, we had a couple two-minute drives and other personnel packages and things like that. There were quite a bit of reps for Kerryon.’’

LeGarrette Blount, a short-yardage specialist, had seven carries for 12 yards, for a 1.7 yards per carry average.

Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter is responsible for calling the offense during the games so Johnson’s number of carries were likely mostly his decision, although Patricia said it was “a staff decision.”

The rookie seemed wise beyond his years when asked about his workload last week. He didn’t petition for more carries, instead he seemed happy to be part of the running back by committee philosophy.

Wear and tear on running backs is a concern. There is no magic number for carries and it changes each game, but when a guy is effective running the ball in the Lions’ offense perhaps make it a point to get him the ball.

“We do look at studies on full seasons and when guys are at the end of the season especially running backs, especially that position you’ll find a lot of teams where guys earlier in the season were at a high productive level but by the time they get to the end of the season the wear and tear at that position is pretty extreme,’’ Patricia said.

“You get to the end of the year those guys aren’t out there as much, so you take a look at it from a big picture standpoint and game-by-game standpoint and play-by-play standpoint. We’re obviously trying to compete at a high level. So we want to have our best players out there at all times when we can,’’ Patricia said. “We feel we have a really good strong running back group – they’re all outstanding players. We’re going to try to continue to try to improve them just like we are at every position.’’

That’s all good and sounds fine, but if the Lions (1-3) don’t win now, it won’t matter that much how they play later in the season.

Five things to watch as Lions face the Dallas Cowboys; plus prediction

Dallas tough defense a threat for Lions

Momentum is a funny thing in the NFL. Its existence is questionable, but when a team is on a roll it certainly seems to be the reason.

The Lions, coming off a huge win against the New England Patriots, could certainly use another win at Dallas on Sunday to get back to even for the season. The Cowboys are not all of that. They’re also 1-2, having lost at Carolina (2-1) and at Seattle (1-2).

The Cowboys have won six of the last seven meetings against the Lions, but both of these teams are different. (Kickoff is 1 p.m. on FOX.)

Five things to watch on Sunday:

1. The Lions tandem of Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount must continue to grind out yards on the ground. They had their best game in the win over New England but the work is just starting. “I feel like myself and our running back room had the bar of expectation (set) high,’’ Johnson said. “We all know we’re talented guys, we all know what we can do, we all believe in this offense and this offensive line especially we’ve all felt it was something we can do and will continue to do it.”

2. The Lions’ run defense which tightened up a bit in the win over the Patriots, has to continue to improve. The Cowboys average 132.7 rushing yards per game which is seventh best in the NFL. The big issue is stopping running back Ezekiel Elliott who averages 5.7 yards per carry and is tied for the NFL lead in rushing with 274 yards. (He’s tied with San Francisco’s Matt Brieda who ran all over the Lions averaging 12.5 yards per carry with 138 yards on 11 carries.) “He’s got good size, good speed, good power. He’s patient,’’ safety Glover Quin said. “When he sees it, he hits it. He’s a tough tackle. He has all the attributes you want in a running back.”

3. The offensive line wasn’t perfect on Sunday but they were as good as they’ve been for a long time, giving Matthew Stafford time and opening up lanes for the run game. He’ll need time against a Cowboys’ defense that has held opponents to 6.58 yards per attempt through the air. Also, Dallas’ defensive line has recorded a sack on 10.3 percent of opponent passing attempts but haven’t intercepted an opposing quarterback. On the other side, Stafford has been sacked just three times in three games — the least amount for a starting quarterback so far this season. “Is that the deal? I didn’t even know that. That’s great,’’ Stafford said. “Our guys up front are fighting like crazy. I’m trying to do everything I can to get the ball out when guys get edges on our guys or whatever it is. I think that’s a good thing for our offense as long as I’m protecting the football and I’m not making a bad decision if I’m under duress.’’ He’s thrown four touchdown passes and just one interception in the last two games after getting off to a rocky start with four picks in the opening loss to the Jets.

4. Detroit will be without defensive end Ziggy Ansah who can’t seem to stay healthy. Still the defense has to keep the pressure on quarterback Dak Prescott who is not off to a great start this season with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

5. The Lions will be without tight end Michael Roberts (knee) for the second straight game. Roberts scored the only touchdown by a tight end when he pulled one in against the Jets. “I think tight ends in the League may not get enough respect for the impact they do have as blockers. A lot of run games out there, you’re going to have five offensive linemen out there just about every run game,” offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. “You’re going to have at least a sixth guy that’s tight end and then from there, you add the different variations that everybody has. So, when we have tight ends that are successfully blocking and are part of a successful scheme doing their job, communicating well with whoever they’re connected to, could be a tackle, they could be somewhere in the backfield or whatever we have those guys doing, it does make a difference. It does lead to offensive success.”

Prediction: Lions 24, Cowboys 14.