Detroit Lions lose to L.A. Rams: Five things to know about loss

Defense solid but not quite good enough

DETROIT — It was a game not new to the Lions. They held on against a tough opponent, kept it close until the fourth quarter and then couldn’t get across the finish line.

Sunday’s 30-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams dropped the Lions to 4-8 with losses in five of their last six games.

You know what they said afterward about needing to improve as a team moving forward. It’s been said in eight post-game press conferences this season.

“Give the Rams credit. That’s a really good team over there. They’re very explosive, very dynamic, and I think we tried to be in it all the way through it,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “Obviously, we didn’t get it done in the end.”

Five things to know about the loss:

1. The defense actually played pretty well through most of the game. Defensive back Quandre Diggs had a solid game with an interception, two pass defenses and six tackles. He wasn’t alone. Damon Harrison and Eli Harold each sacked quarterback Jared Goff. And, at least in the first half, running back Todd Gurley was kept in control. Although he finished with 23 carries for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

2. Matthew Stafford kept the offense moving until late in the game. He was 20 of 33 for 245 yards, one touchdown and an interception in the end zone trying to make a play with 11 seconds left in the game. But when he was sacked by Aaron Donald in the fourth quarter, he couldn’t hold onto the ball, fumbled it and the Rams were able to recover at Detroit’s 24-yard line. Three plays later Gurley scampered in for a touchdown to put the Rams up 23-13 with 6:53 left. It was a killer play.

3. Fans were booing loudly when on a third-and-19 in the third quarter, Theo Riddick ran a draw play. It seems to happen quite often that the coaches are so conservative on third-down plays. The Lions settled for a field goal on that drive after Riddick picked up 8 yards. On a third-and-13 in the fourth quarter, Stafford passed short right to Bruce Ellington for 5 yards. It’s not just in this game, either. This is a theme with the coaching calls on third down.

4. Tight end Levine Toilolo stepped up with four catches for 90 yards. He caught one for 22 yards on a first-and-20 in the third quarter on a drive that led to a Matt Prater field goal. Then on the Lions’ next possession he caught one deep down the middle for 39 yards, getting Detroit to the Rams’ 23-yard line. Three plays later left tackle Taylor Decker caught a touchdown pass.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

5. Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh seemed to be quite fired up for this game, his first return to Ford Field since he signed as a free agent in 2015 and left town. Suh finished with six tackles (his season high is nine) and no sacks. He was whistled twice for personal fouls. With 1:41 left in the game and the Rams leading 30-16, Suh was penalized for roughing the passer. Inexcusable. Stafford was asked if his former teammate had anything to say to him: “Nope.” Then he was asked if he said anything to Suh. “Nope.” End of story.

NEXT UP: Lions at Arizona Cardinals (3-9) at 4:25 p.m. on Dec. 9. The Cardinals upset the Packers at Green Bay, 20-17, on Sunday.

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Lions LT Taylor Decker scores first touchdown in loss to Rams

Play designed by Jim Bob Cooter last week

DETROIT — You want a creative and imaginative offensive play? Jim Bob Cooter drew one up last week for the Lions.

On Sunday it resulted in 11-yard touchdown pass to left tackle Taylor Decker in the 30-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. With Decker’s score, the Lions were down just 16-13 late in the third quarter.

It was Decker’s first-ever NFL touchdown. And if you happened to catch the ball that he sailed into the stands afterward, he’d like it back. Thank you.

It was not a play that had been in the works for months. Decker said it all came about “pretty late in the week.”

“Walked into breakfast one morning and heard they were going to have a little wrinkle for me and I literally said, ‘I’m going to score a touchdown,’’’ Decker said.

It’s not like they had a lot of practice time to fine-tune it.

“I think we ran it once (in practice). It’s more of a scheme thing, it’s not like I”m beating man coverage,’’ Decker said.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Quarterback Matthew Stafford said it was a Cooter-designed play and that he and Decker got a couple throws in on the side at practice.

“That was Jim Bob this week. I thought it was a great add. Situation was perfect, to tell you the truth, to call it and it worked,’’ Stafford said. “I think our crowd got a little loud when he was telling everyone that 68 was reporting as eligible, which I thought was great. Our guys executed it well. It was a big play and obviously gave us a touchdown.”

Decker said he was a little hyped when he heard the play called. He was so tired afterward he got oxygen on the sideline.

“Obviously didn’t get the result we wanted, but it was a cool moment for me’’ Decker said.

“He’s a big target. So I was happy for him, happy for those guys,’’ Stafford said. “Always good to watch a big guy score, man, they enjoy it. I think he threw it in the stands, huh? Copycat.”

Frustrated Lions DT Ricky Jean Francois after loss to Rams: We can’t keep losing

He doesn’t believe in moral victories

DETROIT — While Detroit lost 30-16 to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday at Ford Field, the Lions’ defense showed positive signs against one of the NFL’s top offenses.

However, no one was claiming a moral victory.

“It sounds cute, that’s all it is. It sounds good enough to make a story that we gave a run to the L.A. Rams. At the end of the day we still lost. There’s no such thing as moral victories. We don’t have that in our head,’’ defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said. “… We didn’t go out there, we didn’t do our job, we didn’t win. At the end of the day there’s no such thing as a moral victory, I still see an L instead of a W.’’

Francois is one of the outspoken leaders on the team who is not afraid to show his emotions after a loss. Sunday was no different.

The veteran was frustrated to see the Lions fall to 4-8, dropping five of their last six games.

“I can’t speak for them, I can’t speak for none of the guys in the locker room. I know I’m tired (of losing), I’m done with that (expletive). That is unfamiliar to me, losing all the time. At some point, we have to have a breaking point,” Francois said. “Tonight, we have to go home and look at ourselves in the mirror and check ourselves. Are we doing enough to win? Are we helping this team to win, and are we helping ourselves and our team to put us in a position to start putting wins up? Last few games we were playing playoff caliber teams. It’s not going to get easier. We just played probably one of the teams that’s going to be in for the NFC Championship, or probably further. We have to learn how to start playing at these levels. We have to learn how to start playing playoff teams. We have to learn how to execute and learn how to close. When we learn how to close, when we learn how to do that, we’re just going to keep having this conversation.”

He wasn’t done.

“That’s the most high-powered offense in the NFL, we held them to the point they had to grind for every point. They did it though,’’ Francois said. “They were physically and mentally ready to come in and win this game. You have to cash in, you have to get to that point where you’re tired of losing. That has to irk you, that has to keep you up at night. We can’t keep losing.’’

Losing doesn’t sit well on him and it hasn’t since the preseason.

“Nobody has to teach you how to learn, you have to have that within you , you’ve got to know how to win yourself. No matter what the situation is you’ve got to know how to master, how to close that game,’’ Francois said. “You’ve got to know how to cash in on situations, win the two minutes, win the end of the half, all types of stuff. No coach in this building, no coach in the NFL can teach an NFL player how to win you have to have that within you.’’

When specifically asked about what was wrong with the Lions, he had a Bo Schembechler like answer: “The team, the team, the team.’’

Next Sunday the Lions play at Arizona (3-9). The Cardinals upset the Packers, 20-17, at Green Bay on Sunday.

Francois said he hopes all three phases can learn something from Sunday’s loss.

“I understand what (Arizona’s) record is, but that’s a hard-playing team. …  I’m just tired of losing. All of us in this building are tired of losing,’’ Francois said.

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.

 

 

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions host the Los Angeles Rams

Ndamukong Suh makes first return visit to Ford Field

A young coach, a balanced offense with a solid quarterback and a defensive line featuring Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. The combination has spelled success for the Los Angeles Rams and why wouldn’t it? Any NFL team would like to have some or most of those components.

That includes the Detroit Lions (4-7) who will host the Rams (10-1) on Sunday.

“They’re a very balanced offense and I think something we talk about all the time, that when you can be balanced on offense, it’s very difficult to defend and they’ve done a great job of that all year,’’ coach Matt Patricia said.

The Lions will have their hands full in all three phases.

“One of the things that’s really important with this team is just understanding how good they are on special teams and how good they are defensively. I think John Fassel does a phenomenal job on special teams. It’s one of the most dominant units in the league,’’ Patricia said. “They’re very consistent and they really make big plays.’’

Five things to watch:

1. Somehow, some way the Lions must get their run game going even without running back Kerryon Johnson who will miss his second straight game with a knee injury. LeGarrette Blount was the workhorse in the Thanksgiving loss to the Bears with 19 carries for 88 yards. “I think for our guys, we’re always on the program of whoever’s out there playing, we’re expecting everybody to do their best and go out and perform at a high level. We’ll do the same this weekend,’’ Patricia said.

2. Can’t overlook the Lions’ passing game either. Marvin Jones is out for the season, leaving Kenny Golladay, Bruce Ellington, TJ Jones, Theo Riddick  and the tight ends to pitch in. Matthew Stafford needs a better game, but he also needs his receivers to get open and run the right routes. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said the shortcomings on offense are all on him. “It’s a team game. We have 11 guys out there. We all have to execute and be on the same page. A lot of that stuff’s on me. You guys at home don’t always know exactly what’s going on on the field. I’m accountable for everything that happens on this offense. Bad things that happen, things that don’t happen right, whether it’s a decision or being in a different spot, or some sort of decision somebody out there on the field is making that maybe isn’t even seen on the TV copy of the game. That stuff’s all on me,’’ Cooter said this week.

3. Stop running back Todd Gurley, the NFL’s second most prolific back. The Lions run defense has been one of the few units that has improved this season, holding teams to a total of 148 rushing yards combined over the last three games. (See blog below.)

4. Pressure quarterback Jared Goff (26 touchdowns, 6 interceptions) who has been sacked 24 times. He’s got a flotilla of solid receivers in Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. “They’re a very explosive team. They do a great job with the scheme. Coach (Sean) McVay does an outstanding job of controlling the game on the offensive side of the ball with tempo. They use different tempos, they probably have about three or four different tempos that they can use offensively to dictate the game. So, we just have to do a good job of being really sound fundamentally and making sure that we’re doing a good job with our reads and our eye control.

5. Ndamukong Suh will return for his first game at Ford Field since he signed as a free agent with Miami in 2015. He and defensive tackle Aaron Donald are a powerful inside force that could present problems for the Lions’ offensive line and Stafford.

PREDICTION: Rams 35, Lions 17

 

Detroit Lions run defense faces next challenge in Rams’ Todd Gurley

Damon Harrison’s presence beneficial against the run

ALLEN PARK — While the Detroit Lions have struggled, losing four of their last five games, their run defense has been the one bright spot.

Their next challenge is Todd Gurley and the Los Angeles Rams (10-1) on Sunday at Ford Field.

Gurley ranks second in the NFL with 1,043 rushing yardsm averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He’s scored 13 rushing  touchdowns and has also caught 43 passes for 441 yards and four more touchdowns.

“Todd Gurley is one of the best backs in the League. This guy’s phenomenal. So, it’s a big challenge for us. And then obviously, the other skill players that they have,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said.

In the past three games the Lions’ defense has given up just 148 total rushing yards. In that span they haven’t given up a run of more than 10 yards. They played solid running teams — Chicago twice with Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard and Carolina with Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey.

“It’s been a great job and all those games we’ve for the most part given ourselves an opportunity to win. That’s always the goal to stop the run game,’’ safety Glover Quin said.

A number of factors play into the improvement.

“We’ve tackled well, we’ve had great play up front. Our D-line has been playing phenomenal, our linebackers have been playing phenomenal. As a secondary we’ve made tackles when we had to,’’ Quin said. “You look at a lot of the games we played in … we’ve been playing great in the run game and then we give up one run for 60 or 70 yards and it kills all the averages. We’ve been playing solid run defense for a while this year, these last few weeks we haven’t given up any big runs.’’

There is another major difference too.

His name is Damon “Snacks” Harrison. The veteran defensive tackle was acquired in a trade with the Giants on Oct. 25. In his five games with the Lions, he has 2.5 sacks, 26 tackles and four quarterback hits.

“I think he makes a difference, he’s a big-time player in the middle, he’s a big-time run stopper. So when an offense knows they have to block him a certain way or put a certain amount of guys on him that frees up other guys to get one on ones in different situations,’’ Quin said. “So pretty sure he changes the clocking schemes for a lot of those teams, when they don’t block him or when they try to single him he makes the plays.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Patricia notes that it’s a team effort but does agree Harrison has made a difference.

“I would say with Damon, (he’s) obviously done a great job for us helping us inside and really, just seeing a guy that has great experience be in the middle. (He’s) seen a lot of different blocks, has seen a lot of different schemes, and maybe helps settle some things down for some of the younger players that we are trying to play with out there and some of the new guys with the scheme,’’ Patricia said. “Harrison’s familiar with the techniques that we use because he’s been coached similarly in the past with some of the same techniques. So, from that standpoint, it’s been beneficial to have his experience out on the field.”