Detroit Lions wide receiver trio takes a certain pride in run blocking

Tate, Golladay, Jones contribute to improved run game

ALLEN PARK — Robert Prince, the Detroit Lions wide receivers coach, knows his group is loaded with talent.

The skillsets of Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr., and Kenny Golladay complement each other and they all have developed good communication with quarterback Matthew Stafford. The trio accounts for nine of the Lions 10 passing touchdowns in the first five games.

Prince wants receivers who are well-rounded.

Proof? Tate set a key block on Sunday during LeGarrette Blount’s second touchdown in the 31-23 win over the Green Bay Packers.

“It’s a game plan thing. It depends on what they are going to do. I feel like Coach Prince, our position coach, prepares us moreso for the run blocking than he does the passes at times,’’ Tate said on Monday.

He wasn’t kidding.

“It’s so important and he knows we all can run routes, he knows we all can catch, he knows we all can block as well, but when a receiver goes in and makes a key block to help a big first down or touchdown I think he gets more excited about that, showing that to the other coaches and Bob Quinn in front of the offensive linemen and running backs, than us going out and catching a touchdown. That’s what we’re supposed to do I guess,’’ Tate said.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Improving the run game was a huge focus entering this season. Credit rookie Kerryon Johnson and the veteran Blount with providing a one-two punch that has the Lions averaging 4.3 yards per carry (tied for 13th in the NFL) and 97.2 rushing yards per game (21st in NFL).

Credit the wide receivers with pitching in on run blocks.

“The way defenses are playing now days, when you have a run game they bring those safeties in the box and they read the run pretty danged well. Sometimes they have an extra guy and you need the receiver to go in through certain linemen or just find a way to get on them,’’ Tate said. “A lot of times that is the block that springs a 7- or 10-yard run or even break a 50-yarder or a run at the goal line. It’s very important especially in this offense. It’s something I know that Bob Quinn looks for in a receiver — a guy who can catch the ball but also can do the dirty work.’’

Funny he used the words “dirty work” — the exact words coach Matt Patricia used to describe Tate’s efforts to help block the run.

“He’s usually closer to the formation being in his normal alignment so he kind of has to dig some of those guys out and get in there pretty quick, which he does a good job of,’’ Patricia said.

The wide receivers take a certain pride in this phase of their work.

“It’s not difficult, but you have to be in the right mind frame, if you’re not you’re not going to block effectively, especially when you’re blocking somebody 250 or 200-and-whatever (pounds). You have to be in the right mind frame, you have to do your job,’’ Jones said. “We have the receivers to do it. I don’t think it’s been that hard, we just have to do it.’’

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Lions WR Kenny Golladay comes up big in NFC North win over Packers

His touchdown in the fourth was key

DETROIT >> Kenny Golladay is not a big talker. Doesn’t matter much since the Lions wide receiver lets his actions speak for him.

Golladay had four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown in the Lions’ 31-23 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Ford Field.

“Like I have been saying, whenever my number is called, I’m just trying to make the play,’’ Golladay said. “So if they want to throw it to me five times or four times a game or nine times a game, I just want to make all the plays.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

His touchdown came early in the fourth quarter on a second-and-five play from the Green Bay 5-yard line while covered by cornerback Josh Jackson. It was a beauty of a play as he jumped up for the ball in the back of the end zone. Without missing a beat, after he caught it, he zinged the ball into the crowd.

In his second season, his relationship with quarterback Matthew Stafford continues to grow.

“He’s obviously a big kid (6-foot-4), physical kid, can run, wants to be a really good player. Smart, has dialogue with me. All of our guys do, really, which is great,’’ Stafford said. “What they’re seeing out there, what they think we can do — so, I’m just happy for our team to get a win. Obviously happy for Kenny. He had a good one.”

Along with Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr., the Lions have one of the best receiving trios in the NFL. They can’t all have big numbers each game, but it works.

“This is just a game of matchups. Last week, GT (Golden Tate) went for 100 and whatever, this week Kenny had a big one. Marv (Marvin Jones Jr.) will have a big one next week. That’s what makes this offense difficult to defend, we have a lot of guys that can make plays,’’ Stafford said. “I was happy that Kenny had some opportunities today and made some big ones. I had a couple chances at some others and for one reason or another those got called back or whatever. So, just proud of the way we fought as a team. Kenny obviously had a nice game.”

In the first five games this season, Golladay has 27 catches for 428 yards and three touchdowns. Tate has 33 receptions for 431 yards and three touchdowns. Jones had 16 catches for 241 yards and three touchdowns.

Five things to know about the Lions’ big upset win over the Patriots

Lions dominate, grab first win this season

DETROIT – With a 26-10 win over the Patriots on Sunday night, the Lions pulled out their biggest win at Ford Field in a very long time.

Give the Lions players and coaches credit that after the 0-2 start to the season, they didn’t cave in, didn’t give up, they just kept on working getting ready to face their toughest opponent yet.

In fact, afterward coach Matt Patricia said the makings of the win started with a good week of practice.

“You go through the spring, you go through training camp, you go through preseason games. You go from the transition from preseason to regular season and just trying to get in-sync and get into a rhythm. All that helps,’’ Patricia said. “But honestly just give credit to the players. They did a great job this week in coming out and preparing and went out and executed at a high level.”

In the locker room afterward, the players gave the team ball to Patricia for his first NFL win as a head coach. Yet at the podium minutes later he kept tossing bouquets to the players.

In the second half, Lions fans were on the edge of their seats. Over the years, they had seen likely wins turn into losses. Different coaches, different players but many of the same results and excuses.

There were no excuses necessary on Sunday night.

“We did a good job of staying out of our own way,’’ said Marvin Jones Jr., who had four catches for 69 yards including a 33-yard touchdown reception.

Five things to note about the win:

1. Matthew Stafford was back. The quarterback’s play in the first six quarters of the season was head-scratchingly awful. He started improving in the second half at San Francisco a week ago and it continued through all four quarters on Sunday. Stafford was 27 of 36 for 262 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 101.9 rating. “It was a total team win, we have a lot to get better at, I can’t turn the ball over to start the third. That was a bad play by me but our guys are resilient and we battled and made some plays,’’ Stafford said.

2. The 33-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones in the third quarter gave the Lions a 20-10 cushion. The timing couldn’t have been better. Those points allowed the Lions’ offense to maintain a mix of run and pass. Jones wasn’t even Stafford’s first option on that call. “He was running, he was open. (He was) not really my No. 1, he came around the corner and he flashed to me,’’ Stafford said. “Man, he ran away from a really good player (cornerback Stephon Gilmore), I’m just glad out there pretty close to in stride, you can figure that out later and tell me if it was good enough for you guys.’’ That was a kindly dig at the media who criticized Stafford for not connecting with his deep receivers last week at the 49ers.

3. The Lions ran the ball for 159 yards (this is not a misprint), but the biggest news is that Kerryon Johnson became the first Lions 100-yard rusher in a game since Reggie Bush did so on Nov. 28, 2013. Johnson, the rookie, had 16 carries for 101 yards averaging 6.3 yards per carry. LeGarrette Blount, a former Patriot, had 16 carries for 48 yards. “I think all of our backs played well. Theo (Riddick) in pass game did a nice job a couple times. Kerryon was really good running the ball. I thought LeGarrette was good running the ball,’’ Stafford said. “A ton of credit to our guys up front, man, that’s a defense that does not want you to run the football on them. We did it and I was happy to be a part of it.’’

4. The defense, playing without Ziggy Ansah and his wonky shoulder, forced the Patriots into three-and-outs on their first three possessions. The mighty Pats were held to 209 total yards — just 70 of them in the first half. Tom Brady’s numbers were pedestrian at best — 14 of 26, one touchdown, one interception and a 65.1 rating. LInebacker Eli Harold sacked Brady twice. Darius Slay came up with the huge interception on a second-and-8 play in the third quarter.

5. It was a win that could set the tone for the rest of the season. The Lions are now 1-2 and they have their problems but they now should have a good dose of confidence after beating the Patriots, a perennially elite bunch. “It was a total team win, we have a lot to get better at, I can’t turn the ball over to start the third. That was a bad play by me but our guys are resilient and we battled and made some plays,’’ Stafford said. “We’re a tough group, mentally tough. We have plenty of bad plays, bad throws, bad outcomes to a play, whatever it is. we’ve had them. We’re a tough group, we believe in each other, believe in what we’re doing.’’ Next up, at the Dallas Cowboys (1-2) on Sunday.

Lions without Ziggy Ansah against Patriots; Darius Slay active

Ameer Abdullah sits for third straight game

DETROIT — Ziggy Ansah (shoulder) will not play against the Patriots tonight. The Lions defensive end had been listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report. It’s the second straight game Ansah has missed.

(Kickoff is 8:20 p.m. on NBC.)

Also missing from the defensive line will be defensive tackle Kerry Hyder who has not been on the injury report.

Cornerback Darius Slay, who suffered a concussion last Sunday, will be back on the field against the New England Patriots tonight. Kickoff is at 8:20 p.m.

Slay practiced on Friday after sitting out earlier in the week.His presence could be huge for the LIons’ chances against Tom Brady and the Patriots who are coming off a loss at Jacksonville.

Tight end Michael Roberts (knee), who was limited in practice on Friday, is out tonight. Roberts caught his first NFL touchdown last Sunday.

Other inactives for the Lions: Running back Ameer Abdullah, wide receiver Brandon Powell and guard Joe Dahl. Abdullah has been inactive for all three games this season.

Right guard T.J. Lang will play after sitting out last week with a back injury.

Linebacker Eli Harold (hip) and wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. (ankle), were listed as questionable on the Lions’ injury report on Friday, but are active tonight.

Left tackle Taylor Decker didn’t practice Friday but it wasn’t injury related. He will start tonight.

The Patriots’ defense, which has allowed 25.5 points per game, will be missing defensive lineman Trey Flowers, along with safety Patrick Chung and cornerback Eric Rowe. All three started last week and have been ruled out for this game due to injury.

Wide receiver Josh Gordon, who was traded to New England this week, is inactive.

 

Lions Matthew Stafford, receivers look to get back their deep ball connection

Deep ball has been big part of offense in the past

ALLEN PARK — All eyes are always on the quarterback.

With the Lions 0-2 and Matthew Stafford not looking like his usual efficient self, the quarterback and the offense don’t look close to panicked.

Stafford, who has passed for 4,000 yards in each of the last seven seasons, has decent numbers in the opening losses. But on Sunday at San Francisco he overthrew four long passes. It’s not like him to miss on all of those.

Stafford and the offense need to perform better when they face the New England Patriots on Sunday night at Ford Field.

“I think I just have to throw it to where they can catch it. It’s as simple as that, right? Just have to make sure I give them a chance,’’ Stafford said on Thursday. “There were some going back to last year where I probably didn’t throw the perfect ball but either Marv (Marvin Jones Jr.) or Kenny (Golladay) or GT (Golden Tate) or whoever it was went up and made a great play, right? And that’s part of it, too. I have to make sure I give those guys chances, No. 1, and then when they do beat those guys just make sure I put it on them.”

Wide receivers Marvin Jones Jr., and Golden Tate said they will continue to work on connecting with Stafford. Oh, and it’s not all on Stafford.

“I think we all could have done something better — better releases, better route running. I have confidence that from here on we’ll complete more of those, it’s kind of what we’ve done best over the years I think,’’ Tate said on Thursday. “It’s going up to get those 50-50 balls and executing explosives that’s one thing we take a lot of pride on it. That’s something I expect us to be better at.’’

They worked on it at practice this week just like they always do.

“Obviously, we were the best last year on that. But it’s a new year, and we have to keep working on that, and we’ll get it done,’’ Jones said this week. “We just have to continue to work on it. And the more we work on it, the better we’ll get at it.”

Stafford had zero interceptions in Week 2 after four picks in the opening game. Throwing too deep is usually safer than not throwing deep enough.

“Less bad is going to happen if you’re overshooting it, but less good as well. It’s a fine line. I’d love to just hit them all in stride, that’d be great,’’ Stafford said. “That’s what I plan on doing. But if it doesn’t happen, then our guys have to go up there and protect it if it’s short. A chance to make a play but make sure nothing bad happens. And I have to try to do my best to make sure that I’m giving them chances.”

Statistics don’t tell the whole story. After two games Stafford is ranked sixth in the NFL in passing yards with 633. Nothing wrong with that.

The Lions’ offense in two games has averaged 383 yards per game. The passing offense (314.5 yards per game) ranked sixth in the NFL while the rushing defense averaged 68.5 yards per game and is 30th in the NFL.That last statistic is a bit misleading since the Lions were so far behind in both games, they had to stick to the pass in hopes of catching up.

One noticeable improvement is the Lions are gaining an average of 4.2 yards per carry which is tied for 12th in the NFL. In 2017 that average — a key stat to explain the anemic run game — was 3.4 yards per carry, the worst in the NFL.

No one seemed too worried about this offense with the return of coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. However, in the opening two games the execution has come up short.

New England’s defense isn’t all of that, but the Patriots have this habit of figuring out a way to win.