Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving

Bears beat the Lions easily in first meeting

ALLEN PARK — When it comes to Thanksgiving, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford says he’s no different from most people.

“I just eat a ton of food like everybody else. Eat a bunch of food, relax a little bit. It’s kind of a nice little couple days off for us,’’ Stafford said.

Unlike others, before he hits the dinner table he has a football game to try to win. Stafford and the LIons have won four of the last five games on Thanksgiving, losing, 30-23, to the Vikings a year ago.

Usually players on both teams love the Turkey Day spotlight.

“It’s awesome. I grew up watching it as a Cowboys fan. I’ve been a part of it now for 10 years here. It’s cool that the city and the fans and really our team, we embrace this game, we love it, we love playing it every year,’’ Stafford said. “So, it’s just a great tradition to be a part of and obviously a lot of fun when you win it.”

It will be a first for Bears coach Matt Nagy who looks forward to the chance to play with the nation watching on Thanksgiving.

“I know I am, and this will be my first time playing a game on Thanksgiving. What better way to come out and play a game on Thanksgiving? Not all players and people get these opportunities, these chances. So, the guys will be looking forward to it and it’ll be fun,’’ Bears coach Matt Nagy said on a Tuesday conference call.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The Lions will be without wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., and running back Kerryon Johnson. While Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is listed as “doubtful” which means it’s likely Chase Daniel will get the start.

Five things to watch:

1. The Lions must stop the run like they did when they lost to the Bears on Nov. 11. That day Detroit’s defense held Chicago to 54 rushing yards. Whatever that game plan was, Detroit needs to repeat in. After a horrid start on run defense, they’ve held opponents to less than 60 rushing yards for two straight weeks.

2. Don’t give up on the run game even without Kerryon Johnson (knee). Between LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner stick with the one who finds the most success as the game progresses. Don’t be surprised if it’s Zenner. The Lions only rushed for 66 yards against the Bears the last game, but part of the reason is that they were down 26-0 early. “We have a bunch of guys in that room that are talented. If they need to play more, they’ll play more. If they don’t, then we’ll roll with what we have,’’ Stafford said.

3. The Lions will be without Marvin Jones Jr., for the second straight game. Stafford was able to make the passing game work in the win over the Panthers by targeting Kenny Golladay 14 times. He finished with eight catches for 113 yards and a beauty of a touchdown. Stafford is still getting acquainted with newcomer Bruce Ellington who had six catches for 52 yards on Sunday. “I thought Bruce (did a really nice job stepping in. I don’t know how long he’s been here, maybe 10 days. So, it was really good for him to get out there and get his feet wet,’’ Stafford said.

4.  When the Lions and Bears last met, cornerback Darius Slay was on the sidelines. He’s back and that should be a huge boost. “He’s a great player. He’s been doing it for a while. I think there are a lot of different things that he does well,’’ Nagy said. “He definitely makes them better, and we know that and we have to know where he’s at at all times.”

5. Get pressure on the quarterback — likely Chase Daniel who hasn’t started a game since 2014. Trubisky was sacked just once by the Lions defense on Nov. 11. Because of Daniel’s lack of playing time, it should be easier to rattle him. The defense did a solid job against the Panthers’ Cam Newton sacking him three times, although he did pass for three touchdowns. Daniel is no Cam Newton but the defense can’t think that way.

EXTRA: In the Lions first Thanksgiving game on Nov. 29, 1934, the Bears beat the Lions, 19-16. The Lions are 8-8 against the Bears on Thanksgiving.

PREDICTION: Lions 28, Bears 21

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Lions without Marvin Jones, A’Shawn Robinson, Michael Roberts

Ziggy Ansah to play third straight game

DETROIT — The Lions’ wide receiving corps was one of the NFL’s best until two weeks ago when Golden Tate was traded. They will be without Marvin Jones Jr. (knee) today against the Carolina Panthers at Ford Field. That leaves Kenny Golladay and T.J. Jones to be Matthew Stafford’s main targets. Wide receiver Andy Jones has been called up from the practice squad.

Kerryon Johnson and Theo Riddick are the only running back duo to each have 30 more receptions, so Stafford could be looking to them also.

Detroit will also be without defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson (ankle) and tight end Michael Roberts (shoulder). Both were listed as out on Friday’s injury report.

DE Ezekiel Ansah and DT Damon Harrison Sr., who both have shoulder injuries, are active after being limited in practice all week.

Right guard T. J. Lang (neck) was placed on injured reserve this week, ending his season. Kenny Wiggins will start in his place.

Darius Slay (knee), Eli Harold (shoulder), Jalen Reeves-Maybin (neck) and tight end Luke Willson (shoulder) who were out a week ago, are all active.

Other Lions’ inactives (all healthy): Wide receiver Brandon Powell, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, defensive end Eric Lee and offensive lineman Andrew Donnal.

Kickoff is at 1 p.m. with game televised on FOX with Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber and Jen Hale.

Lions players react to trade that sent Golden Tate to the Eagles

He was popular teammate, but they are moving on

ALLEN PARK — It was the first day post-Golden.

With wide receiver Golden Tate traded to the Eagles on Tuesday, the Lions went through their first practice and day of work without him on Wednesday preparing to play at the Vikings on Sunday.

Tate led the Lions in receiving yards (527) and catches (44) and also had three touchdowns.

“”There are a lot of difficult decisions that are made in the NFL multiple times during the course of the year. Yesterday was one of them,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “From our process, we try to evaluate everything the best we can and try to make the best decision we can as we move forward, not only for our immediate but also our long term.’’

Tate’s former teammates were obviously sad to see him go, but they can’t dwell on what could have been, they have to prepare for Sunday. They are not throwing in the tall. They have the same goal — to win the NFC North.

Player reaction to the trade:

— Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr.: “Obviously he’s a great friend, a great teammates, a great player here and, you know, it’s the NFL, he’s somewhere else and this is a week we have to prepare for a tough opponent, can’t really harp on it. He’s a great friend. We just have to do what we do, go out there everyday in practice, get on the details as much as we can and get out there and make plays for the team. We have TJ Jones and (Brandon) Powell obviously they’re going to get a little bit of playing time. Everybody has to stay the course, whatever is called. We’ll work hard during the week like we have been and it’s the next man up. I’m sure we’re going to do good. TJ has had some great minutes for us over the years, obviously he’s like our Swiss Army knife, he knows all the plays we just go out there and keep doing what we’re doing.’’

— Safety Glover Quin: “You play this game long enough you see all types of crazy stuff, you see things happen each and every day, it’s a part of the business. As players you learn to go out and play because at the end of the day that’s what you have to go out and do. Obviously Golden was great for us, great in the locker room, in the community, on the team, fun teammate, made a lot of big plays for us. But they made a move and, at the end of the day, like I always say I’m just a player, my job is to go out there and play so that’s what I try to focus on. I wish Golden good luck and I’m pretty sure he’s going to go out there and be Golden. That’s who he is. We can’t let that stop us from going out there and trying to achieve our ultimate goal which is win football games.’’

— Wide receiver TJ Jones: We hate to see him go, we love him. I’ve been with him for four and a half years, we definitely built up a rapport and friendship on and off the field just like a lot of the other guys have. We hate to see him go, wish him nothing but the best. But the reality of it is we had to come in and attack the new plan today. … I think we’re all going to step up. I think there’s a lot of responsibility to be spread out among everyone on the offense, it’s up to us to handle it I guess. Take your responsibility, your part, whatever your role and do it to the best of your ability. I learned a lot (from Tate), coming in as a rookie and he was in his fifth year in the NFL and having four or five years together — there wasn’t a time when I wasn’t asking him something whether it was on the field, off the field, recovery or day-to-day life of becoming a pro.’’

— Left tackle Taylor Decker: “It’s sad to see him go personally, he was a friend, obviously a great player, great teammate, great for this community. We’re going to wish him the best of luck moving forward we have a big divisional opponent so we can’t dwell on that. Wish him the best of luck and obviously not happy to see him go. He was absolutely a very good player for us but we have plenty of good players in this locker room.’’

Lions Matt Patricia offers insights on Golden Tate trade, moving forward

It will take a team effort to replace leading WR

ALLEN PARK — Matt Patricia said he was open with the team about the trade of Golden Tate to the Eagles. The Lions coach talked to his players before their first practice on Wednesday minus Tate, their leading receiver.

“The biggest point for me is to make sure everybody understands this also shows a lot of confidence in the people that are in that room,’’ Patricia said. “There are great players in that room and there are a lot of them. There’s a lot of guys who have opportunities to make plays and go out there and play at a high level. The biggest thing for us is we have to turn the page and be ready to go. If we spend all Wednesday talking about this, Minnesota is getting ready to kick the ball off at 1 o’clock on Sunday, whether we’re there or not. We better show up ready to go.’’

Patricia admitted it wasn’t an easy decision. Detroit got a third-round pick in exchange for giving away their leading receiver (44 catches, 517 yards, three touchdowns).

The Lions (3-4) are still in the thick of the NFC North race and face the Vikings (4-3-1) on Sunday in a big divisional game in Minnesota. Then the Lions had to Chicago (4-3)  on Nov. 11.

“The decisions are not easy. It’s more than just players, it’s relationships, it’s friendships, it’s working together for a long time,’’ Patricia said. “I talked to Golden at length yesterday, I talked to him last night. I wanted to make sure he was alright moving forward. I know he’s going to a good place with people who will take good care of him.’’

No one on the roster currently has the same talents as Tate has so it’s going to take some adjustment on the offense. Along with Marvin Jones Jr. (26 catches for 387 yards, five touchdowns) and Kenny Golladay (30 catches for 477 yards, three touchdowns), the other wide receivers on the roster are TJ Jones (3 catches, 36 yards) and rookie Brandon Powell who has only played on special teams. Running back Theo Riddick, who has missed two games with a knee injury, can line up in the slot.

“You never try to walk in and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to replace this guy with this.’ It’s a team effort,’’ Patricia said. “It’s totally however we think scheme-wise what will help us win this week.  It might be different the next week and might be different the week after that. We have a lot of good players that can step up in different roles depending on how we decide it’s best to play this game.’’

General manager Bob Quinn may have made the call, but he worked with Patricia on the decision to trade Tate for a third-round pick.

“You have to work together with all those situations. There certainly is good conversation that goes on and it’s good to have that, it really is. You can get caught up either way to one side. You may make decisions that are more emotional than logical. At some point you’re trying to make the best logical decision that you can, that’s the important thing,’’ Patricia said.

“Football is great, there’s a lot of emotion in it, there’s a lot of emotion on game day, there’s a lot of emotion during the game when we work and the relationships are emotional. That’s what makes it so special,’’ Patricia said. “… There’s a huge emotional part of this when you’re running a business or need to make decisions for the greater good.’’

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer can’t be quite sure how to prepare for the Tate-less Lions.

“I think Golden is a heck of a football player, he’s definitely a great run-after-catch guy. He’s always giving us problems,’’ Zimmer said in a conference call on Wednesday morning. “It changes some of the things with our game plans. It’s part of the NFL everything changes all the time.’’

Five main reasons Detroit Lions lost to Seattle Seahawks

Detroit falls to 3-4; next up at Vikings

DETROIT — It’s not just that the Seahawks were well rested coming off  a bye week, they were better prepared for whatever they would face against the Detroit Lions.

Quality coaching by Pete Carroll and overall solid execution led to a 28-14 win over the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday.

For the Lions (3-4), it was complete failure in all three phases. It was ugly.

Coach Matt Patricia took partial blame afterward, as well he should.

“It was a bad job coaching, bad job playing. We have to do a better job getting prepared during the week. (We) played a very good Seattle Seahawks team. Give them credit. They came out, they out-performed us,’’ Patricia said. “Pete (Carroll) had his crew ready to go coming off the Bye week and we just couldn’t stay with them at all. So, I have to do a better job getting the team ready.’’

And certainly much is on him.

Veteran defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, who is not afraid to speak his mind, said the team came out flat and unfocused.

“We didn’t focus on nothing, we couldn’t stop the run, and we let the Seattle offense control the game. We killed ourselves in penalties, we didn’t connect with their plays and we didn’t focus at all. We were just out there playing,’’ Francois said.

When running back Ameer Abdullah was asked if the team hit cruise control, he had a one-word answer: “Obviously.”

That is on coaching.

After winning two straight, it looked like the Lions were turning the corner in Patricia’s first season. Now it looks like they’ve fallen down the stairs and it’s uncertain if they can climb back up.

Five main reasons the Lions lost:

1. The defense did not in any fashion resemble the same bunch that beat the Patriots and Packers. It looked like they’d reverted to their status when they were embarrassed by the Jets in the season opener. Patricia, supposedly a defensive guru, has problems here. They can’t be this inconsistent week to week if they want to win. On the snaps where newly acquired nose tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison was on the field, they were more effective at stopping running backs Chris Carson (25 carries, 105 yards) and Mike Davis (10 carries, 33 yards). That’s potentially a good sign, but it can’t all be up to the new guy. “Seattle’s run the ball really well, so we knew it was going to be a big challenge for us. It’s a full-team effort in the run game,’’ Patricia said. “We have to get everybody executing better. … We have to get the fits right and we have to get off some blocks and we need to get our fundamentals better. So, that’s the bottom line.’’

2. Matthew Stafford fumbled and lost the ball and also threw an interception. Both were fourth-quarter miscues. Can’t happen. Stafford said if he would’ve had two hands on the ball he wouldn’t have lost it. He only blamed himself. The Lions were first-and-goal at Seattle’s 4-yard line when cornerback Justin Coleman stepped in front of Golden Tate at the 1-yard line and got his mitts on the ball. A touchdown would have closed the gap to a 7-point deficit and left the chance the Lions could pull out a last-second comeback. Stafford finished 27 of 40 for 310 yards, two touchdowns and a 96.9 rating.

3. Special teams play stunk too. They had penalties on a punt and on two kickoffs. Ameer Abdullah, who was returning kickoffs, fumbled and lost the ball in the second quarter. Sam Martin shanked a 28-yard punt late in the third quarter to give the Seahawks the ball at their own 28, when the defense needed them to be backed up. Patricia wouldn’t specifically address the special teams woes. “Right now, I’m not really pleased with any phase,’’ the coach said.

4. When the Lions run the ball well, offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter looks like a genius. They only rushed for 34 yards with just 13 carries. They stuck with the run early but once they were down 21-7 in the second quarter they need to play catch-up by passing the ball. It’s why an early lead is so essential, it can change everything. “We were coming in with a balanced game plan and obviously the score got to where it was, we had to try and do some things to get back into it,’’ Stafford said.

5. Get the ball to Kenny Golladay. The wide receiver had one catch for 12 yards. Last week he had two for 21 yards. “We don’t really go into a week thinking, ‘Throw this guy a ball a bunch of times,’ we just go out there and call plays and I need to make sure I get it to the right guy,’’ Stafford said. Makes sense. However, when you’ve got a talented guy like Golladay maybe find ways to get him more involved. On the bright side, Marvin Jones Jr. had seven catches for 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Golden Tate had seven for 50 yards.

UP NEXT: The Lions (3-4) play at the Vikings next Sunday, and then at the Chicago Bears on Nov. 11. Two huge divisional opponents who are tough to play on the road. It will be interesting to see which Lions team shows up.

 

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.’’

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.