Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford’s favorite target changes game to game

ALLEN PARK — Give credit to Matt Patricia for consistently preaching that on offense and defense, the personnel used each week in part depends on the opponent and the way the game unfolds.

It makes it tough to name a No. 1 wide receiver. And, seriously, there is no need to do that since the receiver with the most success has changed in each of the first three games including Sunday’s 27-24 win at Philadelphia.

“Whatever it takes that week, that play, that game, that particularly situation we’re going to do the best we can to go out and execute the play, go through the progressions and try to get the ball to the guy who is either open or hand off to a play we think is going to work in that situation,’’ coach Matt Patricia said on Monday. “Certainly give credit to Matt Stafford to be able to go through all that, find the right guy in those situations.’’

In that big win over the Eagles, it was Marvin Jones Jr., who topped the 100-yard mark with six catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.

“To be honest with you, (Jones has) had two really good weeks or practice it’s the stuff we’ve seen every day through the course of the last couple weeks —  that consistency in his play style,’’ Patricia said. “It’s great to see it show up in the game. When you put that amount of work into it and work that hard, you want the guy to be able to perform well on Sundays. That was a real positive.

In the Week 2 win over the L.A. Chargers, Kenny Golladay finished with eight catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. He had just two catches in Philadelphia (8 targets) but it didn’t matter because Jones found a way to get open.

In Week 1, both Danny Amendola (7 catches, 107 yards, 1 TD- and T.J. Hockenson (6 catches, 131 yards, 1 TD) surpassed the 100-yard mark.

It’s a wealth of riches on the offensive side of the ball but none of it would matter unless Matthew Stafford was playing as well as he has so far.

“Whatever it takes that week that play that game that particular situation we’re going to do the best we can to go out and execute the play, go through the progressions and try to get the ball to the guy who is either open or hand off to a play we think is going to work in that situation,’’ Patricia said. “Certainly give credit to Matt Stafford to be able to go through all that, find the right guy in those situations.’’

In three games Stafford has completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 831 yards, 6 touchdowns and two interceptions. With two touchdowns a game he’s on pace for 32 this season which is considerably more than the 21 he threw in 2018.

The last two games Stafford has been pressured, but has not been sacked thanks, in part, to the protection by offensive line and also because he has successfully thrown under pressure.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

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Five things to know about Detroit Lions’ 27-24 win at Philadelphia Eagles

When the Eagles blocked a Matt Prater field goal attempt, with less than 2 minutes left it could have been really bad news for the Detroit Lions.

After a penalty, Philadelphia had the ball at midfield with 1:40 remaining. Plenty of time to score a touchdown to win or a field goal for the tie. But the Lions’ defense held on and Detroit left the City of Brotherly Love with a 27-24 win and a 2-0-1 record on the season.

NFL games are typically won due to a handful of plays. This was no different.

Perhaps Matthew Stafford’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones Jr. early in the fourth to grab a 27-17 lead was key.

Another key pass play was on third-and-11 when Stafford connected with Danny Amendola for 15 yards and a first down later in the fourth.

Then, of course, the defense in the fourth quarter came up big.

Five things to know about the win:

1. Matthew Stafford was kept clean. For the second straight week, the offensive line stepped up and he was not sacked. He brought cookies to the offensive line after last week’s performance, maybe it was just the ticket. Taylor Decker returned at left tackle. Stafford was pressured, but not sacked. His numbers were fine (18-of-32, 201 yards, 1 TD) not spectacular, but a win is a win. He missed a throw on third-and-8 with 3:45 remaining when he underthrew Jones. He had more time than he thought. He’ll be the first to admit that error.

2. Jamal Agnew, who was benched the previous week after a fumble on a return, lined up to return the kickoff on the Lions’ first possession. Then he ran down the left sideline 100 yards for a touchdown. The offense hadn’t taken the field and the Lions had a 7-3 lead. Special teams turned things around after a bad outing the week before. Other than one short punt by Sam Martin and allowing the late blocked field goal, they played well. 

3. Jarrad Davis returned and his presence was noticeable on defense. The linebacker rotated in and out early in his first game of the season. He went out once with a foot injury but before Twitter could explode with his absence, he was back on the field. No interceptions against Carson Wentz, but Darius Slay recovered a fumble and returned it 28 yards to the Eagles’ 22. Slay left the game and didn’t return with a hamstring after that play. It’s unknown how serious it is. The defense forced three fumbles. The Eagles had five drops which had something to do with the defensive pressure. The Lions’ defense also sacked Wentz three times — Chrtistian Jones, Damon “Snacks” Harrison and Trey Flowers came up big. Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, their biggest offensive threat, had six catches for 64 yards but no touchdowns.

4. Quietly wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., had a standout game with six catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. He was one of eight pass catchers found by Stafford. Kenny Golladay was targeted 8 times but only came up with 2 catches. Pedestrian numbers for the big guy but it wasn’t all on him, Stafford shared part of the blame there. 

5. The offense, under coordinator Darrell Bevell, stayed aggressive just like they did late in the win over the Chargers the previous week. It’s a good sign of things to come with this new offense. It’s a balanced attack with the run game coming around. Kerryon Johnson had 20 carries for 36 yards and a rushing touchdown, while J.D. McKissic had just one carry but it was for 44 yards.

UP NEXT: Next Sunday the Lions host Patrick Mahomes and the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) at Ford Field. The Chiefs beat the Ravens 33-28 Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Detroit Lions training camp: Danny Amendola out to develop his role

ALLEN PARK — Danny Amendola’s challenge is finding where he best fits in the Detroit Lions’ new-look offense.

“I’m trying to develop a role on this team and I’m trying to expand that role as much as I can, do whatever I can to help the team win in whatever capacity that is. That’s why I’m here,’’ the 33-year-old said on Thursday.

Amendola  played in 15 games for the Miami Dolphins last season with 59 receptions and a touchdown. The previous five seasons he spent with the New England Patriots where he got to know Matt Patricia who was the defensive coordinator.

“He’s tough man, he demands a lot, he expects a lot, he has high expectations. I knew that coming here that’s why I wanted to come here, he’s a great coach,’’ Amendola said. 

Patricia obviously thinks highly of him too.

“I think just in general you’ve got to love Danny Amendola, you’ve got to love everything he brings every single day,’’ Patricia said on Friday. “He’s probably one of the most intense people you’re going to talk to. When you’re passionate about the game of football like we all are and like he is passion breeds passion … 

“He’s like everybody else he’s got a lot of work to do to improve. But as far as a person he’s a football guy, he loves the game, he loves being around the guys, loves every aspect of it. All of that energy is contagious and that’s great to be around all the time,’’ the coach said.

The veteran wide receiver — he is 33 —  been working overtime with Matthew Stafford to develop a rapport.

“Anytime we’re able to get together we try to get as many reps as we can is possible. We’re out here right now trying to steal as many reps, before practice, after practice, in the weight room,’’ he said. “We’re always talking about ideas, trying to get better.’’

Amendola, who wears No. 80, was among those returning punts in training camp on Thursday.

During the spring Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay were sidelined with injuries which gave Amendola more reps with Stafford.

“It’s great to have them back they’re two explosive players and I’m happy to be playing with them,’’ Amendola said. “I’m excited to be it he huddle with them.’’

He’s not the only veteran wide receiver signed as a free agent. Jermaine Kearse has also been added to the roster.

Amendola also has the utmost respect for Stafford.

“Exceptional. He’s up there with the best I’ve been with,’’ Amendola said. “Extremely cerebral player, he can anticipate and he’s been doing it for a long time at an extremely high level so I’m excited to be here with him.’’

Five things to know about Lions WR Kenny Golladay after his career game

Second-year receiver surpassed 1,000 yards for season

ALLEN PARK — Kenny Golladay’s personal goals this season, are so personal he wouldn’t even tell his mom what numbers he set for himself.

The Detroit Lions wide receiver had a career game in the 14-13 loss at Buffalo on Sunday with 146 yards which tipped him over the 1,000 receiving yard mark (1,005) for the season.

“That’s huge you come into the season with goals and once you pass a goal, or try to break that. We’ve got two games left and just trying to add on to it,’’ Golladay said on Monday.

The second-year receiver said his goals were set before Golden Tate was traded to the Eagles and while Marvin Jones Jr. was still healthy.

“It’s different the goals I did set. I kind of blew those out of the water, which is good. It just gives these coaches an opportunity to see what I can do myself without the help of other guys around me,’’ said Golladay who still sets the bar high for himself.

Five things to know about Golladay:

1. He is trying to take advantage of being the No. 1 receiver.  “Really I just look at it like this, with Marv being out it was just more for me to prove to these coaches, like I am able to produce without those guys being the main focus for the defense. With me being pretty much the No. 1, I’m just happy to make the plays that they call,’’ Golladay said.

2. Because he’s the top receiver, he’s been able to develop more chemistry with quarterback Matthew Stafford. “Actually I think it’s pretty good, it kind of brings us together. He trusts I’m going to be in the spot that I’m supposed to be in and I’m going to be in the spot I’m supposed to be in,’’ Golladay said.

3. Several of his seven catches at Buffalo came with defenders as close as they could be to him without getting called for interference. But he wouldn’t say he needs to work on getting separation. “A catch is a catch, it really doesn’t matter,’’ Golladay said. “You’re not going to get much separation in the NFL. To say creating separation is something I need to get better at, I went 7 for 8 (targets).’’

4. He can’t pinpoint one thing that he has improved on this season it’s more his overall game. “All-around pretty much, just having one year under my belt, this is Year 2,’’ Golladay said. “Really just staying on top of my body. I’m fortunate to have not missed games, I want to keep that going.’’

5. Even though the Lions are out of the playoffs, they have two more games starting Sunday at home against the Vikings. In the final two games he said the offense has to stay together. “The season isn’t going how we wanted it to at all. Do it in these last two games, pretty much try to do it for next year, that’s pretty much what you have to do and run up the scoreboard,’’ Golladay said. “We’ve showed flashes good and bad, but we have to continue to work.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

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

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.’’