Five things to watch as the Lions face the Patriots; plus my prediction

While the Lions are in a somewhat familiar situation with a 1-3 record they are in uncharted waters when it comes to having the NFL’s best offense and worst defense.

If the Lions want to beat the Patriots on Sunday in New England, the offense will need to maintain its high-scoring ways and the defense will have to show signs of improvement.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick goes after his opponent’s strength so the Lions know what he will try to do. 

“His teams are always going to – they’re never going to let the best player beat you on either side of the ball. That’s what – that is 100 percent – whatever you do well is what they’re going to try to take away first,’’ Campbell said. “First and foremost and if you can find a way to win it without that, then OK, he’s playing the odds.’’

But remember, Campbell is one fearless, aggressive coach who is not afraid of fourth downs and has plays in his back pocket that have not been revealed yet this season.

Five things to watch as the Lions (1-3) face the Patriots (1-3):

1. The Lions’ defense was under the microscope after allowing the Seahawks to score 48 points in the 48-45 loss last Sunday. Campbell has given defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn his vote of confidence. “He’s no different than any of us, it’s all about moving forward and getting it right. That’s what we’ve done, we turned the page, it’s a new week and we’re going to be ready to go,’’ Campbell said. The Patriots with third-string quarterback Bailey Zappe might have something to say about that.

2. Look for personnel changes on defense. Rookie defensive tackle Demetrius Taylor will make his NFL debut. Will Harris will likely get more defensive snaps. After he played 100 percent of the defensive snaps in the win over the Commanders, he played 20 snaps in the loss to the Vikings and just nine in loss to the Seahawks..“He’s a guy we do have a lot of trust in, I can see him play this weekend. I think he’s going to play,’’ Campbell said. “I think there’s a lot of guys who are going to play. We’re looking for the right combination of players, they can all feed off each other, make some plays and be where they need to be.’’ Others who could seem more time in the secondary include Bobby Price, Ifeatu Melifonwu, A.J. Parker and Chase Lucas

3. While it’s up to Campbell, Glenn and the defensive staff to prepare them, the players have to take accountability and ownership.”I feel like our guys are going to do that. Nobody wants it more than they do and we do in this locker room,’’ Campbell said. “I can tell you this, they’re locked in … we’re going to give them a plan they can succeed in and play fast. All hands on deck.’’

4. While there’s much dislike for former Lions coach Matt Patiricia, who now calls the offensive plays for the Patriots, Campbell is not jumping in on that. In fact he praised what Patricia, the former defensive guru, has done switching to the other side of the ball. “I think it’s tough, I think it’s tough, but I also know if you know football and you’re a good coach you can adapt and that’s what I see, he’s adapting quickly,’’ Campbell said. “And every week it’s better and better and better. They’re attacking their opponents. They’re putting together good game plans, they’re using the roster well.’’

5. The LIons offense has been remarkable in fighting through injuries and still producing points. Detroit’s 18 touchdowns and 140 points scored both lead the NFL. Belichick will try to find a way to stop them but he’ll have to get through the offensive line which has been playing well. Jared Goff, who has only been sacked five times, may be playing his best football. Don’t overlook the run game either, you know Belichick won’t.

BONUS: Running back D’Andre Swift (shoulder/ankle) will miss his second straight game. Two wide receivers — D.J. Chark (ankle) and Quintin Cephus (foot) — are out. Actually, Cephus was placed on injured reserve. Others who have been ruled out are: Defensive lineman John Cominsky (wrist), defensive end Charles Harris (groin) and offensive tackle Matt Nelson (calf). Wide receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown (ankle) and Josh Reynolds (ankle) are questionable.  The Lions have a bye next week and expect to get many players healed by the time they return.

(Prediction: Lions 31, Patriots 21. Just don’t see the Pats’ defense stopping Goff and his gang.)

Lions Matthew Stafford likes excitement that interim coach Darrell Bevell brings

Of all the Lions, quarterback Matthew Stafford probably knows interim coach Darrell Bevell best. The two have worked together closely since Bevell started as offensive coordinator before the 2019 season..

Bevell was named to replace Matt Patricia on Saturday after the coach and general manager Bob Quinn were fired.

Bevell said he’s jacked up and ready to go during a media Zoom call on Monday.

“I’m asking the guys to come in with a refreshed attitude, ready to work No. 1, but ready to have a good time and let them play with their hair on fire. Let them play fast, let them play free,’’ Bevell said.

He mentioned the word fun repeatedly. And, like Stafford, neither of them would not disparage the past regime. Both are only looking forward.

However, a close look between the lines shows clearly not enough fun was being had by the Lions probably for the last three seasons. Winning leads to fun and there wasn’t much of that under Patricia.

The Lions have five games remaining, starting at Chicago on Sunday, to finish the year on a somewhat positive note and to show what Bevell can accomplish in his first stint as a head coach.

“When you’re a player and you get that coach that’s excited like that it’s a fun thing. As a player this is a fun game, it’s an exciting game, let’s go have some fun and play with some excitement and passion and I know that Bev brings it in his own way, every person is different,’’ Stafford said. “He’s going to be comfortable with who he is, he’s going to bring his energy that’s authentic and natural to him. It’s on us to make that come to life on the field on Sundays and win games.’’

Stafford is excited for the defensive players to get to know Bevell who has met twice with the players on Zoom. Per the NFL, all team facilities were closed Monday and Tuesday to help try to control the coronavirus spread.

The quarterback said the biggest thing for the players is to respond to what Bevell will bring to the team.

The 50-year-old Bevell started his NFL coaching career in 2000 as assistant quarterbacks coach for the Green Bay Packers. From 2003-05 he was elevated to quarterbacks coach working with Brett Favre.

That connection hasn’t been lost on Stafford who shares a bit of the gunslinger attitude that was typical Favre.

“I think from Day One when I first met (Bevell) he’s always been the same guy. He’s been positive, upbeat. He loves coming to work — he loves the game of football,’’ Stafford said. “He’s lucky early in his career, he got to spend a lot of time around Brett Favre. It’s a similar kind of feel where they just love the game for the game. I know Bev has great appreciation for Brett and it probably rubbed off on him a little bit on how much fun a grown man can have playing a kids game. He brings that kind of youthful joy to the game and always has since I met him.’’

BONUS: Stafford was curious to see the Broncos’ game on Sunday, more for how often his buddy Sam Martin had to punt since all three quarterbacks were quarantined. Denver’s starter was a practice squad wide receiver (Kendall Hinton) who had never taken a snap in practice. 

The Lions would not be in such a dire predicament.

“For us, we actually kind of have a sneaky talented group of throwers,’’ Stafford said. “(Mohamed) Sanu’s passer rating is perfect. (Danny) Amendola throws it good. (Jamal) Agnew dropped a dime on me at Thanksgiving that I dropped. There’s endless possibilities, we’ll keep defenses guessing with that one, but hopefully we don’t have to find out.’’

Detroit Lions fire Matt Patricia, Bob Quinn; start search for replacements

General Manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia were fired on Saturday by Detroit Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp.

After two-plus seasons, Patricia’s record was 13-29-1 and 4-7 this season after two straight embarrassing losses.

Hamp, principal owner and chairwoman of the Lions, made the announcement along with team president Rod Wood on a Zoom conference call late Saturday afternoon.

“I am very dedicated to turning this ship around,” Hamp said.

Patricia will be replaced by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on an interim basis.

Earlier she had informed the players of the firings through a Zoom meeting along with Bevell. Wood said a few players stood up and had positive things to say moving forward

Hamp said the last two losses to Carolina and Houston played a factor in her decision.

“Ten days ago we looked like we had a good chance to be playoff bound. Both of those games were extremely disappointing and it just seemed like the path going forward wasn’t what we wanted it to be,’’ Hamp said. “We thought this was a good time to make a change.’’

She will work together with Wood starting immediately in the search for new leadership. 

Hamp said they haven’t clearly defined the attributes they will be seeking for a general manager and coach.

“I promise you we are going to do an extremely thorough and comprehensive search for both positions,’’ Hamp said. “Yes, we have some ideas what we’re looking for but it’s not clearly defined.’’

Quinn was hired in January 2017 after Martin Mayhew had been fired late in the season. He kept coach Jim Caldwell for one season then fired him after a 9-7 season in 2017, saying that wasn’t good enough.

Patricia was hired by Quinn in January 2018 to replace Caldwell who had a  36–28 (.563) record, making him the first Detroit head coach (who lasted at least one season) to have a winning record since Joe Schmidt, who led the team from 1967 to 1972.

Patricia, 46, had a connection with Quinn going back to their days with the New England Patriots. Patricia had started with the Patriots in 2004 as an offensive assistant. He served as defensive coordinator from 2012 to 2017.  He was part of three Super Bowl championships.

Detroit was his first head coaching stint at any level. In Patricia’s first year he led the Lions to a 6-10 record, followed by 3-12-1 in 2019. 

The Lions went more than a year without winning a home game. They won at Ford Field on Oct. 27, 2019, and snapped that ugly streak with a 30-27 win over Washington on Nov. 15.

In Hamp’s opening remarks she showed appreciation to Quinn and Patricia.

“On behalf of my family I want to thank Bob and Matt for their hard world and their dedication to the Lions organization over the past several years,’’ Hamp said. “They’re both fine men and we wish them nothing but the best the rest of their careers.’’