Detroit Lions: Five key moments from 2019 season

It’s over. The Lions’ 3-12-1 record this season was the worst since 2009 when they went 2-14 in Jim Schwartz’s first season trying to bring the franchise back from the infamous 0-16 season.

This season started with promise. Much was expected of the defense, especially the defensive line.

With a new offensive coordinator in Darrell Bevell, the offense was a bit of an unknown. While the Lions had plenty of issues, the offense wasn’t one of them while Matthew Stafford was healthy.

Five key moments from the season:

1. When Matthew Stafford got crunched in the 31-24 loss at the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 3 it changed everything. Stafford, who had started 136 straight games, broke bones in his back and missed the final eight games of the season. Backup QB Jeff Driskel started three games before he was injured. Then rookie David Blough started the final five games. When Stafford went out the Lions were 3-3-1. Without him, they didn’t win another game. He wasn’t the only injured player — there were plenty — but his absence was the most consequential.

2. The fourth-quarter loss to Packers on Oct. 14. The Lions led 22-13 heading into the fourth and then Green Bay’s Allen Lazard caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers with 7:31 left. The Lions could get nothing going when they got the ball back and were forced to punt. Green Bay’s Mason Crosby kicked a 23-yard field goal to win the game with two seconds left on the clock.  It was a gut punch. A win would have given the Lions a 3-1-1 record. Instead they fell to 2-2-1 and could never recover. Oddly enough Crosby’s field goal with time running out on Sunday at Ford Field, gave the Packers a 23-20 win. Green Bay never led in those two games until the field goals.

3. The 34-30 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Ford Field was back in Week 4 but could have shifted the momentum of the season to the Lions’ favor. Again, the Lions led 30-27 with two minutes left but the defense allowed a rushing touchdown that proved to be the game winner. Sense a trend? These Lions were horrid in the fourth quarter on offense and defense. In seven games they held fourth-quarter leads and lost.

4. Safety Quandre Diggs, who had struggled a bit early in the season, was traded to Seattle on Oct. 22. Diggs, who was voted a captain by his teammates, was a leader in the locker room and popular with players on offense too. Yes, the NFL is a business. But the timing of a trade like this was suspect. The Lions were 2-3-1. Lions players were careful to watch their words when speaking of the deal, but it’s clear it was a blow to the defense. This is a trade that could be made by the Patriots without anyone blinking an eye. Once the Lions have won six Super Bowls, maybe that would be the case in Detroit. But not now. The Lions went 1-9 after the Diggs’ trade.

5. Owner Martha Firestone Ford announced on Dec. 17 that GM Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia would return for a third season. She expects the team to be a playoff contender in 2020. This deadline of sorts could definitely affect how they approach free agency and the draft. Mrs. Ford is running out of patience (and who can blame her). The expectations are now clear.

BONUS: Kerryon Johnson played in the first six games before injuring his ankle in the home loss to the Vikings on Oct. 20 and was placed on injured reserve. He was off to a solid start with 308 yards and a pair of touchdowns after missing the final four games of the 2018 season. He came back for the final two games and scored a touchdown in Sunday’s loss to the Packers. Paired with Bo Scarbrough (who emerged after Johnson went on IR) they could be the one-two punch the Lions so desperately need in the run game for next year. There’s always next year.

Five keys to Detroit Lions’ 23-20 loss to Green Bay Packers

DETROIT — Absolutely fitting that the Detroit Lions wrapped up the disappointing season by leading the Green Bay Packers for the entire game until Mason Crosby kicked the game-winning field goal as time ran out.

The Packers earned a first-round bye with the 23-20 win over the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday. The Lions lost their ninth straight game and finished with 3-12-1, their worst record since 2009 (2-14). Matt Patricia is 9-22-1 in his first two seasons. On a positive note, they are guaranteed at least the No. 3 pick in the draft.

Once again Patricia said he was proud of his team.

“The team fought as hard as we could, we really tried to do everything we could to give ourselves a chance, obviously we needed to make a couple more plays, give Green Bay credit they made some plays at the end especially that they needed to to win,” Patricia said. “I think this team, like I’ve said all year and today was another great example of how hard this team works, how hard they fight.’’

With so many injuries he played guys in different positions just to get through.

“I’m proud of the toughness of this team, I think it’s the foundation of what we’re looking for — I think we want to be tough, we want to be a team that competes, we want to be a team that goes out and works hard every day,’’ the coach added.

Five keys to the loss:

1. The Lions defense kept Aaron Rodgers in check in the first half when Rodgers went just 6 of 18 got 90 yards. The Lions held a 17-3 lead heading into the third quarter, but Rodgers came back in the second half on fire and looked more like the quarterback of a 13-3 team. 

2. Once again, the Lions could not hold a fourth-quarter lead. It was the seventh game Detroit has lost when holding the lead in the fourth quarter. Finishing is an issue on both sides of the ball. The Lions knew it but didn’t have any answers.

3. Green Bay placekicker Mason Crosby was just 2 of 3 on field goals on Sunday, but had no problem with the game winner of 33 yards. This is the second game this season that Crosby has beaten the Lions by kicking a field goal as time ran out. On Oct. 14, the Packers beat the Lions 23-22 at Green Bay with the same scenario. 

4. Rookie quarterback David Blough, in his fifth start, had a solid effort (12-29, 122 yards) and looked like he might be on his way to his first win. But in the fourth quarter he threw a pass intended for Chris Lacy but it was so short it was easily intercepted by Blake Martinez. The Lions were at midfield with about eight minutes left and a 20-13 lead. But on the ensuing possession, Rodgers marched the Packers down to Detroit’s 28-yard line and then threw a touchdown pass to Allen Lazard. The extra point tied the game. The Lions got possession twice more, but had to punt both times. Rodgers was able to get in field goal range. It was the difference in the game.

5. Matt Prater kicked two key field goals including one of 56 yards to keep the Lions in the game. Prater moved past Jason Hanson into second place all time in the NFL for most 50-yard or longer field goals with 53.

UP NEXT: A long offseason.

 

Lions’ trick touchdown play had been in the works since training camp

DETROIT — The Lions had been working on a trick play since training camp. They saw a good opportunity to use it early in the 23-20 loss to Green Bay on Sunday and executed it to perfection.

Wide receiver Danny Amendola threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to quarterback David Blough who was wide open in the end zone. It gave the Lions a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

It was the second straight year the Lions have used a trick play against Green Bay in the final game of the season.

“Honestly, a lot of those plays that we have – we work on them through the course of the season. Sometimes they come up in the games that we can call them and sometimes they don’t,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “Certainly, we had one dialed up that we had been working on for a while, and we’re just kind of waiting for the right situation. Obviously, we couldn’t really wait past today. So, thought we’d take a shot.”

They’ve been working on it or a version of it since training camp under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell who has run a similar play for years with various teams.

It was a great call by Bev, Danny threw a great ball, I couldn’t have been more open,’’ Blough said. “We got some alerts on it to see if it’s man or zone, nobody’s got the quarterback in man coverage. It was kind of a fun play,’’ Blough said. “We’ve had in a couple times this year, just got it off the card, awesome timing for the call, Danny sold it great. That’s how you hope it comes out.’’

Blough said when the ball was in the air he was thinking “don’t drop it.”

“You play football, catching passes in the yard as a kid, we’ve run it a bunch of times in practice and you just catch it and I kind of knew I was open — I had a couple catches in college — but this was pretty special,’’ Blough said.

He was so excited that he threw the ball up in the stands immediately afterward.

I feel bad because I could’ve given it to Danny. It was the second of his career, I don’t know I was kind of excited obviously. I don’t really remember it all that great,’’

Amendola also threw a touchdown pass last season when he was with the Dolphins.

Five things to watch as Lions face Packers to wrap up the season

While the Lions have nothing to play for except memories heading into the offseason, Green Bay should be motivated at Ford Field on Sunday.

With a win, the Packers can earn a bye in the first round of the playoffs, giving them a week off to rest and recuperate.

The Lions at 3-11-1 are going nowhere. The result won’t change the status of coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn who will return next season. The Packers staged a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Lions in their first meeting on Oct. 14.

“I think (the Packers are) probably quite similar other than the fact that they’re playing so well right now and with so much confidence. I think that since we played them last, they’ve really, really built momentum and confidence,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. “They play together. It’s like they know each other very, very well. That probably wasn’t quite the case when we played them the first time, just based on number of games they have under their belt right now. I think the difference probably would be (that) they were playing at a pretty high level then, they’ll play even better now.”

Five things to watch.

1. David Blough will get his fifth start. As expected, he’s looked like a rookie at times and shows potential at others. That shows in his stats with four touchdowns and five interceptions. 

2. Perhaps you’ve heard this before and it might be too late for this season, but the Lions have to find a way to finish games. Once again at Denver last week they were up 17-13 in the fourth quarter, then collapsed and lost. In their first meeting against Green NBAy, the Lions held a 22-13 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Packers came back and won 23-22. It’s been a theme of the season, giving up leads late in the game. They’ve been outscored 136-84 in the fourth quarter in the first 15 games.

3. Green Bay’s running game propels the offense. In the previous matchup they gashed the Lions’ defense for 170 rushing yards led by Jamaal Williams with 104 yards. Just like always, Detroit’s secondary will have its hands full with Aaron Rodgers. Before the Packers quarterback was intercepted on Monday night he had gone eight games without a pick.

4. The game could play a role in whether the team wants to keep or take another look at a few younger players who haven’t seen much game time. With all the injuries — 16 Lions are on injured reserve — it’s a great time for the rookies and young guys to show what they have against a good team like the Packers. 

5. The Packers are coming off a tough 23-10 win at the Vikings on Monday night. With a short week interrupted by Christmas, it might be a good time to face the Pack. Still, they will be motivated and the Lions are decimated by injuries with nearly 20 players on injured reserve.

PREDICTION:  Packers 34, Lions 17 

Detroit Lions wrap up yet another losing decade

Shaping up to be worst season since 2009

If the Detroit Lions lose to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday — and remember they’re 13-point underdogs — this 2019 season will be the worst of this decade for the franchise.

A loss will give the Lions a 3-12-1 record, the least number of wins in this 10-year stretch. 

As we head into 2020, let’s take one last glance at yet another Lions’ decade of futility.

The 72-86-1 record from 2010 through this season so far, included four winning seasons along with two wild-card games under coach Jim Caldwell and one with Jim Schwartz at the helm.

On a positive note, it’s much better than the previous decade (2000-2009) when the Lions posted a 42-118 record with only one winning season (9-7 in 2000) and no trips to the playoffs.

Ten years, zero division titles, three coaches, three general managers, one Matthew Stafford, one Calvin Johnson, more losses than wins and still no playoff victory. 

Stafford and long-snapper Don Muhlbach are the only roster constants since 2010.

Stafford, who turns 32 in February, became one of only five quarterbacks in NFL history to pass for 5,000 yards in a season in 2011 with 5,038 yards. The next season he came up just 23 yards shy of 5,000 despite the fact the team went 4-12. The only two seasons he didn’t reach at least 4,000 yards were in 2018 (3,777 yards) and this year when he played in only eight games (2,499 yards).

Calvin Johnson, a future Hall of Famer, left after nine seasons and 11,619 receiving yards. He finished six straight seasons (2010-15) with at least 1,000 receiving yards shattering all previous franchise records. Like Barry Sanders, Johnson’s gifts were wasted at a time the Lions should have made the most of them. And also like Sanders, he was a joy to watch.

Three coaches defined this decade.

In 2010, the Lions were coming off a 2-14 season and hopes were high that coach Jim Schwartz in his second season would turn the page for the franchise. It was a tough task, rebuilding the roster, adding new schemes and trying to change the culture and reputation of the team still suffering since the 0-16 2008 season.

Schwartz was sent packing with a 27-37 record after the 2013 season. He did start the turn-around from the worst in the league, but did not get the team over the hump and into the land of NFL respectability.

Coach Jim Caldwell (2014-17) owns the only winning record (36-28) of the three coaches in the decade. He guided the Lions to an 11-5 record and wild-card playoff game in his first season (2014). In his four seasons Caldwell led the team to two playoff appearances. After a 9-7 season in 2017 and no playoff berth, he was fired. Lions general manager Bob Quinn said the team was better than its 9-7 record. 

Quinn and Matt Patricia knew each other well from their days with the New England Patriots. Patricia was the well-respected Patriots’ defensive coordinator who had never been a head coach at any level.

So far Patricia is 9-21-1. If they lose to the Packers, the Lions will have three less wins than they did in his first year (6-10).

Certainly improvement was expected, but the defense has been a mess and stands at 29th in the league for yards allowed per game. Still owner Martha Firestone Ford has guaranteed Patricia and Quinn another season to become playoff contenders.

The last playoff win was on Jan. 5, 1992.

The last NFL championship was in 1957.

The Lions’ faithful await as the page turns on yet another disappointing decade.

RECORDS

  • 2010: 6-10
  • 2011: 10-6 (wild-card game)
  • 2012: 4-12
  • 2013: 7-9
  • 2014: 11-5 (wild-card game)
  • 2015: 7-9
  • 2016: 9-7 (wild-card game)
  • 2017: 9-7
  • 2018: 6-10
  • 2019: 3-11-1 (so far)

Lions Darius Slay on Pro Bowl, contract situation, Matt Patricia and more

ALLEN PARK — Darius Slay said it doesn’t get old being named to the Pro Bowl, even for the third time.

“I told my kids the other day we were going to DisneyWorld,  free too, we love that,’’ the Detroit Lions cornerback said on Wednesday.

Slay appreciates that he wasn’t in the top 10 of fan voting, but the players and coaches know his value so they put him over the top.

“Coaches watch film enough, players do as well. I appreciate the respect they gave me because I go out there and work hard. I compete at a high level,” Slay said.

Five more thoughts from Slay:

1. Slay, whose contract expires after the 2020 season, was much more open to talking about the Pro Bowl than his contract situation. He sat out the offseason workouts last spring aiming to get a new deal from the Lions without any results. Will he sit out again? It’s up to him and his agent but he didn’t have an answer ready. One thing is for certain, when he signs a new contract — no matter which team it’s with — Slay has his eye on a Rolls-Royce truck. He joked he might even have a driver bring him to practice on the first day. When asked what three-time Pro Bowl corners make, Slay had a short answer: “Hoo-hoo-hoo!”

2. Slay didn’t have much to say about the announcement on Tuesday that Matt Patricia will be back next season. “II thought it was already automatic,’’ Slay said. He added that the players don’t worry or talk about it. “Not really that’s their personal business. I just play. He could be up and gone, I could be up and gone.’’

3. The expectations from ownership next season are that the Lions are a playoff contender. Slay said he thought that was the goal of every team. “Some of us have been here with Patricia for two years going on three, we’ve got a better understanding of him as a coach and his program that’s basically where we’re at,’’ Slay said.

4. The cornerback said the key to improving is finishing and he puts that on the players not the coaches. “We’ve been in there every game, fourth quarter get in there, don’t finish. Definitely on the defensive end we have to finish,’’ Slay said. “Coaches doing a good job putting us in the predicaments at practice, we’ve just got to execute as players. I’m mean we’re out there. They tell us the play, obviously it’s mostly on us, it’s a team effort. As a player and me personally I take it to the chest, I feel like it’s out on the field, so we’re the ones who could fix it.’’

5. Slay was wearing a chain with a pendant photo of his grandmother. “My baby, my heart and she raised me. Yes, it’s so nice, it’s my angel,’’ Slay said.

Lions’ Matt Patricia forges on; focuses on final 2 games not his future in Detroit

ALLEN PARK — Matt Patricia is focused on the Lions’ final two games this season more than his immediate future.

With the Lions at 3-10-1, there is no guarantee the coach will return for a third season.

“For me, one of the things that you realize pretty quick when you get in the game of football – college, NFL, it doesn’t really matter what it is – coaching is a tough profession. Playing is a tough profession. It’s a mindset that you probably just develop early on,’’ Patricia said on Monday following the 38-17 loss to the Bucs on Sunday.

“When I was in other places and worked at other places, part of the thing that just makes me, me, is that I go into work every single day trying to earn my job that day. I would go in and make sure that my key card worked, and I was in the building and I was OK,’’ he added.

Patricia, who often spends the night at the Lions facility, even showed a little sense of humor in his reply.

“It’s most of the reason why I don’t leave the building because they’re going to have to throw me out, like I’ve said before,’’ Patricia said. “From that aspect of it, that’s all you can control is just your effort that day and your drive that day to be better as a player, as a coach, as a team, and that’s all I really worry about.”

He was seen talking at length on the sideline prior to Sunday’s game to owner Martha Firestone Ford and her daughter Sheila Ford Hemp but he never discloses the content of their discussions. If he knows his future with the team, he is not saying.

 “I just expect to be here every day until they tell me not to. Hopefully, that’ll be a long time,’’ Patricia said.

The Lions went 6-10 in his first season and have fallen on hard times this season. They’ve been hit with a ton of injuries. When they placed Kenny Wiggins and Mike Daniels on injured reserve on Monday they joined a dozen other teammates in that classification.

Despite seven straight losses, Patricia always emphasizes that the team continues to fight. The toughness and competitive spirit of the players is a foundation for building a perennial winner.

 “I think that’s where you need to start, and I would say that’s where we’re at right now,’’ Patricia said. “We obviously need to add some pieces, and we need to get better, and we need to improve, and hopefully stay a little bit more healthy than where we’re at right now. I think those things will build on top of each other from there.”

The Lions play at the Denver Broncos (5-9) on Sunday and then wrap up the season against the Green Bay Packers (11-3) at Ford Field on Sunday, Dec. 29.