Detroit Lions: Jarrad Davis’ 5 thoughts on defensive play in first 4 games

Improvement is all about the details

ALLEN PARK — At the quarter pole mark of the NFL season, the Detroit Lions have extra time to reflect. It’s their bye week. Their next game is Monday, Oct. 14, at Green Bay.

Coming off a tough 34-30 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Lions are 2-1-1. The loss showed they can hang with one of the elite NFL teams.

Five thoughts from Lions’ middle linebacker Jarrad Davis on Monday:

1. Davis says they understand a few things about themselves after four games. “We’re definitely a team that’s going to fight no matter what. It doesn’t matter what people say about us, what people feel about us, we’re definitely going to fight no matter what the circumstance is,’’ Davis said. “We know what we have, in a sense we’re kind of like a newly seeded plant, we’re starting to blossom a little bit but we’ve got to keep watering, got to keep giving ourselves that light, we’ve got to keep making sure we pay attention to the things that are going to make us grow and get better and ultimately come out and perform to the best of our ability and do exactly what we know we can do on Sundays.’’

2. Details, he repeatedly said details are key to improving in the final 12 games. “Just improve on the details of the game, how we’re calling plays, how we’re getting lined up, what we’re communicating pre-snap and everything like that, also post-snap just making sure we’re always talking out there and we’re always aware of what’s going on around us,’’ Davis said.

3. On Sunday, the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes gained 15 yards running up the middle on a fourth-and-8 play late in the game. It was a key moment in the loss. “It’s definitely tough, it’s like the old saying just one play doesn’t define the game. We had multiple opportunities after that play to get them off the field and we still let those guys get down there to the 1-yard line, it comes down to making sure we take care of the details,’’ Davis said.

4. Davis also discussed what they could do to improve on a play like that. “We’ve just got to make sure we keep the quarterback in the pocket and also as a defense, got to make sure that we get back, get our heads back, the crowd kind of tells you what’s going on with their energy but we’ve got to be aware of what’s going around us, and make sure we can get back and make a tackle before he gets a first down. It’s a collective effort across the board making sure we’re always aware of what’s going on and what the situation is,’’ Davis said. The Lions’ defense is ranked 27th in the NFL, allowing 405.5 yards per game.

5. The players will get a few days off to rest before getting to work next week, preparing to play the Packers at Lambeau Field. “The opponent we’re playing the following week after this bye week, they’re playing this week and we’re not so we have to find a way to get the edge while also taking care of our bodies and getting our time off when we can,’’ Davis said. The Packers (3-1) play at the Cowboys (3-1) on Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

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Five things to know about Detroit Lions’ 34-30 loss to Kansas City Chiefs

DETROIT — Any talk during the week  of the Lions-Chiefs matchup being a statement game, did not come from the Lions players or coaches.

So it fits that while it appeared the Lions proved they could play with one of the NFL’s elite teams in the 34-30 loss to Kansas City on Sunday, the Lions (2-1-1) didn’t like that storyline.

“I don’t think we need to prove anything to anybody – we love the way we practice, the way we work, the way we come out and play. We’re a good football team, lost to a good football team today,’’ Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “There were a bunch of great plays made in this game, a couple bad plays be each team made in this game, that’s the way it goes in the NFL. It came down to the last 15 seconds, they were undefeated coming into this game, so were we. Somebody was going to have to lose, obviously want to win them all at home, was a good opportunity to beat a good team and we were darned close.’’

Coach Matt Patricia was happy with the fight he saw in his team. “This team doesn’t blink, it just keeps going forward,’’ Patricia said.

Five things to know about the Lions’ loss:

1. The Lions scored touchdowns on two of their five trips to the red zone, but on three others they managed just three points. In the first quarter on fourth-and-7 from the 7-yard line they settled for a Matt Prater field goal. Then in the third quarter Stafford fumbled while trying to make a run on third-and-5 from the 5. The Chiefs recovered. Then Kerryon Johnson fumbled on a first-and-goal from the 1, the ball was scooped up by the Chiefs’ Bashaud Breeland and run back 99 yards for a touchdown (see below). On his fumble, Stafford looked like he was going to make a throw. “I thought Marvin Hall had a chance in the back of the end zone at least a chance to throw it away but I really probably should of eaten it for a sack on third and goal,’’ Stafford said. “Chances of making that play not so good, chances of Prater making a chip shot probably really good. Obviously disappointed I put the ball on the ground.’’

2. Kerryon Johnson took full responsibility for that fumble that led to the Chiefs’ touchdown. “My perspective is, they called it a fumble. We lost three or seven points, which turned into seven points for them, we lost by three points, so obviously it hurt. Big play in the game, we had a lot of momentum going for us, kind of killed it,’’ Johnson said. “I take full responsibility for it.” In a pool report. NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron said: “The officials ruled on the field that they did not see the ball carrier down. They did not see a body part other than the hand or foot down.’’ That’s why they didn’t blow the whistle.

3. To have a chance to beat the Chiefs, Detroit’s run game had to improve and it did. Kerryon Johnson had 26 carries for 125 yards and the Lions finished with 186 rushing yards. “I think for us the run game, we were close last week maybe a couple blocks or details away, we’ll see what the tape looks like, it appears that that was cleaned up … I think the group in general, they want to get better, they’re trying to improve, that’s all you can ask for as a coach, we have to coach them better and keep working with them,’’ Patricia said. In the first three games this season, Johnson finished with 49, 41 and 36 yards.

4. The defense played well to hold quarterback Patrick Mahomes to just 315 passing yards his lowest total this season. Also, he had no passing touchdowns — he’s had at least three in each of the first three games this season.. However, the Lions’ defense would like at least one play back. With 1:55 left and the Lions leading 30-27, the Chiefs had a fourth-and-8 at their own 34. The Lions stop them and it’s likely they could hold on for a win. Instead Mahomes sees a big gap straight down the middle and runs 15 yards to get the first down. Eight plays later, Chiefs running back Damien Williams runs up the gut for the game-winning touchdown. Patricia took the blame on that one, saying he needs to coach better. To their credit their pressure on the previous play (third-and-8) forced an incomplete pass to Demarcus Robinson.

5. It’s not unusual for a Lions team (we’re talking in recent years) to deflate after a big play. That did not happen after that Chiefs touchdown that was returned after the Kerryon Johnson fumble. Stafford tried to help his teammates stay tough. “My point was we score a touchdown there, the game wasn’t going to end,’’ Stafford said. “We didn’t win the game if we scored a touchdown there. They don’t win the game because they scored a touchdown, there was a lot of football left. I think there were 9 or 10 minutes left in the third quarter. There was a lot of football left to play.’’

BONUS on INJURIES: Stafford was questionable going into the game with a hip injury. He didn’t want to talk about it afterward but said it wasn’t the same injury as last season. … Safety Quandre Diggs injured a hamstring trying to run down a Mahomes pass late in the first quarter and didn’t return. Patricia did not have an update after the game. … Tight end T.J. Hockenson had to be carted off the field after he landed on his shoulder and head leaping to avoid a tackle. Patricia said he was in good spirits afterward and did not go to the hospital.

UP NEXT: The Lions have a bye weekend, then will play at Green Bay (3-1) on Monday night, Oct. 14.

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

After three weeks, the undefeated Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are one of the best stories in the NFL.

Mahomes, 2018’s NFL MVP, picked up where he left off in January. Expectations are high in Kansas City (trust me, I have family there), actually they are sky-high.

While the Detroit Lions are also undefeated (2-0-1) and in first place in the NFC North, many still just don’t know what to make of this bunch that finished last season 6-10.

On paper, all looks good for the Lions, but because of their blemished history (I’m being nice) they don’t get the benefit of the doubt. That will be earned when they win consistently.

Can they beat the 3-0 Chiefs? Absolutely. It’s the NFL where anything can happen. In most games it’s a handful of plays that are the difference between winning and losing. It would be one of the biggest wins in recent Lions’ history.

Will they beat the Chiefs? Kansas City is a 6.5-point favorite. The Lions would need to play a nearly perfect game.

This could be a big statement game even if coach Matt Patricia says he doesn’t look at it that way.

“Every week is important. There’s nothing more to that. Just our biggest game is this game because it’s our next game. We’ll always just kind of try to keep it that perspective so that – we just want to go out and perform well. That’s the bottom line,’’ Patricia said. “Everybody is good in the NFL. Each team presents different challenges, each team has different strengths and weakness, and the challenge is to try to rise to the occasion of handling all of it every single week and whatever presents itself. That’s really it. It’s September, still early. We’re just trying to get better.”

Five things to watch against the Chiefs:

1. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is dangerous wherever his on the field. When Patricia is asked whether he would prefer Mahomes in or out of the pocket, he said: “Probably neither. I think right now what you’re seeing on tape is you’re seeing him extremely efficient – on the sideline is probably where I’d like to see him the most. He’s just really good, he’s a really good young player. This guy is – every single play it is extremely dangerous. He can get that thing down field. He does a great job too with just controlling – there is an element to this offense that is definitely a ball control passing game, going back to kind of the West Coast system which Andy (Reid) has obviously, his background, but he’s incorporated a lot of the vertical stretch too and then mixed in the spread offense that you see a lot in college. He’s kind of adapted all that for his guys. He does great with the controlled passing game, just kind of taking those yardages that you’ll give him and then being real patient and all of a sudden he’s going to launch one down field.’’In other words, the Lions’ defense will have its hands full.

2. Matthew Stafford (hip) was listed on Friday’s injury report as questionable. Took everyone by surprise but he is expected to start. He’s off to a solid start this season with six touchdowns, two interceptions and a 62.6 completion percentage. He’s gotten some help with four receivers who have each had more than 100 yards in a game. But perhaps the key is that he has not been sacked in two straight games which is the first time that’s happened since the first two games of the 2011 season. “I mean obviously the guys up front are doing a great job. I think (Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell) is doing a great job of moving me around, getting the ball out quick, then I get a chance to hold the ball. It’s a little bit of everything, keeping the defense guessing. It’s a team effort when you have no sacks,’’ Stafford said. “You’re not going to have a perfect pocket every time. Guys are going to do some outstanding things, whether it’s a chip or a running back picking up a blitzer. I’m trying to get the ball out in a timely fashion, our guys are doing a great job of getting open. It all kind of plays together.”

3. Last week Tracy Walker and the secondary held Eagles tight end Zach Ertz to 4 catches for 64 yards — with only one of those receptions in the second half. On this week’s agenda is tight end Travis Kelce. “Tracy did a good job last week. He really did. He played well. Technique – fundamentally he played well. Every week in this league is a new week and there’s no way of predicting exactly how things will go,’’ defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. He also wouldn’t be specific if Walker will draw the coverage on Kelce. Patricia said there’s a bunch of good tight ends in the NFL and the Lions will face several of them. 

4. The Lions run game is still a work in progress, averaging about 99 yards per game. Kerryon Johnson is carrying the load but his per carry average is just 2.6 yards (48 carries, 116 yards). “We’ve actually had some really nice blocked plays. What I really feel like is that we’re just one guy away. I feel like there has been a lot of instances where we’ve had 10 out of 11 doing the thing that we need them to do, so if we can just get that one last little piece fit in there, then it’s going to start going,’’ Bevell said. “We’ve had a really good opportunity to just consistently work on it, and I think we’re improving each and every week. I like the direction that it’s headed. I think you can even see it last week. There were some decent sized gains to be had out there, but we still have to clean up some of the little details.”

5. Not a done deal, but cornerback Darius Slay could get the nod on Sunday after injuring his hamstring at Philadelphia. The Pro Bowl cornerback been limited at practice and is officially questionable this week but appears to be moving well. Wide receiver Danny Amendola (chest) is also questionable. After sitting Wednesday and Thursday he was limited in practice on Friday. Defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand (elbow) also questionable. Defensive tackle Mike Daniels is out 

PREDICTION: Lions 27, Chiefs 24 (This was a tough pick. Ultimately believe home-field advantage could tilt it Detroit’s way.)

 

 

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)

Lions Nick Bawden works to make fullbacks great again one leap at a time

ALLEN PARK — Nick Bawden has been waiting for the perfect time to show off his “Make Fullbacks Great Again” hat. Monday was that day.

In the third quarter of Sunday’s 27-24 win over the Eagles, the Detroit Lions fullback caught a short pass from Matthew Stafford and then leaped over safety Rodney McLeod who was trying to tackle him. It’s not like McLeod was down on the field. 

Hang time? Bawden is not sure.

It was impressive for a 6-2 and 245-pound fullback and a key play in the game and that drive. On the second-and-7 play from the Eagles’ 29, he gained 10 yards and a first down with his leap. Four plays later Stafford connected with Marvin Jones Jr., for a touchdown to nab a 27-17 lead over the Eagles.

“It was just, the line blocked that really well and (Matthew) Stafford gave me a good ball, I was trying to make something happen with it, luckily he wasn‘t a little bit higher,’’ Bawden said.

It was not planned. The decision was made at the last second.

“I was fired up, I got up and tried to do a little dance and Danny (Amendola) came over and gave me a high-five, just happy we got the first down to keep the ball moving,’’ Bawden said.

Coach Matt Patricia said the leap was not from the playbook.

 “That was a little bit of a surprise. I think it surprised a lot of the guys on the field when that happened, but everybody was excited,” Patricia said. “It was a good energy boost, I think for everybody.”

It was not a first for 2018 Lions’ seventh-round pick.

“In college (San Diego State) I did a couple times I think,’’ Bawden said. “In high school as well, in high school I got flagged for it, it came back 15 yards.’’

Certainly he earned some good-natured ribbing from his teammates about the move, but he wouldn’t be specific.

“They’re pretty happy I got the first down, trying to move the chains and score some touchdowns,’’ said Bawden trying to stick to business.

The hat was mailed to him just before the season started from Atlanta Falcons’ fullback Keith Smith.

 

 

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Eagles in Philadelphia

ALLEN PARK — After two weeks, the Lions remain undefeated even though that first-week tie still seems kind of ugly.

Onward.

The Lions are 5-point underdogs on the road at Philadelphia at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford said he doesn’t think at all about being 1-0-1.

“It’s just a huge challenge for us this week. Going to Philadelphia is a tough place to play. They have a bunch of good players and have been a really good team for a long time, so it’s just a new challenge for us, something we have to attack on its own,’’ Stafford said.

Stafford and his teammates agree that Sunday’s comeback win against the Chargers doesn’t mean much this week.

I think just because you did it last week doesn’t mean you’re going to do it again the next week, but also if you didn’t do it the week before, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it the next week,’’ Stafford said. “No, we take every challenge head-on as a new one.”

Five things to know about the Lions at the Eagles (1-1):

1. In the win over the Chargers, Stafford was let loose. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell called an aggressive game even after Stafford had thrown two interceptions. Afterward Stafford was smiling and it wasn’t just because of the win. Bevell is known for depending on the run game and certainly a balance (not necessarily 50-50) is key to an offense putting up points in the NFL, but Stafford has to be allowed to throw the bombs, to throw on an important third down. Maybe this is the change the Lions have needed over the past few years. Now we’ll see if it continues.

2. Stafford must be kept clean again. It’s rare when he goes through a game without being sacked like he did on Sunday. In the last five seasons he’s been sacked 213 times with only 7 games with no sacks. “Keeping the quarterback safe and protected is No. 1. You know obviously you’ve seen us do different things with Matthew (and the first thing is always trying to take care of him and how we keep him upright, even if he gets an opportunity to run,’’ Bevell said. “That’s always in the forefront of our minds because those guys are really hard to find, and we have a good one and we want to protect that guy.”

3. After missing left tackle Taylor Decker for one game and linebacker Jarrad Davis for two, it looks like the Lions will be mostly healthy in Philadelphia. Both practiced all week and are officially listed as questionable. Tyrell Crosby did a commendable job filling in for Decker on Sunday, but having a healthy Decker return would be a positive facing Fletcher Cox and the Eagles’ defensive line. “They have a solid front with Fletcher and Brandon Graham on the same side. They can move those guys around with (Derek) Barnett. It’s an active front,’’ Bevell said. “They do a great job of getting penetration and really trying to work up the field and wreak havoc that way. Fletcher has been a good player for a long time and something that we’ll have to make sure that we have answers for. It’s a good combination of him and Brandon Graham working on the side together.”

4. Matt Patricia did not confirm that Jarrad Davis will play on Sunday, but seemed optimistic before Friday’s practice. Davis’ presence would be huge against the EAgles offense led by Carson Wentz and fueled by TE Zach Ertz. “I think J.D., just in general, obviously this is a kid that loves the game,’’ Patricia said. “He just loves to come in and prepare every week and he loves to learn and he’s just every single day – that intensity to get better, as a coach, is something you love to see. I think he obviously provides a layer of leadership, I’ll say comfort or calmness, to the middle of the defense when he’s out there because of his knowledge and his ability to control the middle part of what we do in the defensive scheme. I think those other guys have done a great job and really Devon Kennard I think has stepped in great as far as the communication on the field. I think he’s done a phenomenal job of that too.’’

5. Special teams have not gotten off to a good start this season. Would expect that Matt Prater’s missed 40-yard field goal and missed extra point are just anomalies. Patricia said punt returner Jamal Agnew was benched for that game after a fumble, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be back as the return guy. Patricia does have options in Danny Amendola and Ty Johnson. Special teams also had too many penalties which is something that should be easy to clean up.

PREDICTION: Eagles 27, Lions 24. (Philadelphia is banged up while Detroit is mostly healthy. Still, it’s a tough place to play and pulling out a win would be a tough task.)

Five things to know as Detroit Lions open home season against L.A. Chargers

No such thing as a must-win game in the second week of the NFL season, but this is close.

The Lions open their home season against the Los Angeles Chargers at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Ford Field. Detroit is coming off a fourth-quarter collapse that led to a 27-27 tie with the lowly Arizona Cardinals to open the season.

Less than 13 percent of NFL teams that start 0-2 make the playoffs. Not sure about 0-1-1 starts but it can’t be good.

“I feel very confident right now that the team is in a good mental space as far as preparing for the Chargers,’’ Patricia said this week.

Much of the start-of-the-season optimism about this bunch of Lions disappeared with that tie. Patricia wasn’t hired to tie games.

Onward.

Five things to know about Sunday’s game:

1. Matthew Stafford seems unrattled about the whole trust issue that was apparent when a timeout was called from the sidelines while the game clock was ticking down. If Stafford felt a timeout was needed, he would have signalled for one. Stafford downplayed the incident this week as did Patricia. Stafford is a pro who has been through a myriad of bad situations in his 10-plus seasons in Detroit. This should not affect his play one bit. He said he was over it while the media had not let it go.

2. The defense must find answers for the fourth-quarter collapse against the Cardinals. While solid in first three quarters, they appeared to let up in the fourth even though that’s been denied. If Jarrad Davis returns after missing the opener, that certainly could help boost the whole defense but Davis didn’t do much at Friday’s practice and is listed as questionable for Sunday. It’s quite a different scenario going against veteran quarterback Philip Rivers compared to rookie Kyler Murray. “Last (week) we went into that thing kind of blind, not knowing what was going on. But Philip has seen everything, he’s seen every coverage, every defense, there’s not going to be anything you can do to fool him,’’ safety Quandre Diggs said. “We’ve just got to be on our Ps and Qs and be ready to go.’’

3. Phillip Rivers is still Phillip Rivers after passing for 333 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in the overtime win against the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday. He will be without tight end Hunter Henry who is out for the season after suffering a tibia plateau fracture to his left knee in the opener. Henry had four catches for 60 yards in that game. Rivers’ two biggest targets are wide receiver Keenan Allen and running back Austin Ekeler who had a pair of touchdown catches in the opener. Allen earns top praise from Patricia who calls him an unbelievable athlete with great route-running ability: “His ability to cut to release off the line of scrimmage to really kind of move the defenders at the line to get open, get into space. His top of the route quickness – he’s got some subtleties in there. His head-turns, his shoulder-leans, and some of the ways he skips off the line of scrimmage he has some unorthodox releases too that are just extremely difficult to defend against.’’ 

4. The offensive line, in particular Taylor Decker must play better. Patricia was asked about Decker’s game on Friday and replied, ““I think the team had a tough day.” Sunday the offensive line will be facing pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram who each had a sack in the opener. It will also help if the Lions can establish a run game early. Kerryon Johnson averaged just 3.1 yards per carry (16 for 49 yards) in the tie. Decker was limited in practice this week with a back injury and is questionable for Sunday. Not much depth at left tackle so would expect to possibly see Tyrell Crosby or Kenny Wiggins start on the left side if Decker is out.

5. Coaching is key once again. Patricia and his team have to do better. Be aggressive and attack for four quarters, not three. Make adjustments throughout the game. It’s Coaching 101, but sometimes it’s not so apparent to those not on the sidelines. Patricia said there is no extra pressure this week to see if his team can bounce back from a tie. “Nope. Every game – we’ve got 16 of them – they’re all high anxiety games,’’ the coach said.

PREDICTION: Lions 27, Chargers 24. (Wouldn’t bet the house on it, but Lions are at home, Chargers playing at 9 a.m. their time. Both sides of the ball and special teams have to prove they are better than their fourth-quarter showing last week.)