Five reasons the Detroit Lions wasted a perfect chance to defeat Chicago Bears

Another Thanksgiving Day game to forget

DETROIT — It was the perfect time to get a win over the NFC North leading Chicago Bears who were without starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and coming off a shorter week than the Lions.

Perfect.

Except the Lions did not get the job done. They lost 23-16 and fell to 4-7 in Matt Patricia’s first season. That matches the total number of losses from 2017.

No one has the answer on how to get the season back on track. They all take blame and say they have to work harder but they now have lost four of their last five games.

“Obviously, not the way we wanted that thing to end. It’s a good team over there, Chicago. They’ve done a good job all year. Played us tough all the way to the end and made some plays when they needed to at the end, which were critical for their football team, and we didn’t,’’ Patricia said. “So, we have to get back at it and go back to work. So, we have a lot to do, a lot to improve on, and things that we’re continually trying to get better at. There’s not a lot of time to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves.’’

Five reasons the Lions lost:

1. Matthew Stafford had a lousy day. He’s missing Marvin Jones Jr.,  and Kerryon Johnson who both have knee injuries; and Golden Tate who was shipped to the Eagles. It is not all on the quarterback. Some of it rests squarely on the shoulders of offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and Stafford’s teammates who have to be in the right position. Stafford was intercepted twice in the fourth quarter. The second one was on a pass intended for tight end Mike Roberts. “I was thinking Mike was going to be in a different spot, but you know, that’s cutting the ball loose and hoping sometimes that you’re on the same page,’’ Stafford said. “And obviously it didn’t work out in our favor tonight.” When pressed he said Roberts was not supposed to be deeper. “He’s not supposed to be anything, it’s a feel thing,’’ Stafford said.

2. Cooter called a conservative game of quick routes. He didn’t open it up until later in the third quarter. With a quarterback like Stafford, it didn’t seem to make much sense. Although Stafford was sacked six times in the loss to the Bears on Nov. 11 and didn’t want a repeat of that. :They played a lot of two high safeties, some off corner. You know, these guys are good, good defense. To get guys down the field you got to hold the ball and holding the ball against these guys is not a good recipe for success,’’ Stafford said. “So we tried to get the ball out as quickly as we could.”

3. Quarterback Chase Daniel was starting just his third career game, yet he played just fine going 27 of 37 for 230 yards, and two touchdowns. He was sacked four times but had enough composure to get the job done when needed. His touchdown passes to Taquan MIzzell and Tarik Cohen were right on the money. Never a doubt.

4. The Lions got the ball back with six minutes left and down 23-16. Stafford leads a hurry-up offense as well as anyone. But there was nothing hurry-up about the slow pace of the drive that ended with the Lions at the Bears’ 11 and Stafford being intercepted by Kyle Fuller in the end zone. “”So, it wasn’t a situation where I felt like we had to score quick and try to get the ball back. It’s an explosive offense, they have great players, too. So, definitely a strategy there, as far as — we felt like we were doing things well to move the ball and not be in a panic situation, just go down and try to score,’’ Patricia said. “Use all the clock if we have to, and if we needed extra clock, use extra clock. So, that’s really about it.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

5. Ziggy Ansah got the start and looked like his old self with a sack, two quarterback hits and three tackles. He wasn’t the only solid player on defense. Glover Quin got a rare sack and DeShawn Shead forced a fumble that was recovered by Jarrad Davis in the second quarter. Detroit’s defense held the Bears to 38 rushing yards, well below their average of 122.9 rushing yards per game. “We didn’t do enough. Their defense scored a touchdown and we didn’t. They’re defense scored a touchdown and we didn’t, so we didn’t do enough,’’ Quin said. All three units have to play well for these Lions to win. They need to play complementary football and it didn’t happen on Thursday.

NEXT UP: The Lions (4-7) host the Los Angeles Rams (10-1) on Sunday, Dec. 2.

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions host Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

Three key Lions sidelined with injuries

If the Lions’ hope to snap their three-game losing streak, they need to play practically perfect football against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Ford Field. It will be the first of three straight home games.

The Panthers (6-3) are coming off a Thursday night loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers so they’ve had extra time to prepare for the Lions who are 3-6.

The Lions (3-6) will be without three injured starters — wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson and tight end Michael Roberts.

It’s been a rough start under first year coach Matt Patricia, after the Lions finished 9-7 last season.

Still quarterback Matthew Stafford said the team hasn’t quit.

“I think we have a bunch of professionals, a bunch of guys that want to win. Nobody wants to go out there and work their tail off and not win,’’ Stafford said. “So, everybody’s out there trying to figure out a way to be better. Any way we can do it, we’re going to try.”

Five things to watch against the Panthers:

1. Stafford has been sacked 16 times in the last two games. Somehow, some way, they have to find a way to protect him while allowing him to be effective. “I think everybody’s doing everything they can to try and get us going. I think it’s a total team effort, everybody’s trying to play better at all positions, at all spots,’’ Stafford said. “I think our coaches are putting a ton of work in trying to be as good as they can be. So, it’s a total team effort. Offense is no different, we’re out there trying to find ways to make sure we score points. That’s the name of the game at the end of the day. Obviously, limiting sacks and turnovers and all that kind of stuff is going to help us do that, so any way we can do that kind of stuff is going to be beneficial for us.” The offensive line will be without right guard T.J. Lang for the rest of the season.

2. Stafford and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter are on the same wavelength when it comes to the offense, but they’ve got to translate it from practice to Sundays. They work closely together. “He and I shoot texts throughout the week while I’m at my place and he’s here working. I know he’s up all hours of the night trying to figure out what’s going to be the best way for us to go out there and score a bunch of points, and I’m thinking about it constantly, too,’’ Stafford said. “So, we’re bouncing ideas off of each other all day at practice, trying to find ways to make ourselves score some more points. That’s the name of the game, which has been good.”

3. Detroit’s defense will have its hands full with quarterback Cam Newton and running back Christian McCaffrey, the one-two offensive punch. Each has four rushing touchdowns while Newton has thrown 17 touchdown passes (against just five interceptions) and McCaffrey has caught four of those TDs. Also wide receiver Devin Funchess averages 12.2 yards per catch with 477 yards and three touchdowns. The Lions defense has particularly struggled in the run game giving up 176 rushing yards in the loss to Seattle and 128 to the Vikings. They found better success against the Bears last week holding them to 54 rushing yards, although Mitchell Trubisky passed for 355 yards.

4. Cornerback Darius Slay, who was out last week with a knee injury, is expected to be back in action which will provide a needed boost to the secondary. “He’s a tough player. (He’s) a guy that really, through the course of the season, I’ve had the pleasure to kind of work with and be around and kind of use some of his different talents and attributes in different ways through the course of the game,’’ Patricia said. “I think he gives us some multiplicity in the backend, which is great.”

5. Coaching, as always, is key. While Cooter and defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni make the calls on game days, Patricia is heavily involved. The coaching staff has got nine games of working together, but they’re facing a huge challenge with the talent on the Panthers roster. The Lions are 2-2 at Ford Field.

EXTRA: Stafford was asked what makes veteran Panthers’ defensive end Julius Peppers so good.  “Have you seen the guy before? He’s 6-6, 295 pounds, whatever he is. Extremely athletic, a very smart player. He’s seen a lot of football, he’s a smart rusher,’’ Stafford said. The two have a history going back to 2011 when Peppers (who played for the Bears) tackled Stafford, injuring his shoulder and knocking him out of action for six weeks.

PREDICTION: Panthers 35, Lions 14

Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia explains his outdoor snowy practice when next 4 games are indoors

Also makes snarky remark about media

ALLEN PARK — Lions coach Matt Patricia defended his decision to hold practice outdoors on Thursday despite the snow and cold and the fact that the Lions next four games are indoors.

At his Friday press conference, he started with a statement praising veterans before Sunday’s Salute to Service day.

Then the coach, who seemed agitated, read a prepared script on the outdoor practice seeking to get “closure to this continuing conversation as far as our training.”

Patricia doesn’t talk to the media on Thursdays so he didn’t address the uncommon notion of practicing outdoors in the snow when the four upcoming games are indoors.

He ended his Friday remarks with a snarky comment about the media.

“We’re going to be practicing inside today just so everybody’s clear, make sure everybody is good, with all the head coaches in the room on that. Everybody good there?’’ Patricia asked. “Again there’s some wind out there , some gusts, probably a good idea to practice inside. It’s all based on what’s best for the team at that moment.’’

The Lions are 3-6 and preparing to play the Carolina Panthers (6-3) on Sunday at Ford Field.

In Patricia’s remarks he started off by saying: “First, we’ll always practice and train in a manner that looks out for our players’ ability to prepare each week for our poopent while taking care of including all parameters to the overall health and safety of our team. Indoor walk-throughs which we had this week which we’ve also had in the past are always beneficial to our team, beneficial to our players, it’s a great teaching and learning environment. It’s an opportunity to pull off physically the demands of practice …’’

He went on, saying the downside of practicing on the indoor turf is the wearing effect it has on players’ bodies.

“Standing on turf or running on turf often time for extended periods of time affects joints, affects swelling and causes the bodies on different members of our team to have pain or joint swelling that will cause them further delay,’’ Patricia said.

He said he wanted to work in pads on fundamentals so Thursday’s practice was outdoors.

“Practicing in pads on turf is a little bit of an extra risk in my mind in some of those situations where feet or footwork might be stuck in the turf in different situations where as the grass or natural ground has a little more give. In those situations it’s safer for us to go outside in practice in pads …’’ said Patricia whose Lions are 3-6.

“Going outside yesterday allowed us the opportunity to focus on our fundamentals which we needed to do and take care and make sure we’re technically sound in some of our footwork. … The focus is most of the skilled players have to keep their feet underneath them be able to break with low center of gravity and play technically sound which is always good from a fundamental standpoint it was  a good opportunity to get that done. The temperature outside was not a factor it was not cold, there was not a heavy wind. It was an easy day for us to go outside and get some good work done.’’

It was in the low 30s and snowing on Thursday when Patricia wore shorts at practice.

“Working through conditions that are not ideal as a football team is also another benefit for us to take live learning environments and turn them into actual teaching moments outside. It also allows us to focus on details of technique and the awareness of our surroundings which we’ll have to play through at some point through the course of the year,’’ Patricia said.

The Lions play at Buffalo on Dec. 16.

Lions play poorly in 34-22 loss at Chicago: Five key reasons they lost third straight

Blame starts with coaching staff

When an NFL coach talks about working on fundamentals midway through a season, it’s a sign that something is not right in the kingdom. That’s exactly what coach Matt Patricia discussed after an embarrassing loss at the Vikings a week ago.

This season, Patricia’s first, was not billed as a rebuild season. This team finished 9-7 last season and was supposed to improve.

So what happened on Sunday in Chicago — a 34-22 beat-down by the Bears — should not have come as a surprise.

The Lions are 3-6. The season is toast. Would they have an outside chance if they ran the table? Perhaps, but the way they have played the last three weeks the odds of winning a Mega Millions jackpot are better.

Sunday’s loss was just more of the same:

1. Matt Patricia does not get a pass. This team was not ready to play. Part of that might be on the players, but he is ultimately responsible. He was welcomed to Detroit as a savior of sorts direct from the Patriots. He has much to prove in his first stint as an NFL head coach. Jim Caldwell was fired because GM Bob Quinn thought the 9-7 team last year was talented and under-performed with Caldwell. Well, guess what? They’ve added two running backs and key pieces on the defense and they continue sliding backward. Those wins against the Patriots and Packers are befuddling. Patricia talks a ton about changing the culture, but Caldwell did a good job of that. Patricia should be fine-tuning this squad, not reinventing the wheel.

2. The defense made Mitch Trubisky look perfect. He nearly was, finishing with 355 passing yards and three touchdowns.. Several of his big-play passes — he threw eight of more than 20 yards — went to receivers who were wide open and it wasn’t even close. Of course the Lions missed cornerback Darius Slay who was out with a knee injury, but not sure his presence would have made much difference. Offensively the Bears finished with 402 net yards compared to 305 for the Lions. At one points the Bears had a 244-44 edge in yards.

3. Matthew Stafford was sacked six times. In the fourth quarter Khalil Mack ran over left tackle Taylor Decker like he was a pylon. There’s blame all around for the sacks. Receivers are well covered which is why Stafford often waits too long. The offensive line was playing without right guard T.J. Lang, but they have to be better. They focused on protection during the week after Stafford was sacked 10 times by the Vikings a week ago. Much more work to do.

4. The offensive fits and starts have become commonplace. Stafford has to run a better show even without Golden Tate. Stafford finished 25 of 42 for 274 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions, was sacked six times and had a 74.9 rating. Tate was his go-to guy on third downs maybe that’s why the Lions were 4 of 15 (27 percent) on third-down conversions.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

5. Rookie Kerryon Johnson (6 carries, a rushing and a passing touchdown) continues to be one of the few bright spots along with wide receiver Kenny Golladay. The running back averaged 3.6 per carry. Golladay (6 catches, 78 yards, 1 touchdown) caught the first pass on the first play from scrimmage and he caught a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter when it was too late to matter. Without Tate, Golladay has to take advantage of his opportunities. Also it’s up to Stafford and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter to get him involved start to finish.

UP  NEXT: Lions host the Carolina Panthers (6-3) on Sunday, Nov. 18 at Ford Field. Then on Thanksgiving they face the Bears again at Ford Field.

 

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears: Five things to watch

Chicago sits atop NFC North

ALLEN PARK — It’s the second straight division game for the Lions who failed miserably at the Vikings last week.

It doesn’t get any easier, going up against the Chicago Bears (5-3), the leaders in the NFC North. The Vikings are in second (5-3-1) with the Packers (3-4-1) in third and the Lions (3-5) in the basement.

The Lions have won their last two games at Soldier Field but this team is different and still difficult to figure out due to inconsistent play week in and week out.

It will be a little tougher without two key starters who are sidelined with injuries. Cornerback Darius Slay (knee) and right guard T.J. Lang will be out.

The Bears have won all five of their games against less-than-stellar teams. One of those teams is the Seahawks (4-4), who smacked the Lions two weeks ago. The Bears also beat the Cardinals (2-6), Tampa Bay (3-5), Jets (3-6) and the Bills (2-7). That’s a combined 14-28 win-loss record.

If the Lions have any hope of turning around this season and matching their 9-7 record from last season, defeating the Bears would be a great place to start.

Five things to watch:

1. The offensive line must adjust and provide more protection for Stafford who was sacked 10 times by the Vikings. It was not all on the line, but they didn’t help. Patricia said it was lack of fundamentals and execution that led to the wretched loss at Minnesota last week. So he planned to get back to basics at practice this week. “I like our offensive line a lot. These guys work extremely hard. The offensive line is a hard group to play in. Like you said, my background with the o-line, I understand that, again, I think I’ve mentioned this before, when you try to see the game through the same set of eyes five different way, it’s not easy,’’ Patricia said. This week they’ll be without Lang and they’ll be facing big-time Bears disruptors DT Akiem Hicks and LB Khalil Mack.

2. Matthew Stafford has had a rough go in the last two weeks, both losses. In that span he has completed 68.4 percent of his pass attempts for 509 yards which is not bad considering he was sacked 13 times. He has taken the blame for some of those sacks and maybe he held on too long trying to make something happen. But also it’s tough to throw to receivers who can’t get open. He also lost one fumble in each of the last two weeks. “I’m sure if you sort out certain numbers and don’t really take into account game situations, you can kind of make them say whatever you would like,’’ offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said when asked about Stafford. “Our job is to do what we can do to score points to help our team win games. It’s on us to keep ourselves in a good game situation so that we do have multiple avenues available to us to attack a defense. Sometimes we have this year and sometimes we have been a little bit further behind than we should be.’’

3. Grabbing a lead early, once again is key. The Bears have outscored opponents 120-51 in the first half — 75-23 in the second quarter. The Lions need a good start, especially with the way they’ve played the last two weeks, to have a chance of winning. Stafford used to be able to fight back and come from behind in the fourth quarter, but not sure that’s much of a possibility this season. “I think it’s on our list of musts every week, is to start fast. And that’s as a team. I’m a big part of that team, I understand that, and doing what I can do to help us get points,’’ Stafford said. “Converting third downs, hitting big shots when we get it, just making sure that when we have those opportunities from the opening kickoff that we’re ready to go. The more I can hit the throws and make the right checks, all that kind of stuff, the better we’re going to be.”

4. The defense has to stop the run and the Bears have a dynamic duo in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen who are two different kinds of backs. “Jordan Howard, a big powerful guy, downhill type of back, who has enough speed, keeps the ball rolling for them. Tarik is very dynamic, very explosive, (he can) do it all, he runs between the tackles, he runs outside, he runs routes, catches passes, screens, they get him involved a lot of different ways,’’ safety Glover Quin said. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge for us. We have to identify who’s in the ball game and understand how to play against each guy’s skill sets because they are two dynamic players.’’ And he noted that at times both backs are on the field together.

5. Mitchell Trubisky is a young quarterback who has shown much improvement over last season, completing 64.2 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He’s also mobile quarterback.  “If things break down and he runs and there’s a receiver open, he’s going to throw it to that receiver as he’s advancing towards the line of scrimmage. He has more of a tendency to put the ball away and go with it as opposed to trying to get outside the pocket, reset, look downfield and throw the ball,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said.

PREDICTION: Bears 24, Lions 17

Lions make coaching staff change, fire special teams coordinator Joe Marciano

Marciano originally hired by Jim Caldwell

Matt Patricia has made the first big change to his coaching staff.

On Monday night, the Lions announced that special teams coordinator Joe Marciano had been fired.

The team released this statement from Patricia: “Tonight I spoke to Joe and informed him of my decision to relieve him of his responsibilities with our team. I appreciate Joe’s leadership of our special teams units over the last three and a half seasons and have great respect for his many years of service as a coach in the National Football League. On behalf of our team and the entire coaching staff, I want to personally thank Joe for his commitment to the Detroit Lions and wish him and his family the best moving forward.”

When Patricia was hired in February he kept Marciano who had been hired by former coach Jim Caldwell in 2015 and led the special teams since then.

This season, which the Lions have started 3-5, sloppy special teams play has been an issue along with 14 penalties that cost 132 yards. That included three special teams penalties in each of the last two games, both losses.

Patricia said on Friday that he thinks across the league, there might be more innovation in special teams than on offense or defense.

“There’s a lot of teams that do a lot of good stuff on all three phases really to be honest with you. I would say if you dive into just in general with the League, special teams I would say right now is the one that’s having kind of the most change or adaptation, especially with the kickoff, kickoff return,’’ Patricia said. “It’s interesting to see how teams are handling that situation with the rule change and the alignments and all the rest of it. That’s a big one to take a look at and study.’’

Marciano, 64, had been a special teams coordinator with the New Orleans Saints (1986-1995), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1996-2001), Houston Texans (2002-2013) and the Minnesota Vikings (2014).

The team did not announce a replacement. Devin Fitzsimmons is the assistant special teams coach.

Lions Matt Patricia: Fundamentals, execution holding us back right now

Next up, Lions head to Chicago, the NFC North leader

ALLEN PARK >> Matt Patricia said there was not one glaring factor when Matthew Stafford was sacked 10 times in the 24-9 Lions’ loss at the Vikings on Sunday.

Obviously, more sacks than points scored is never good.

“It’s a full team thing, it’s a full unit thing and we have to do a better job. We can’t play that way,’’ Patricia said at his Monday press conference.

And, even though it’s November, half of the season is history and the Lions are 3-5, the first-year coach is leaning on basics.

“Fundamentals and execution is what’s holding us back right now,’’ Patricia said.

Talent? The coach said they have plenty of talented guys to help them win.

So where are the wins? How could they get humiliated two straight weeks? Yes, the Vikings and Seahawks are good teams, but the Lions didn’t just lose, they were embarrassed.

Certainly the Lions’ coaches made adjustments as Sunday’s game went on, it was just difficult to see the improvement.

“What happens as the season goes and you have some success in certain areas, obviously teams are going to gear up to try to stop those things you do and make you do them differently,’’ Patricia said. “We have to be able to handle those changes better than what we do right now and put our players in a better situation to give them some success, especially with the offensive run game. The defensive run game definitely seeing some repeat runs which are giving us problems.’’

And, of course, there was Dalvin Cook’s 70-yard run which Patricia called “catastrophic.”

The Lions ran for just 66 yards at the Vikings and the Detroit defense gave up 128 rushing yards.

“With both offensive and defensive lines I would say the point of emphasis right now is fundamentals,’’ Patricia said. “Some of our fundamentals (Sunday) got out of whack, some of our technique stuff was not necessarily where it needs to be on a consistent basis.’’

It all seems a little nuts. They worked on fundamentals in long, grueling training camp sessions in July and August. Much of the roster is composed of NFL veterans who should not need to go back to square one for Football Fundamentals 101.

But they will work on basics this week in the meeting rooms and Patricia said he might add some extra periods during practice. “It’s hard when we’re trying to get everything we can done and get ready to go. It is what it is, we have to get it done, put a little more effort into it,’’ Patricia said.

Next up is another road game against a divisional opponent, the first-place NFC North Chicago Bears (5-3).

Patricia said they had a good week of practice last week, it just didn’t carry over.

“We were prepared and ready to go we just didn’t show up on Sunday enough all the way around,’’ Patricia said. “Just got to do a better job.’’

That is everyone, coaches included.

When Patricia was hired by the Lions in February, he was not brought in for a rebuild. The long-time Patriots defensive coordinator was expected to improve on the Lions’ 9-7 record from 2017.

General manager Bob Quinn made it clear the reason Jim Caldwell was fired was because he thought they were capable of winning more than nine games each of the last two seasons. He traded Golden Tate, the top wide receiver, last week. Maybe it’s a move for the future but Quinn knew they had two divisional opponents coming up.

Any talk that the Lions are currently sinking because it is all a part of the plan is just not true unless they’ve changed course and didn’t mention it.

Sunday’s loss at the Vikings was cringe-worthy.

Fundamentals and execution. Seems like we’ve heard those two words before.

The season appears to be basically over thanks to a 3-5 record. Not sure this was part of the Quinn-Patricia plan.