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.