Lions Matt Patricia says Matthew Stafford is his QB, quells trade speculation

Says he has utmost respect for the QB

ALLEN PARK — Matt Patricia said today that Matthew Stafford is the Detroit Lions quarterback and there are no plans to move on from him.

“I have the utmost respect for him and everything that he does every single day and how he works. He’s my quarterback, we’re grinding every single day to get better,’’ said the coach whose Lions are 5-10.

Patricia was asked about trade speculation about Stafford who has had an off year.

“Like I’ve said before, Matthew Stafford is an unbelievable quarterback, he’s our quarterback,’’ Patricia said on Friday. “He’s been fighting, battling and leading this team throughout the entire course of the season. We’ll obviously just keep working and progressing and trying to get better next year and hopefully we can do some things to help him.’’

The Lions’ offense has struggled this season, but it is not all on Stafford. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and Patricia are working together for the first season and have changed the offensive philosophy. Also, wide receiver Golden Tate was traded on Oct. 30 and Marvin Jones Jr., was placed on injured reserve missing the final half of the season.

Stafford, in his tenth season, is unlikely to reach the 4,000-yard passing yard mark for the first time since 2010 when he played in just three games. He’s at 3,511 with Sunday’s game at Green Bay to finish the season. He’s thrown 19 touchdowns which is the lowest since the 2010 season when he had six.

In 2017, Stafford threw for 29 touchdowns, had 10 interceptions while passing for 4,446 yards when the Lions finished 9-7.

“We’re in a situation where Matthew Stafford is our quarterback, that’s what it is. I think the world of the guy. I think he’s an unbelievable competitor, I think he’s a great player,’’ Patricia said.

The coach does not question Stafford’s leadership.

“I think his leadership and the way he approaches every single week and his drive at the game, his demand of excellence that he has for himself, the players and the people around him is everything you want,’’ Patricia said.

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Five reasons the Lions lost, 27-9, to playoff-bound Minnesota Vikings

Plenty of frustration, not many answers

DETROIT  — The Lions have gone five straight games without scoring more than 17 points. Not surprisingly four of those were losses including Sunday’s 27-9 beatdown by the Minnesota Vikings.

Coach Matt Patricia is big on talking about improving not just game to game, but also day to day in practice. If it’s happening, it’s not showing on Sunday.

The Lions dropped to 5-10. It’s their worst record since 2012 when they finished 4-12 in Jim Schwartz’s fourth season. It’s the fourth season since 2008 when the Lions finished 0-16 that the losses have been in double digits.

You can wrap it up and put a bow on it but there’s nothing pretty about this season. And, it’s not over yet. The Lions play the Packers at Green Bay next Sunday.

It’s been another season of frustration for all involved. The crowd gave up early on Sunday, leaving Ford Field en masse in the second half.

Perhaps Matthew Stafford summed up the frustration best. The quarterback can’t tell you one thing that is missing from this team.

“I think you look at each game as different. That’s part of the frustrating part, it’s not one thing where you say, ‘OK, let’s go fix it and we’ll be fine,’’’ Stafford said. “It’s tough to win games in the National Football League and, for one reason or another, execution and play-making we haven’t done enough of.’’

Five things to know about Sunday’s loss:

1. The offense struggled against a solid Vikings’ defense. The three field goals in the first half were dandy, but they needed to get in the end zone and could not do it. “Just didn’t execute well enough, had some chances, got down in the red zone the one time and didn’t execute I can give Kenny (Golladay) probably a better ball on that one down the sideline there,’’ Stafford said. “Got into field goal range a few times and had some negative plays — a screen that went for minus, a couple runs that went for minus and against that defense it’s tough. You have to stay ahead of the chains and we weren’t able to do it. You get third-and-long against those guys it’s tough.’’

2. The defense was solid stuffing the Vikings’ run game and preventing them from picking up a first down until late in the second quarter. But once the damn burst, it was trouble. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins connected with Adam Thielen for 40 yards on a third-and-17 at Detroit’s 49. Two plays later he found Stefon Diggs in the end zone for their first touchdown. One minutes and 33 seconds later, Cousins threw a 44-yard Hail Mary touchdown to Kyle Rudolph. Putting the Lions in a 14-9 hole at the half. “We just have to get a little bit better from an alignment standpoint, we have to get some of those guys in better position,’’ Patricia said about the Hail Mary. “Get the guy who caught the ball boxed out and get him out of there. So, a couple details there.”

3. While it appeared that those back-to-back touchdowns sucked the life out of the defense in the second half, Patricia said it wasn’t so. “We were out there trying to battle nonstop. I think those guys, even when the ball got put in some tough field position standpoints, everybody’s out there fighting real hard,’’ Patricia said. “So, it’s a tough game and that was a good team. They have a lot of good players. Our guys fight hard.”

4. Plenty of talk about needing to execute better from everyone involved. It’s the same thing that’s been said since Week One. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon, but it’s kind of a head-scratcher. “We just didn’t execute and do the things we needed to do to get off the field and get the ball back to our offense,’’ said cornerback Nevin Lawson who had his first career sack. Execute is the word of the season.

5. The play-calling on offense continues to be an issue. On third-and-13 in the first quarter from the Vikings’ 37 Theo Riddick’s sweep loses 4 yards. Two plays earlier LeGarrette Blount had lost 3 yards on a first-and-10. So effectively those two plays took the Lions out of field goal range. Earlier, on the third play of the game, running back Zach Zenner scampered for 29 yards. He’s their best running back at this point of the season, but they won’t stick with him. They keep going back to Blount and Riddick who are not getting the job done. Zenner averaged 5.9 yards per carry on Sunday while it was 2.6 yards per carry for Blount and minus-0.7 for Riddick. Go with what’s working. It’s a mystery, the same as when they repeatedly throw short passes in long-yardage situations. They want to protect Stafford, but the coaches (Patricia and  Jim Bob Cooter) have to unchain his handcuffs.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions host Minnesota Vikings; plus prediction

Vikings still in wild-card hunt

ALLEN PARK — While the Detroit Lions have eliminated themselves from the playoffs, the Minnesota Vikings have control of their playoff destiny.

If the Vikings beat the Lions on Sunday at Ford Field and the Eagles tie or lose to the Texans, Minnesota will earn a wild-card playoff berth.

This game does mean something, just not to the Lions.

Technically, coach Matt Patricia says the LIons are still trying to improve over the final two games. So the game means something moving forward.

“(The Vikings are) a team that formed extremely well last week against the Dolphins and in all the changes that they had up there. They obviously played the game exactly how they wanted to and they’re in a great position and trying to come down here and keep working towards the rest of their season,’’ Patricia said. “So, we have a big challenge in front of us and we have to do a great job of going out and trying to give ourselves a chance to win. It’ll be a good week for us to go out and try to get better.”

Five things to watch:

1. Protect Matthew Stafford. In the Vikings 24-9 win on Nov. 4, he was sacked 10 times. That came at the hands of the starting five — Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner. Lang and Wagner are out, likely to be replaced again by Kenny Wiggins and Tyrell Crosby. Stafford’s sacks are not all on the offensive line but the percentage is high. “Plenty of really good rushers, good cover guys, kind of a really unique defensive scheme that creates problems with their blitzes. The challenge level is very high for us, that’s a big part of the game,’’ offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. “Obviously, last time I did not do a good enough job of putting our guys in a good position to sort of play these guys.’’ He said the Lions won’t win every matchup against the Vikings but they have to scratch and claw to win each one.

2. Keep feeding the ball to Kenny Golladay. Seems like a no-brainer but it doesn’t always happen. Stafford has to trust the big guy, Golladay has to keep coming down with the ball and Cooter and Matt Patricia must get him involved in the game from the get-go. Golladay had a career high 146 receiving yards in the win at Buffalo on Sunday. Since he’s had more targets with Marvin Jones Jr., out, the defenses have focused in on him. “That could be coverage type, that could be two defenders finding their way near you a little more often than other times, or maybe a certain corner that’s a really good player finding his way to cover you more often,’’ Cooter said. “Kenny’s been competing and battling, and stats are stats, but at the end of the day Kenny is competing really hard to improve and get better. We’re seeing those strides.’’

3. Stop Vikings running back Dalvin Cook and the run game. In the previous match-up, the defense did a good job containing Cook except for one breakout run of 70 yards. Other than that he had nine carries for 19 yards. They’ve improved their run stopping and much of it started with that game with the addition of Damon “Snacks” Harrison who has made his presence known on the defensive line.

4.  Along with stopping the run game, they have to control quarterback Kirk Cousins and the passing game. They were semi-successful in the first game holding Cousins to 164 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception. The Lions were successful in holding wide receiver Adam Thielen to four catches for 22 yards in the first match-up. “Since then and really, almost every week now, Adam’s drawn an awful lot of attention with some double coverages and things like that. So, we’re going to have to figure out a way to help him out,’’ Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said on a conference call.

5. Don’t look for players to sit just because the Lions are out of the playoffs. “I think the thing is the NFL is a violent sport and when you step in between those white lines, it’s something that every player that’s out on the field has to deal with and they understand that there’s a risk of injury,’’ Patricia said. “But, we’re certainly never going to put somebody out there and put them in an injury situation where they can’t perform and put themselves in a situation where they can’t protect themselves if that was an issue. So, for us, if a guy is ready to go and they’re healthy and they can go out and perform and help us win then that’s what we’re going to go try to do.’’

Prediction: Vikings 28, Lions 17

Five reasons Detroit Lions lost to Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills

Lions scoreless in 2nd half for 1st time this season

Any slim chance the Detroit Lions had to make the playoffs are absolutely gone after their 14-13 loss to the Bills at Buffalo on Sunday. Detroit drops to 5-9 in its first year under coach Matt Patricia.

The Lions came up short on offense, defense and special teams — it was an all-around team loss.

The Lions led 13-7 at the half, but were held scoreless in the second half for the first time all season.

Five of the biggest reasons the Lions lost:

1. This loss doesn’t all hang on special teams, but certainly they shoulder part of the blame. Matt Prater snapped his strong of 14 straight field goals on a 48-yard attempt that sailed wide right. That fourth-quarter attempt would have given the Lions a 16-14 lead. In the second quarter, a botched snap by Don Muhlbach forced holder Sam Martin to throw the ball away.

2. The Lions’ defense knew that quarterback Josh Allen could be a handful since the rookie can probably run the ball better than he can pass it. Yet, they could not stop him. His 42-yard touchdown pass to Robert Foster in the fourth quarter proved to be the game winner. Allen was 13 of 26 for 204 yards. He also connected with Foster for with passes of 28 yards and 31 yards. Allen finished with just nine carries for 16 yards, but that included a 3-yard touchdown scamper.

3. Detroit’s defense had stepped up big stopping the run in recent weeks (with the exception of the Rams’ Todd Gurley), but couldn’t get the job done Sunday. The Bills were without their top running backs, LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory. Then backup Marcus Murphy was injured early to they were forced to rely on rookie Keith Ford who was playing in his first game. Detroit’s defense allowed 117 rushing yards.

4. Matthew Stafford and Jim Bob Cooter’s offense sputtered in the second half after a so-so first half in which they led 13-7. Stafford was hurting with a bad back entering the game and early on came up limping with an injury to his left knee. He completed 75.9 percent of his passes (22-29) for 208 yards and a touchdown to Andy Jones. Once again, the tempo and play-calling were in question.

5. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay had 4 catches for 115 yards (a career high) in the first half. So why didn’t they go to him in the second half more often? He had just three catches for 31 yards in the second half. He is not Calvin Johnson, but he is an athletic, tall receiver who has a decent chance of coming down with the ball if it’s thrown in his immediate vicinity. It’s a head-scratcher the way he is used in this offense overall. He should have a much bigger role. With his 146 yards he topped the 1,000-yard mark for the season with 1,005.

NEXT UP: Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1) at Lions (5-9) at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Ford Field. The Vikings defeated the Dolphins, 41-17 Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills

Bills can’t be taken lightly

So there’s a slim chance the Detroit Lions could still make the playoffs.

To do so the Lions (5-8)  need plenty of help, plus they have to win their final three games starting today at the Buffalo Bills (4-9).

Safety Glover Quin admitted that of course he’s seen the scenarios.

“I’m not blind I’m not oblivious to the fact, I’m not dumb either. I can look at the record and . I kind of knew it before everybody started making a big deal out of it, I saw it unfolding,’’ Quin said.

“For us, none of that stuff matters if we don’t take care of our business so we’ve got to win out, we’ve got to prepare and get ready to beat Buffalo, we get that done then we move on to the next one,’’ Quin said. “None of those scenarios matter if we don’t take care of our business.’’

Five things to watch:

1. The big key is to stop the Bills’ running game, the bread and butter of its offense. Buffalo has run for at least 165 yards in four straight games. If they reach that number against Detroit it will be a streak not matched since 1975.

2. Keep quarterback Josh Allen one dimensional. He is the leading rusher with 490 yards, averaging 7.4 yards per carry. It’s a strength for the rookie who has thrown five touchdowns and nine interceptions. Stop the run and force him to pass. He owns a completion rate of just 52.4 percent with five passing touchdowns and nine interceptions. In Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the Jets, Allen carried nine times for 101 yards and a touchdown, threw two interceptions and completed 50 percent of his passes. “Obviously a very dangerous guy. He’s right up there with a lot of the other great running quarterbacks in the league right now,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “We’ve seen a couple this year, but he’s doing a phenomenal job right now of just turning those really nothing plays into some really big or just huge plays for the offense.’’

3. Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and quarterback Matthew Stafford have to find a way to beat the Bills’ passing defense which has held teams to less them 170 passing yards for five straight games (winning two of them). Stafford threw for just 101 yards on Sunday in the win over Arizona, his lowest output of the season. He’s averaging 245.2 yards per game. Stafford has been limited in practice all week but will play through his back pain. Wide receiver Bruce Ellington, who has stepped up with Marv Jones Jr., out, will not play due to a hamstring injury.

4. Running back Kerryon Johnson will miss his fourth straight game, but the Lions have run for more than 100 yards in each of the three games without him using a combination of LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner. It will be interesting to see if Zenner gets more opportunity after a solid effort in the win at the Cardinals (12 carries, 54 yards, 1 touchdown).

5. The Lions defense has been playing well overall and must keep it up despite playing without defensive ends Ziggy Ansah (who is done for the season) and Da’Shawn Hand (knee). These Bills can’t be taken lightly.

PREDICTION: Lions 24, Bills 21

Lions running back Zach Zenner makes most of his 12 carries in win at Cardinals

Scored first touchdown in 14 monthes

Zach Zenner snapped his 14-month scoreless streak when he ran in from 1 yard out for a touchdown in Sunday’s 17-3 win over the Cardinals at Arizona. His last touchdown had been on Oct. 5, 2017, in a loss to Carolina.

It’s not that the Detroit Lions running back gets many opportunities. Typically he does not. In the other four games he’s played on offense this season he’s had a combined four carries. He’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

Zenner’s dozen carries on Sunday were the most for him since the 2016 season when he had three games with 12 or more touches. In the final two regular season games that year he had a combined 32 carries and three touchdowns. In the playoff loss at Seattle he had 11 touches.

Seven of his 12 carries at Arizona came in a four-minute, fourth-quarter drive where the Lions were trying to eat up the clock. Zenner was responsible for 42 of the 75 yards on that drive and the touchdown that put the game out of touch for the Cardinals.

“I think Zach, again, he’s one of those guys that does a phenomenal job of just preparing and being ready to go, whatever the situation is. He goes out and plays a lot of special teams for us and he does a lot of different things that can help us win or can help us win in special teams and also on the offensive side of the ball,’’ coach Matt Patricia said on his Monday conference call. “So, certainly he had an opportunity to go out and have a couple plays, which he did really well.’’

Zenner also plays on special teams where he was in on 71 percent of the special teams snaps on Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

An undrafted free agent signed in 2015, he was let go with an injury settlement in early September this year. When he wasn’t working on getting his back healthy, he was studying for his medical school entrance exam and hoping for a phone call. When his back was healed and he was ready to go, the Lions brought him back.

Good thing, since Kerryon Johnson has missed the last three games due to a knee injury. Zenner is not LeGarrette Blount or Theo Riddick, but he can be effective when he gets a chance. Funny how that goes.

Five reasons Detroit Lions beat Arizona Cardinals, 17-3

Detroit’s effective run game was key

Yikes. It was not pretty, but the Detroit Lions snapped their two-game losing streak with a 17-3 win at the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Detroit’s defense was key, holding Arizona to a field goal.

When the Cardinals came within a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Lions ran downfield, eating up clock and finishing with a Zach Zenner touchdown run.

Neither offense could get much going. The Lions finished with 218 total yards while it was 279 for the Cardinals.

The Lions are now 5-8 in Matt Patricia’s first season, while the Cardinals drop to 3-10.

Five reasons the Lions won:

1. The injury-riddled defense was solid, holding the Cardinals to just a field goal and rattling rookie quarterback Josh Rosen. Larry Fitzgerald was held to five catches (77 yards) while running back David Johnson had just 15 carries for 49 yards. The Cardinals managed just 73 yards of offense in the first half. Detroit linebacker Jarrad Davis was a standout with a sack, two tackles for loss, one pass defense, one quarterback hit and eight tackles.

2. Cornerback Darius Slay’s interception and return for touchdown in the third quarter, gave the Lions a 10-0 cushion. It was Slay’s first career pick-six and his third interception this season. He also broke up a potential touchdown catch by Larry Fitzgerald in the fourth quarter. It was one of his three pass defenses.

3. Matthew Stafford (15-23, 101 yards) played just well enough to win, but it was the effective running game that was key. The Lions had 122 rushing yards — led by Zach Zenner with 54 yards and LeGarrette Blount with 33 yards. Stafford’s aching back limited him in practice last week. It didn’t affect his arm strength — he threw deep downfield, but couldn’t connect on one longer than 17 yards.

4. It must say something that the Lions could win despite an incredible number of injures, most forcing players from the game. That includes Ziggy Ansah (shoulder), Da’Shawn Hand knee), Bruce Ellington (hamstring), Charles Washington (hamstring), Marcus Cooper (back), Rick Wagner (concussion), Nick Bellore, Luke Willson and Damon “Snacks” Harrison. Next man up, indeed.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

5. It was a win. It was kind of ugly (really dreadful in the first half) but the Lions hung in there so there’s something that should be said for it.

NEXT UP: Lions (5-8) at Buffalo Bills (4-9), at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 16.