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)

 

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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.

Detroit Lions lose to L.A. Rams: Five things to know about loss

Defense solid but not quite good enough

DETROIT — It was a game not new to the Lions. They held on against a tough opponent, kept it close until the fourth quarter and then couldn’t get across the finish line.

Sunday’s 30-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams dropped the Lions to 4-8 with losses in five of their last six games.

You know what they said afterward about needing to improve as a team moving forward. It’s been said in eight post-game press conferences this season.

“Give the Rams credit. That’s a really good team over there. They’re very explosive, very dynamic, and I think we tried to be in it all the way through it,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “Obviously, we didn’t get it done in the end.”

Five things to know about the loss:

1. The defense actually played pretty well through most of the game. Defensive back Quandre Diggs had a solid game with an interception, two pass defenses and six tackles. He wasn’t alone. Damon Harrison and Eli Harold each sacked quarterback Jared Goff. And, at least in the first half, running back Todd Gurley was kept in control. Although he finished with 23 carries for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

2. Matthew Stafford kept the offense moving until late in the game. He was 20 of 33 for 245 yards, one touchdown and an interception in the end zone trying to make a play with 11 seconds left in the game. But when he was sacked by Aaron Donald in the fourth quarter, he couldn’t hold onto the ball, fumbled it and the Rams were able to recover at Detroit’s 24-yard line. Three plays later Gurley scampered in for a touchdown to put the Rams up 23-13 with 6:53 left. It was a killer play.

3. Fans were booing loudly when on a third-and-19 in the third quarter, Theo Riddick ran a draw play. It seems to happen quite often that the coaches are so conservative on third-down plays. The Lions settled for a field goal on that drive after Riddick picked up 8 yards. On a third-and-13 in the fourth quarter, Stafford passed short right to Bruce Ellington for 5 yards. It’s not just in this game, either. This is a theme with the coaching calls on third down.

4. Tight end Levine Toilolo stepped up with four catches for 90 yards. He caught one for 22 yards on a first-and-20 in the third quarter on a drive that led to a Matt Prater field goal. Then on the Lions’ next possession he caught one deep down the middle for 39 yards, getting Detroit to the Rams’ 23-yard line. Three plays later left tackle Taylor Decker caught a touchdown pass.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

5. Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh seemed to be quite fired up for this game, his first return to Ford Field since he signed as a free agent in 2015 and left town. Suh finished with six tackles (his season high is nine) and no sacks. He was whistled twice for personal fouls. With 1:41 left in the game and the Rams leading 30-16, Suh was penalized for roughing the passer. Inexcusable. Stafford was asked if his former teammate had anything to say to him: “Nope.” Then he was asked if he said anything to Suh. “Nope.” End of story.

NEXT UP: Lions at Arizona Cardinals (3-9) at 4:25 p.m. on Dec. 9. The Cardinals upset the Packers at Green Bay, 20-17, on Sunday.

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions host the Los Angeles Rams

Ndamukong Suh makes first return visit to Ford Field

A young coach, a balanced offense with a solid quarterback and a defensive line featuring Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. The combination has spelled success for the Los Angeles Rams and why wouldn’t it? Any NFL team would like to have some or most of those components.

That includes the Detroit Lions (4-7) who will host the Rams (10-1) on Sunday.

“They’re a very balanced offense and I think something we talk about all the time, that when you can be balanced on offense, it’s very difficult to defend and they’ve done a great job of that all year,’’ coach Matt Patricia said.

The Lions will have their hands full in all three phases.

“One of the things that’s really important with this team is just understanding how good they are on special teams and how good they are defensively. I think John Fassel does a phenomenal job on special teams. It’s one of the most dominant units in the league,’’ Patricia said. “They’re very consistent and they really make big plays.’’

Five things to watch:

1. Somehow, some way the Lions must get their run game going even without running back Kerryon Johnson who will miss his second straight game with a knee injury. LeGarrette Blount was the workhorse in the Thanksgiving loss to the Bears with 19 carries for 88 yards. “I think for our guys, we’re always on the program of whoever’s out there playing, we’re expecting everybody to do their best and go out and perform at a high level. We’ll do the same this weekend,’’ Patricia said.

2. Can’t overlook the Lions’ passing game either. Marvin Jones is out for the season, leaving Kenny Golladay, Bruce Ellington, TJ Jones, Theo Riddick  and the tight ends to pitch in. Matthew Stafford needs a better game, but he also needs his receivers to get open and run the right routes. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said the shortcomings on offense are all on him. “It’s a team game. We have 11 guys out there. We all have to execute and be on the same page. A lot of that stuff’s on me. You guys at home don’t always know exactly what’s going on on the field. I’m accountable for everything that happens on this offense. Bad things that happen, things that don’t happen right, whether it’s a decision or being in a different spot, or some sort of decision somebody out there on the field is making that maybe isn’t even seen on the TV copy of the game. That stuff’s all on me,’’ Cooter said this week.

3. Stop running back Todd Gurley, the NFL’s second most prolific back. The Lions run defense has been one of the few units that has improved this season, holding teams to a total of 148 rushing yards combined over the last three games. (See blog below.)

4. Pressure quarterback Jared Goff (26 touchdowns, 6 interceptions) who has been sacked 24 times. He’s got a flotilla of solid receivers in Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. “They’re a very explosive team. They do a great job with the scheme. Coach (Sean) McVay does an outstanding job of controlling the game on the offensive side of the ball with tempo. They use different tempos, they probably have about three or four different tempos that they can use offensively to dictate the game. So, we just have to do a good job of being really sound fundamentally and making sure that we’re doing a good job with our reads and our eye control.

5. Ndamukong Suh will return for his first game at Ford Field since he signed as a free agent with Miami in 2015. He and defensive tackle Aaron Donald are a powerful inside force that could present problems for the Lions’ offensive line and Stafford.

PREDICTION: Rams 35, Lions 17

 

Detroit Lions run defense faces next challenge in Rams’ Todd Gurley

Damon Harrison’s presence beneficial against the run

ALLEN PARK — While the Detroit Lions have struggled, losing four of their last five games, their run defense has been the one bright spot.

Their next challenge is Todd Gurley and the Los Angeles Rams (10-1) on Sunday at Ford Field.

Gurley ranks second in the NFL with 1,043 rushing yardsm averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He’s scored 13 rushing  touchdowns and has also caught 43 passes for 441 yards and four more touchdowns.

“Todd Gurley is one of the best backs in the League. This guy’s phenomenal. So, it’s a big challenge for us. And then obviously, the other skill players that they have,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said.

In the past three games the Lions’ defense has given up just 148 total rushing yards. In that span they haven’t given up a run of more than 10 yards. They played solid running teams — Chicago twice with Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard and Carolina with Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey.

“It’s been a great job and all those games we’ve for the most part given ourselves an opportunity to win. That’s always the goal to stop the run game,’’ safety Glover Quin said.

A number of factors play into the improvement.

“We’ve tackled well, we’ve had great play up front. Our D-line has been playing phenomenal, our linebackers have been playing phenomenal. As a secondary we’ve made tackles when we had to,’’ Quin said. “You look at a lot of the games we played in … we’ve been playing great in the run game and then we give up one run for 60 or 70 yards and it kills all the averages. We’ve been playing solid run defense for a while this year, these last few weeks we haven’t given up any big runs.’’

There is another major difference too.

His name is Damon “Snacks” Harrison. The veteran defensive tackle was acquired in a trade with the Giants on Oct. 25. In his five games with the Lions, he has 2.5 sacks, 26 tackles and four quarterback hits.

“I think he makes a difference, he’s a big-time player in the middle, he’s a big-time run stopper. So when an offense knows they have to block him a certain way or put a certain amount of guys on him that frees up other guys to get one on ones in different situations,’’ Quin said. “So pretty sure he changes the clocking schemes for a lot of those teams, when they don’t block him or when they try to single him he makes the plays.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Patricia notes that it’s a team effort but does agree Harrison has made a difference.

“I would say with Damon, (he’s) obviously done a great job for us helping us inside and really, just seeing a guy that has great experience be in the middle. (He’s) seen a lot of different blocks, has seen a lot of different schemes, and maybe helps settle some things down for some of the younger players that we are trying to play with out there and some of the new guys with the scheme,’’ Patricia said. “Harrison’s familiar with the techniques that we use because he’s been coached similarly in the past with some of the same techniques. So, from that standpoint, it’s been beneficial to have his experience out on the field.”