Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford feels good, not concerned about back issues

ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford said he’ll be ready to go for the offseason workouts.

The Detroit Lions quarterback is not worried about his back injury so he’s not sure why it should be an issue going forward.

“I’m not concerned about it, that should make people feel good. I’m the one living with the back. I feel very good about it,’’ Stafford said on Monday during the team locker clean-out period.

The 31-year-old quarterback missed the final eight games of the season with broken bones in his back. Sounds like the same back injury as a year ago, but he said it is not.

He’s confident the back won’t be an issue going forward because of how he feels right now. 

Stafford was off to a hot start — on pace for nearly 5,000 passing yards — before he was injured in the loss at the Oakland Raiders. 

He said the offense under new coordinator Darrell Bevell felt like a good fit. 

“Felt like we were doing some good things, obviously always room for improvement but I was liking the direction we were going in,’’ Stafford said.

He wouldn’t project on when he could play but said he is throwing the ball.

“I feel really good which is good. I’ve had quite a bit of rest and I think I’ll be feeling really, really good pretty darn soon to tell you the truth,’’ Stafford said.

Stafford, who turns 32 in February, just wrapped up his 11th season with the Lions. He doesn’t seem concerned about the window closing on his career. 

“I think every offseason is (important). If I was going to be 29 or 28, I  wouldn’t come into the offseason thinking ‘Oh, I’ve got years,”’ Stafford said. “When we come back here in April and again for training camp we’re trying to win right now. If that’s not our goal every season then I’m missing something because that’s what I think it is.’’

Detroit Lions: Five key moments from 2019 season

It’s over. The Lions’ 3-12-1 record this season was the worst since 2009 when they went 2-14 in Jim Schwartz’s first season trying to bring the franchise back from the infamous 0-16 season.

This season started with promise. Much was expected of the defense, especially the defensive line.

With a new offensive coordinator in Darrell Bevell, the offense was a bit of an unknown. While the Lions had plenty of issues, the offense wasn’t one of them while Matthew Stafford was healthy.

Five key moments from the season:

1. When Matthew Stafford got crunched in the 31-24 loss at the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 3 it changed everything. Stafford, who had started 136 straight games, broke bones in his back and missed the final eight games of the season. Backup QB Jeff Driskel started three games before he was injured. Then rookie David Blough started the final five games. When Stafford went out the Lions were 3-3-1. Without him, they didn’t win another game. He wasn’t the only injured player — there were plenty — but his absence was the most consequential.

2. The fourth-quarter loss to Packers on Oct. 14. The Lions led 22-13 heading into the fourth and then Green Bay’s Allen Lazard caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers with 7:31 left. The Lions could get nothing going when they got the ball back and were forced to punt. Green Bay’s Mason Crosby kicked a 23-yard field goal to win the game with two seconds left on the clock.  It was a gut punch. A win would have given the Lions a 3-1-1 record. Instead they fell to 2-2-1 and could never recover. Oddly enough Crosby’s field goal with time running out on Sunday at Ford Field, gave the Packers a 23-20 win. Green Bay never led in those two games until the field goals.

3. The 34-30 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Ford Field was back in Week 4 but could have shifted the momentum of the season to the Lions’ favor. Again, the Lions led 30-27 with two minutes left but the defense allowed a rushing touchdown that proved to be the game winner. Sense a trend? These Lions were horrid in the fourth quarter on offense and defense. In seven games they held fourth-quarter leads and lost.

4. Safety Quandre Diggs, who had struggled a bit early in the season, was traded to Seattle on Oct. 22. Diggs, who was voted a captain by his teammates, was a leader in the locker room and popular with players on offense too. Yes, the NFL is a business. But the timing of a trade like this was suspect. The Lions were 2-3-1. Lions players were careful to watch their words when speaking of the deal, but it’s clear it was a blow to the defense. This is a trade that could be made by the Patriots without anyone blinking an eye. Once the Lions have won six Super Bowls, maybe that would be the case in Detroit. But not now. The Lions went 1-9 after the Diggs’ trade.

5. Owner Martha Firestone Ford announced on Dec. 17 that GM Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia would return for a third season. She expects the team to be a playoff contender in 2020. This deadline of sorts could definitely affect how they approach free agency and the draft. Mrs. Ford is running out of patience (and who can blame her). The expectations are now clear.

BONUS: Kerryon Johnson played in the first six games before injuring his ankle in the home loss to the Vikings on Oct. 20 and was placed on injured reserve. He was off to a solid start with 308 yards and a pair of touchdowns after missing the final four games of the 2018 season. He came back for the final two games and scored a touchdown in Sunday’s loss to the Packers. Paired with Bo Scarbrough (who emerged after Johnson went on IR) they could be the one-two punch the Lions so desperately need in the run game for next year. There’s always next year.

Detroit Lions wrap up yet another losing decade

Shaping up to be worst season since 2009

If the Detroit Lions lose to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday — and remember they’re 13-point underdogs — this 2019 season will be the worst of this decade for the franchise.

A loss will give the Lions a 3-12-1 record, the least number of wins in this 10-year stretch. 

As we head into 2020, let’s take one last glance at yet another Lions’ decade of futility.

The 72-86-1 record from 2010 through this season so far, included four winning seasons along with two wild-card games under coach Jim Caldwell and one with Jim Schwartz at the helm.

On a positive note, it’s much better than the previous decade (2000-2009) when the Lions posted a 42-118 record with only one winning season (9-7 in 2000) and no trips to the playoffs.

Ten years, zero division titles, three coaches, three general managers, one Matthew Stafford, one Calvin Johnson, more losses than wins and still no playoff victory. 

Stafford and long-snapper Don Muhlbach are the only roster constants since 2010.

Stafford, who turns 32 in February, became one of only five quarterbacks in NFL history to pass for 5,000 yards in a season in 2011 with 5,038 yards. The next season he came up just 23 yards shy of 5,000 despite the fact the team went 4-12. The only two seasons he didn’t reach at least 4,000 yards were in 2018 (3,777 yards) and this year when he played in only eight games (2,499 yards).

Calvin Johnson, a future Hall of Famer, left after nine seasons and 11,619 receiving yards. He finished six straight seasons (2010-15) with at least 1,000 receiving yards shattering all previous franchise records. Like Barry Sanders, Johnson’s gifts were wasted at a time the Lions should have made the most of them. And also like Sanders, he was a joy to watch.

Three coaches defined this decade.

In 2010, the Lions were coming off a 2-14 season and hopes were high that coach Jim Schwartz in his second season would turn the page for the franchise. It was a tough task, rebuilding the roster, adding new schemes and trying to change the culture and reputation of the team still suffering since the 0-16 2008 season.

Schwartz was sent packing with a 27-37 record after the 2013 season. He did start the turn-around from the worst in the league, but did not get the team over the hump and into the land of NFL respectability.

Coach Jim Caldwell (2014-17) owns the only winning record (36-28) of the three coaches in the decade. He guided the Lions to an 11-5 record and wild-card playoff game in his first season (2014). In his four seasons Caldwell led the team to two playoff appearances. After a 9-7 season in 2017 and no playoff berth, he was fired. Lions general manager Bob Quinn said the team was better than its 9-7 record. 

Quinn and Matt Patricia knew each other well from their days with the New England Patriots. Patricia was the well-respected Patriots’ defensive coordinator who had never been a head coach at any level.

So far Patricia is 9-21-1. If they lose to the Packers, the Lions will have three less wins than they did in his first year (6-10).

Certainly improvement was expected, but the defense has been a mess and stands at 29th in the league for yards allowed per game. Still owner Martha Firestone Ford has guaranteed Patricia and Quinn another season to become playoff contenders.

The last playoff win was on Jan. 5, 1992.

The last NFL championship was in 1957.

The Lions’ faithful await as the page turns on yet another disappointing decade.

RECORDS

  • 2010: 6-10
  • 2011: 10-6 (wild-card game)
  • 2012: 4-12
  • 2013: 7-9
  • 2014: 11-5 (wild-card game)
  • 2015: 7-9
  • 2016: 9-7 (wild-card game)
  • 2017: 9-7
  • 2018: 6-10
  • 2019: 3-11-1 (so far)

Bo Scarbrough, Christian Jones among the injured Lions inactive vs. the Bucs

DETROIT — It’s a beat-up Lions squad that takes the field today to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field.

Running back Bo Scarbrough (ribs) is out along with linebacker Christian Jones (shoulder). Jones was working with trainers on the sidelines nearly three hours before kickoff, but obviously wasn’t ready to play.

Five Lions were ruled out on Friday: Quarterback Matthew Stafford (hip/back), linebacker Jarrad Davis (ankle/knee), left guard Joe Dahl (back/knee), defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson (shoulder) and right tackle Rick Wagner (knee). 

Dahl and Davis were placed on injured reserve on Saturday. Running back Wes Hills and offensive tackle Dan Skipper were signed to the active roster from the practice squad.

The other inactives are cornerback Michael Jackson and guard Beau Benzschawel. 

Ten of the Lions’ starters for Week One won’t be on the field today. Nine due to injury and also Quandre Diggs who was traded.

The Lions (3-9-1) have lost six straight and are 2-4 at home this season, while the Bucs (6-7) have won their last three.

David Blough will get his third straight start at quarterback for Detroit.

Five things to watch as Lions limp into contest against Tampa Bay

ALLEN PARK — Ndamukong Suh returns to Ford Field on Sunday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Detroit Lions.

It’s kind of an interesting angle to a game between two lower-echelon NFL teams. The Lions (3-9-1) have lost six straight while Tampa Bay (6-7) has won its last three.

Suh, who left the Lions after the 2014 season, isn’t the biggest threat on the Bucs’ defensive line. That honor goes to Shaq Barrett who has 15 sacks this season compared to 1.5 for Suh. It doesn’t mean Suh is ineffective — his work doesn’t always show up in the stat line but he’s a presence that can’t be overlooked.

“He’s one of the dominant players in the NFL, and I look forward to playing against him,’’ Lions quarterback David Blough said. “I know a lot of the guys (know) he was here and a great player while he was here, and we’ll have our hands full, but we trust our guys, too. So it’ll be a good opportunity for us to block him up and try to throw the ball.”

Five other things to watch:

1. Don’t sleep on the Bucs who started the season 3-7. They’ve won three straight (over Falcons, Jaguars, Colts). “We’ve started to win some close games that we lost earlier in the year because I don’t know if we thought we could actually win them,’’ Bucs coach Bruce Arians said on a conference call. “I think they’re learning how to win.”

2. Quarterback Jameis Winston may be turnover prone with 23 interceptions, but he’s passed for 29 touchdowns this season. “So we have to make sure that we get (touchdowns) stopped first and then just capitalize on those opportunities if we get any of them from that standpoint,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “Certainly, we always work on the fundamentals with that stuff, whether it’s the ball out on the ground, how do we recover it? Are there bodies around? Is it an open space? When the ball is up in the air, high-pointing the ball, how we’re going to catch it, kind of some of those different details of the fundamentals of trying to turn the ball over. Certainly, our first and foremost job will be trying to prevent those big plays that they are hitting downfield.” 

3.  The Bucs own the third-best offense in the NFL, averaging 392.8 yards per game. With Tampa’s Mike Evans likely out, the Lions catch a break but Chris Godwin is the leading receiver with 1,212 yards and nine touchdowns. Tampa averages 298.2 passing yards per game, second in the NFL. Bucs’ running backs Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones could give the Lions’ defense headaches. Between the two of them, the have 11 rushing touchdowns so far. “They’re explosive, and we know that. We trust our guys to put us in a good position on offense, and the offense will be ready to do our part too,’’ Blough said. “I feel like we let our defense down last week. We’ll be ready to go that’s for sure.”

4. David Blough should be feeling more comfortable in his third start. “I think it’s something you get in a routine of. I was Matthew’s (Stafford) and then Jeff’s (Driskel) backup, you know, you prepare the same way every week, so that’s kind of what I try to take in,’’ Blough said. “I try to do the things Matthew did and Jeff did. You just have to lead, be yourself, be genuine, and the guys follow. It’s been great to have their support and them lifting me up and trusting me. I’m learning along the way.”

5. Another game without Stafford, but he’s not the only key player out with injuries. Linebacker Jarrad Davis, guard Joe Dahl, right tackle Rick Wagner and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson are out. Da’Shawn Hand and Marv Jones Jr. were placed on injured reserve this week. The Lions have been beat up physically. It’s time for the younger guys to show what they have.

PREDICTION: Bucs 31, Lions 17 (The Lions’ players need a win to help morale, just not sure they’ll find a way to get it done.)

Lions lose sixth straight, a look at five reasons why it happened

Minnesota Vikings win 20-7

In the first dozen games, at least the Lions had a chance. They only won three of them, but they held leads in all 12.

As former Lions coach Wayne Fontes would say, “At least we’ve got that going for us.”

Well, not so much on Sunday in the 20-7 loss to the Vikings at Minnesota.

A pre-game photo showed owner Martha Ford Firestone on the sidelines prior to the game with a grim look on her face and her arms folded. Her body language screamed displeasure. Can’t imagine what she was thinking when the clock ran out and the dust settled.

Not sure that wholesale changes in the staff would be the cure-all especially at this point with just three games left in the season.

But if Mrs. Ford was thinking about the immediate futures of coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn, certainly Sunday’s performance (or lack of it) could help shape her decision.

The Lions lost their sixth straight, fell to 3-9-1 and are now 0-5 in NFC North contests.

Five reasons the Lions lost:

1. David Blough looked more like a rookie quarterback in this game than he did during his first start on Thanksgiving in the loss to the Bears. He was 24-40 for 205 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Look, this loss is not all on him but he made a few mistakes that were costly. Late in the first half, instead of throwing the ball away on third-and-2 from Minnesota’s 15, he was sacked for a loss of 12 yards. That pushed the field goal attempt to 45 yards instead of 33. Matt Prater kicked it wide right. No word on when or if Matthew Stafford will return this season. 

2. The defense could have been worse, but Kirk Cousins was 12 of 12 for 114 yards and a touchdown on play-action in the first half. This has been an issue with Detroit’s defense all season. Cousins completed 80 percent of his passes (24-30) for 242 yards and one touchdown.The Vikings finished with 354 total yards while the Lions had 231. On a positive note, the Lions’ defense held the Vikings to just 3 second-half points. 

3. Blough was sacked five times, three of them by Danielle Hunter. The fault lies in three places – the offensive line, tight ends (particularly Jesse James on one of the Hunter sacks) and Blough for holding the ball too long. It was a good day for the sack-happy Vikings’ defense. Trey Flowers had Detroit’s only sack. 

4. Coaching. Matt Patricia will take some of the blame, he always does. This team didn’t look prepared to start the game. That’s on coaching. The Lions looked a little better in the second half on both sides of the ball, but obviously it was not enough.

5. The Lions are dealing with injuries. Matthew Stafford’s absence is key, but the defense is hurting (literally) too. A’Shawn Robinson did not play, Jarrad Davis was among those injured during the game. Still, it’s that time of year in the NFL. Injuries are an issue for most NFL teams – dealing with them separates the losers from the winners.

BONUS: Lions now hold the fifth pick in the NFL draft.

NEXT UP: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

Lions notes: Door remains open for Matthew Stafford to return this season

ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford has missed four straight games and coach Matt Patricia said on Monday that he is still week to week with his back injury. 

Even though the Lions have played their way out of the playoffs, that doesn’t mean the Stafford won’t be back. 

Out of respect for Matthew and his competitiveness and what he means to this team and what he brings every single week, we’re just going to kind of take it week-by-week and see what happens from that standpoint,’’ Patricia said.

Stafford loves the game of football, he says it often and it’s genuine. He works hard year-round for a chance to play the games. He told the media weeks ago he realizes every time he takes the field he risks injury. Doesn’t matter, it’s the game he loves. 

Even though he is not able to participate in practice or in games, Stafford remains a factor in helping prepare the young quarterbacks, Jeff Driskel (who has been placed on injured reserve) and David Blough (who started his first game on Thanksgiving).

“I think he’s done a great job go all the way back to when we first started in the spring and him being here with the offseason stuff he had going on, he was really committed to the team,’’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said on Monday. “Now that he’s had this injury and it’s pushed him back again — he’s been here all the time, he’s been in the quarterback room going through the same preparation as if he was playing then helping those younger guys. If you ask Jeff and Dave they’ll tell you how helpful he’s been, he’s in their ear on the sideline, he’s looking through the pictures with them giving them extra coaching points, he’s doing a good job staying engaged.’’

The Lions will likely respect his wishes and let him play again this season but only if he is cleared by the medical staff. At least for now, they’ve left that door open.

Stafford had been playing extremely well even if the team was not making the most of it and winning. In eight games he has thrown for 2,499 yards, 19 touchdowns with just five interceptions. 

FLOWERS SACKS: Trey Flowers has been red-hot with five sacks in the Lions’ last five games (all losses). He’s got six for the season, just 1.5 shy of his career high (7.5) last season with the Patriots. Flowers doesn’t necessarily grade himself by statistics. “I’m very critical of myself and as far as, first of all, if we don’t get the win really nothing else matters. So if I don’t do enough for us to win, then I didn’t do enough to win,’’ Flowers said.

He played the his first four NFL seasons for the Patriots who were 50-14 in the regular season in that stretch. So playing for the Lions (3-8-1) is quite a change.

“It has been frustrating to come in work hard, work hard on the game plan, a lot of guys are working hard in the locker room and to come up short on the weekends is definitely frustrating,’’ Flowers said. “That’s part of this game, you’ve got to find ways to out-execute and out-compete.’’

SEASON OVER: Tight end T.J. Hockenson was placed on injured reserve due to the ankle injury he suffered late in the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Bears. Hockenson, the Lions’ first-round pick, ended the season with 32 receptions for 367 yards and two touchdowns. His first game, the season opener, was his best. That day he had six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. Patricia said it’s not known if Hockenson will need surgery on his ankle.

ADJUSTMENTS: With high-tech notebooks on the sidelines during games, adjustments are made continuously, but halftime adjustments are still key at least to some coaches. ESPN’s Dianna Rossini tweeted about Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s adjustments in Pittsburgh’s win over the Browns.

She wrote: “Spoke to Steeler players about Mike Tomlin. Players on defense pointed to the adjustments made at half. They said he ‘straight up went high school football coach and drew up how they were going to defend Cleveland’ since they Browns showing a different look. ‘He saved the game.’’’

When Patricia was asked about making adjustments on Monday, he said, “I think the in-game adjustments are something that’s critical for us. I think there are games where those have been done at a high level and probably some games that we go back and we look at and say, ‘Of course we should have done this or maybe made this change.’’’

The Lions have led in all 12 of their games at some point, but have only held on for three wins.