Five reasons the Detroit Lions beat the Dolphins, 32-21, at Miami

Run game, led by Kerryon Johnson, was stellar

That was easy.

The Lions handed the Miami Dolphins their first home loss this season, winning 32-21 on Sunday in steamy Miami Gardens.

Amazing what a successful run game can do for an offense. Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter looked like a genius and quarterback Matthew Stafford had one of his more efficient games.

It was the first road win for the Lions who are now 3-3 and riding a two-game win streak.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Temps in the high 80s (and higher in the sun on the Lions’ bench) did not seem to be a factor. The Lions could not afford to wilt in the fourth quarter and they didn’t.

Five reasons the Lions won:

1. The run game. The run game. The run game. The Lions rushed for 248 yards, the most since Nov. 13, 1994 when they had 293 yards against Tampa. Barry Sanders had 237 rushing yards that day. On Sunday, rookie Kerryon Johnson finished with 158 yards, including a 71-yard scamper. He averaged 8.3 yards per carry. LeGarrette Blount had 10 carries for 50 yards and a touchdown. Long runs, short runs, they ran it all. The Lions have worked toward establishing a run game and there have been some strong hints it was coming, it arrived in Miami. Prior to the game the Dolphins defense was allowing 118.2 rushing yards per game.

2. Matthew Stafford completed 18 of 22 passes for 217 yards. Stafford was a mess in Week 1 with one touchdown and four interceptions. But since then, he has one interception and 11  touchdowns, including two touchdowns in Miami. He completed passes to eight teammates. He didn’t even connect with Kenny Golladay until the second half. One touchdown pass to Golladay was negated by a holding penalty by Frank Ragnow. Tight end Michael Roberts had three receptions for 48 yards – two of them were for touchdowns.

3. Detroit’s defense which has been improving against the run, had a solid effort again. They held Frank Gore to 29 rushing yards. The 14-year veteran had averaged 48 yards per game this season. Miami’s Kenyan Drake’s 54-yard touchdown scamper was the longest that the Lions allowed. This is a huge step forward for the defense which seems to be adjusting to Matt Patricia’s changes. It was kind of ugly at first. They allowed a combined 259 rushing yards in the first two games, both losses. Detroit outran Miami 248 to 107 yards.

4. Miami backup quarterback Brock Osweiler completed 71 percent of his passes and threw for a pair of touchdowns, but he was sacked four times and often under pressure. Ricky Jean Francois, who was playing in his hometown, had two of those sacks. It wasn’t an awful game for the backup, but Detroit’s defense held him in check after he had passed for 380 yards the previous game. So much for the talk of “Brock-tober.”

5. Matt Prater was perfect three of three on field goals, including a 50-yarder late in the fourth quarter. It was the kicker’s best game this season.

UP NEXT: The Lions play the Seattle Seahawks (3-3) at Ford Field at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28. The Seahawks will be coming off their bye week.

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Five things to watch as the Lions play at the Miami Dolphins; plus prediction

Dolphins are 3-0 at home

Much has been made about today’s weather forecast in Miami which is expected to reach 87 hot and humid degrees.

The visitors bench at Hard Rock Stadium gets the sun unlike the home team.

“We’re not going down there to play against the weather, we’re going to play the Dolphins we have to make sure we’re ready to go,’’ safety Glover Quin said.

The Lions (2-3) are winless on the road while the Dolphins (4-2) are 3-0 at Hard Rock Stadium.

If the Lions are going to get back on track this season and somehow improve on last season’s 9-7 record, today is the time to get started.

“We just have to play good football. I think that’s our mindset, is do everything we can, prepare as hard as we can to play good football on Sunday and that’s what it boils down to,’’ Matthew Stafford said. “The games that we’ve won we’ve played well, the games that we haven’t we did not play well. So, it’s on us to go out there, have that sense of urgency and play well.”

Here are five things to watch:

1. The defense must stop Frank Gore (in his 14th season) who averages 4.9 yards per carry as the Dolphins top running back. “Frank has done an unbelievable job of taking care of his body and just executing at a high level for a long time. I know him really well,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “He’s a competitive guy, he’s a tough guy. He really loves the game of football. And he has an edge about him that has just been able to kind of carry him all the way through his career.’’ The Lions’ rushing defense tightened up a bit in the win against the Packers, but must continue that trend on Sunday.

2. Rattle quarterback Brock Osweiler who was announced as the starting quarterback on Wednesday with Ryan Tannehill injured. While many of the yards were after the catch, Osweiler passed for 380 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in the 31-28 win over the Bears last week. “He’s got a big arm, he can throw the ball, their offense they like to throw the ball deep, they’ve got fast guys he can definitely do that,’’ Quin said. The Lions will once again be playing without defensive end Ziggy Ansah who has been declared out with a shoulder injury.

3. The Lions third-down defense has excelled and needs to continue. “You’ve got to have a good scheme and you’ve got to be able to execute it. Like I said, for us it’s about understanding what teams are going to try to do against us, what different players like to do, figure a way to take that away on third downs,’’ Quin said. “… For us we have to be on the same page we have to be locked in and clued in to all the same things so we can execute at a high level.’’

4. Getting off to a fast start so important for both teams. In their win over the Packers on Oct. 7, the Lions took a 24-0 lead at the half. It didn’t guarantee a win but changed the way they played in the second half.

5. The Lions run game has to continue the upward trajectory. Theo Riddick (knee) is out. Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount do what they do but they also can catch the ball out of the backfield so they’ll likely get more snaps with Riddick’s absence.

PREDICTION: Dolphins 27, Lions 24.

Detroit Lions wide receiver trio takes a certain pride in run blocking

Tate, Golladay, Jones contribute to improved run game

ALLEN PARK — Robert Prince, the Detroit Lions wide receivers coach, knows his group is loaded with talent.

The skillsets of Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr., and Kenny Golladay complement each other and they all have developed good communication with quarterback Matthew Stafford. The trio accounts for nine of the Lions 10 passing touchdowns in the first five games.

Prince wants receivers who are well-rounded.

Proof? Tate set a key block on Sunday during LeGarrette Blount’s second touchdown in the 31-23 win over the Green Bay Packers.

“It’s a game plan thing. It depends on what they are going to do. I feel like Coach Prince, our position coach, prepares us moreso for the run blocking than he does the passes at times,’’ Tate said on Monday.

He wasn’t kidding.

“It’s so important and he knows we all can run routes, he knows we all can catch, he knows we all can block as well, but when a receiver goes in and makes a key block to help a big first down or touchdown I think he gets more excited about that, showing that to the other coaches and Bob Quinn in front of the offensive linemen and running backs, than us going out and catching a touchdown. That’s what we’re supposed to do I guess,’’ Tate said.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Improving the run game was a huge focus entering this season. Credit rookie Kerryon Johnson and the veteran Blount with providing a one-two punch that has the Lions averaging 4.3 yards per carry (tied for 13th in the NFL) and 97.2 rushing yards per game (21st in NFL).

Credit the wide receivers with pitching in on run blocks.

“The way defenses are playing now days, when you have a run game they bring those safeties in the box and they read the run pretty danged well. Sometimes they have an extra guy and you need the receiver to go in through certain linemen or just find a way to get on them,’’ Tate said. “A lot of times that is the block that springs a 7- or 10-yard run or even break a 50-yarder or a run at the goal line. It’s very important especially in this offense. It’s something I know that Bob Quinn looks for in a receiver — a guy who can catch the ball but also can do the dirty work.’’

Funny he used the words “dirty work” — the exact words coach Matt Patricia used to describe Tate’s efforts to help block the run.

“He’s usually closer to the formation being in his normal alignment so he kind of has to dig some of those guys out and get in there pretty quick, which he does a good job of,’’ Patricia said.

The wide receivers take a certain pride in this phase of their work.

“It’s not difficult, but you have to be in the right mind frame, if you’re not you’re not going to block effectively, especially when you’re blocking somebody 250 or 200-and-whatever (pounds). You have to be in the right mind frame, you have to do your job,’’ Jones said. “We have the receivers to do it. I don’t think it’s been that hard, we just have to do it.’’

Lions WR Kenny Golladay comes up big in NFC North win over Packers

His touchdown in the fourth was key

DETROIT >> Kenny Golladay is not a big talker. Doesn’t matter much since the Lions wide receiver lets his actions speak for him.

Golladay had four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown in the Lions’ 31-23 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Ford Field.

“Like I have been saying, whenever my number is called, I’m just trying to make the play,’’ Golladay said. “So if they want to throw it to me five times or four times a game or nine times a game, I just want to make all the plays.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

His touchdown came early in the fourth quarter on a second-and-five play from the Green Bay 5-yard line while covered by cornerback Josh Jackson. It was a beauty of a play as he jumped up for the ball in the back of the end zone. Without missing a beat, after he caught it, he zinged the ball into the crowd.

In his second season, his relationship with quarterback Matthew Stafford continues to grow.

“He’s obviously a big kid (6-foot-4), physical kid, can run, wants to be a really good player. Smart, has dialogue with me. All of our guys do, really, which is great,’’ Stafford said. “What they’re seeing out there, what they think we can do — so, I’m just happy for our team to get a win. Obviously happy for Kenny. He had a good one.”

Along with Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr., the Lions have one of the best receiving trios in the NFL. They can’t all have big numbers each game, but it works.

“This is just a game of matchups. Last week, GT (Golden Tate) went for 100 and whatever, this week Kenny had a big one. Marv (Marvin Jones Jr.) will have a big one next week. That’s what makes this offense difficult to defend, we have a lot of guys that can make plays,’’ Stafford said. “I was happy that Kenny had some opportunities today and made some big ones. I had a couple chances at some others and for one reason or another those got called back or whatever. So, just proud of the way we fought as a team. Kenny obviously had a nice game.”

In the first five games this season, Golladay has 27 catches for 428 yards and three touchdowns. Tate has 33 receptions for 431 yards and three touchdowns. Jones had 16 catches for 241 yards and three touchdowns.

Five reasons the Lions beat the Packers

Stafford: A total team win

DETROIT — The Lions’ offense was good but not spectacular, the defense shut down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers for a half and special teams had a good day.

It was the perfect equation for the Lions’ 31-23 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Ford Field.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford called it a “total team win.’’ It is exactly what this team strives for every week but it doesn’t always happen.

The Lions now own a 2-3 record, (1-0 in the NFC North) heading into their bye week.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Oddly enough Detroit has beaten two of the best quarterbacks (Tom Brady and Rodgers) and fallen short against lesser teams.

“I think I’ve said it for forever and you guys hate hearing it. You have to prove it every week,’’ Stafford said. “And we’ve been close in a couple other games too, and just haven’t gotten it done at the end of the game. So, proud of our guys for getting it done at the end of the game.’’

In other words, it’s the NFL.

The Lions jumped out to a 24-0 lead at the half. Yet everyone knew the game was just getting interesting.

Five reasons the Lions hung on to win:

1. Packers kicker Mason Crosby missed four straight field goals and a point-after attempt. The first three misses were from 38, 41 and 42 yards — chip shots. The fourth was from 56 yards. He finally made a 41-yarder when it was so late it didn’t matter. Had he been on his game, the Packers could have won. “So, this one unfortunately was really bad and going to have to really look at this one, and you know this one hurts a bunch.  I left a lot of points on the field for this team and I’m disappointed in my performance,” Crosby said. “And, this is, I look back, I’m thinking in my childhood, you know high school, this is definitely a lot worse.  I’m bummed about that.”

2. The Lions secondary was a patched-up group thanks to injuries and yet effective. Tavon  Wilson was inactive, Darius Slay was injured in the second half but able to return and Jamal Agnew was carted off the field with a knee injury in the fourth quarter. Aaron Rodgers threw for 141 yards in the first half but wasn’t able to get the Packers on the board. In the second quarter he threw a 30-yard bomb to Davante Adams to get to Detroit’s 9-yard line but Detroit’s defense held and Crosby missed the field goal. Rodgers scored touchdowns on the first three possessions of the second half. But then a huge stop came on third-and-15 from Detroit’s 38, forcing a field goal attempt that was missed.

3. Aaron Rodgers was sacked three times and lost two fumbles. It appears the Matt Patricia defense is starting to click. Rodgers can make defenses look weak but Detroit found a way to pressure him. He finished with 442 passing yards and three touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough. Rodgers was taken off the injury list this week, but he was missing two of his best receivers in Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison. Also the Packers rushed for just 98 yards against the Lions’ rushing defense which is the worst in the NFL. “Defense is hard. It’s always hard every single week going against great quarterbacks, schemes, coaches. They do a phenomenal job and we’re just trying to dial it in,’’ Patricia said. “I think the biggest thing for us is some continuity. Maybe a little bit of continuity here the last couple games, which is good. That helps the communication from that aspect of it.’’

4. Even though they had a 24-0 lead at the half, the Lions’ offense remained aggressive in the second half. That was the plan. Stafford said he and Jim Bob Cooter talked throughout about remaining aggressive. Stafford finished 14 of 26 for 183 yards, two touchdowns and a 101.9 rating. The offense can play to its strengths when playing with a lead. “This is the way you want to play the game, out in front and to not have to come back. I just think that we had a great week of practice and it showed in the game,’’ Stafford said. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay had the gaudy numbers with four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown.

5. Once again, the run game helped balance the offense. Veteran running back LeGarrette Blount was signed as a short-yardage back and he got the job done on Sunday. He ran for a yard to convert a third-and-1 and then rammed through for a one-yard touchdown run early in the first quarter. He had a dozen carries for 22 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson’s first scamper was for 16 yards and he finished with a dozen carries for 70 yards (5.8 yards per carry). Johnson injured his ankle early in the fourth after a 24-yard run that led to Stafford’s 5-yard pass to Kenny Golladay for a touchdown to vie the Lions a 31-14 lead. His ankle was taped up but he didn’t get back into the game.

Five things to watch as Lions face Packers in crucial NFC North match-up

A loss would drop Detroit to 1-4

ALLEN PARK — It is huge. The Lions face the Green Bay Packers in their first NFC North game this season on Sunday at Ford Field.

“Division games they count two, so obviously we’re not in the spot where we want to be right now but getting a big division win against GB is huge. We get a win in our column, we’re able to give them a loss in their column. That’s huge,’’ safety Glover Quin said.

Detroit owns a lousy 1-3 record while the Packers stand at 2-1-1 despite the gimpy knee of quarterback Aaron Rodgers who was injured in the opener. This will be Green Bay’s third divisional game — they tied with the Minnesota Vikings and beat the Chicago Bears.

If Detroit drops to 1-4, the season isn’t over but even making it to 8-8 would be challenging. And remember this is a team that finished 9-7 last season which resulted in the firing of Jim Caldwell. General manager Bob Quinn said at the time he thought they were better than 9-7 so he hired Matt Patricia.

And here we are.

Five things to watch as the Lions face the Packers:

1. Even on one leg, Aaron Rodgers has been effective throwing seven touchdowns against just one interception. His top three wide receivers have been on the injury list this week — Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison are questionable while Randall Cobb has been ruled out. “(Rodgers) will be moving around very fast. He’s an extremely athletic player even if you go back to the Washington game where you can say he wasn’t moving as well but he still scrambled and ran for first downs on third down and no one could catch him,’’ Patricia said. “So, this guy is very dangerous when he’s out in space. This guy can make and create a lot of plays not only with his arm, but with his legs.’’ Rodgers is 13-3 against the Lions and, of course, threw the Hail Mary game-winning touchdown pass in 2015 that took the air out of Ford Field.

2. The Lions have not been able to stop the run. Period. They rank 32nd in the NFL allowing 157.8 rushing yards per game. There really is no excuse. Safety Glover Quin this week said they’ve had too many missed tackles, among other issues. He said more film work and concentrating on this in practice is the way to improve. Packers running backs Jamaal Williams, Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones were watching film too. “They do a really good job of creating space and separation in the defensive front and a little bit of a zone and stretch run team. Those guys are very explosive backs that do a good job of getting into the secondary very quickly,’’ Patricia said. “And the guys up front do a real good job blocking and obviously the backs are taking advantage of that and finding space. But, definitely a big part of their offense is their ability to run the ball, which obviously opens up the rest of it for them in the passing game.’’

3. Matthew Stafford needs five passing touchdowns to become the all-time leader in that category against the Packers. Five in one game would be a ton, but it shows that he has had success moving the offense against the Packers, if not beating them. Currently Johnny Unitas is tops with 34 touchdowns and Fran Tarkenton is second with 33. Stafford has been on solid ground after the opener when he threw four interceptions. For the first time in his career, Stafford will be facing the Packers with a defensive coordinator not named Dom Capers. Mike Pettine has taken over the Packers’ defense. “I wouldn’t say it was easier (with Capers), but I was more familiar with what they were all about. Obviously, (they have) a new defensive coordinator this year so I have quite a bit of learning to do on these guys,’’ Stafford said. “Do I know a few of their players maybe better than some non-divisional opponents? Yes, but they have plenty of new guys around, too, to get to know and to learn.”

4. Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson was limited to nine carries last week in the loss at Dallas. There’s clamoring from the Lions’ faithful that he needs to get more touches, but the Lions’ coaches will continue with their plan for the rookie. “Every game’s a little different. You don’t know situationally what’s going to happen with each game from a reps perspective, from a situational perspective, from a match-up perspective,’’ Patricia said. “So, the ultimate goal is just to win the game. That’s the goal each week. That’s what we put all our thought into, all our work into and that’s the emphasis for us.”

5. Injuries will affect both teams. The Lions have ruled out Ziggy Ansah, T.J. Lang and Michael Roberts while the list of questionable players is long. Defensive back Quandre Diggs has been practicing with a cast on his broken left hand so would not be a surprise if he plays. The Packers have ruled out Randall Cobb, but have a half-dozen listed as questionable. Tight end Jimmy Graham and Aaron Rodgers were taken off the injury report.

Prediction: Packers 27, Lions 24

Lions prepare for Green Bay Packers, gimpy-yet-effective Aaron Rodgers

It’s first NFC North contest for Detroit

ALLEN PARK — When the Detroit Lions beat the Packers twice in 2017, it was worth noticing. While there was no asterisk, there was no Aaron Rodgers on the field either.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback owns a 13-3 career record against the Lions. One of the most vivid memories of seeing Rodgers at Ford Field was his 61-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass with no time left on the clock to beat the Lions on Dec. 3, 2015.

Rodgers, his gimpy knee and the Packers (2-1-1) will play the Lions (1-3) In a NFC North divisional contest at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Ford Field.

Lions coach Matt Patricia has nothing but praise for Rodgers, who ranks No. 1 in NFL history in career passer rating (103.6).

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

“A guy who does a great job of studying the game, and you keep mixing different looks at him but he does a good job of really identifying what it is and attacking the defenses,’’ Patricia said of Rodgers on Wednesday.

Rodgers injured his knee in the opener, a win over the Chicago Bears. On a conference call on Wednesday, Rodgers said he was not practicing but hoped to go on Thursday. He hasn’t missed a start this season and, in fact, after he was carted off with that injury he returned to the game.

“I didn’t necessarily feel great last week. I went through practice on Thursday and Saturday, but I felt really good on game day. I’m not regressing but I’m not taking huge leaps week-to-week. It’s just kind of small,’’ Rodgers said on a Wednesday conference call. “When the adrenaline kicks in on game day, I’ve felt a little better the last couple games.”

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he thinks he’s played well since the injury.

“I think each week, it’s like anything, you get a little more comfortable playing and calling the game and doing the things that you need to focus on,’’ McCarthy said.

Even with Rodgers at less than 100 percent, the Packers have scored seven of their nine touchdowns in the air with one rushing and one on a return.

McCarthy said the run-pass balance is a game-to-game decision. He didn’t say if the Packers would take to the ground more often against the Lions’ rushing defense which is ranked dead last in the NFL allowing 157.8 rushing yards per game.

“(Rodgers) is  super competitive — never really wants to stay from anything, I just think it’s part of his nature. So, that’s the challenge that you have sometimes as the play caller because you have to be smart, I think that’s understood,’’ McCarthy said. “If anything, if there has been a time during these last couple games where I may have been conservative it was — I think it’s natural to go down that road sometimes. He’s getting better each and every week, and that’s what’s most important for him.”

Rodgers expects the best from himself and his offense. He didn’t feel he got it last week in the 22-0 win over Buffalo even though the Packers finished with 423 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns on their first three drives.

“I think the most important thing is — he’s super competitive. I think we all feel the same way when it comes to games and when you go out there and see you see opportunities and sometimes emotion pushes forward,’’ McCarthy said. “I didn’t feel great about our offensive performance when I walked off the field Sunday myself, too.’’

Rodgers will be the top quarterback the Lions’ revamped Patricia-style defense has faced. The quarterback can see the differences in Detroit from watching film.

“Following (Patricia) in New England I always enjoyed watching them. We played against them one time back in 2014 and him and Bill (Belichick) just always put together a fantastic plan. They’re great at adjustments. They try to take away what you do best and make you go to your third and fourth options to try and beat them and they adjust on the fly very quickly,’’ Rodgers said. “So, it’s a different looking defense from that standpoint and I’m sure they’re going to continue to expand their scheme as the season goes on and those guys get more comfortable in the scheme.”