Five things to know about Detroit Lions’ 31-26 win over N.Y. Giants

DETROIT — After three straight losses, the Detroit Lions absolutely needed to beat the N.Y. Giants to have a chance to turn the season around.

And so they did.

The Giants hung tough, but Detroit won 31-26 on Sunday at Ford Field. With the Bears’ loss to the Chargers, the Lions (3-3-1) moved up to third in the NFC North.

Detroit’s defense scored first when Devon Kennard returned a fumble for a touchdown. It turned out to be a good sign of things to come.

“It was a lot of fun. It was my first time scoring since high school, so touching the paint and getting in the end zone was a lot of fun for me,’’ Kennard said.

A flea-flicker play that resulted in a 41-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Kenny Golladay provided a little razzle-dazzle, but it was mostly grind-it-out football by both teams.

Five things to know about the win:

1. Stafford’s stellar season continues. He passed for 342 yards (25-32), three touchdowns and one interception. He has thrown for at least three touchdowns in three of the last four games. Stafford led the offense to convert 8-of-14 third-down chances and two of those were scores. Stafford, of course, shines the light on his teammates. “There’s a bunch of great players around me, just trying to get the ball to those guys, they make some great plays and we get in the end zone,’’ Stafford said. “It doesn’t matter to me if I’m throwing it in or we’re running it in I just want to score points, obviously left a few out there today but made enough plays to win the game.’’

2. Golladay’s half-dozen catches for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns were key. Just before the flea-flicker touchdown catch, he caught an 18-yard pass on second-and-9 with his arms totally outstretched and somehow on his way to the turf managed to hold on to the ball. The offense had practiced the flea-flicker —  the handoff to J.D. McKissic, who tossed it back to Stafford, who found Golladay — in the past two weeks. It worked in practice so coordinator Darrell Bevell found the perfect time to put it in play. Golladay’s first touchdown reception came on third-and-2 at the Giants’ 9-yard line. “The defender tried to undercut it, so I pretty much just had to do just hands it and not really let it get too close to him. I just snatched it away, quick turn, and made sure both feet were in,’’ Golladay said. 

3. Detroit’s defense had its hands full with running back Saquon Barkley who not only is a phenomenal runner but can also pick up yards after the catch. Barkley had 19 carries for 64 yards and eight catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. The Lions were able to contain the Giants enough for the win. It was tough late in the game when they lost safety Tracy Walker to a knee injury especially since Darius Slay (hamstring) was inactive and they traded Quandre Diggs earlier in the week. 

4. Defensive end Trey Flowers who had one sack in the first six games had back-to-back sacks in the fourth quarter. The first one came on the Giants’ first-and-10 on Detroit’s 43. Flowers knocked the ball out of quarterback Daniel Jones’ grip but Jones was able to recover for a loss of 10 yards. On the next play Flowers sacked him again for  a 6-yard loss. So Giants went from first and 10 to third-and-26 courtesy of Flowers. It was key because the Giants were down by 12 points but there were six-plus minutes left in the game. “(Credit) to the defense on those plays that allowed me to be able to get back there, and I just made the play when it came to me,’’ Flowers said. “There are a lot of guys on this defense that are capable of doing it, and we’re just going to continue to work.”

5. With Kerryon Johnson on injured reserve, running-back-by-committee looked to be the best option. And it was. But not many expected Tra Carson, who the Lions signed on Oct. 17, to be the starting back. He ran on three of the Lions first plays in their opening possession and gained 23 yards. He finished with a dozen carries for 34 yards. Ty Johnson (7 for 25), Paul Perkins (3 for 4 yards) and McKissic (one for minus-1) also got in on the action.

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face N.Y. Giants at Ford Field

After three straight losses, the Lions face a must-win situation when they face the New York Giants on Sunday at Ford Field.

Must-win in October? Absolutely.

The Lions (2-3-1)  are in the NFC North basement, with two straight division losses. Also they hit the road for the next two weeks — at Oakland on Nov. 3 and at Chicago on Nov. 10.

The Giants (2-5) have won just as many games as the Lions. Think about that.

“We have a big challenge in front of us. I think this is a really good Giants team and I think they’re building confidence as the season goes, and certainly they create a lot of problems on both sides of the ball,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “Offensively, they have some skill players that are just so dangerous, starting obviously with the running back (Saquon) Barkley and the tight end position (Evan) Engram – when you watch him more and more, his speed is really a major issue – especially, down there with a size matchup and stuff. Defensively, the packages that they mix and the pressures, and things like that they are bringing down in the red (zone) area are really hard …’’

Five things to watch:

1. Detroit’s defensive line must play better, get some pressure on rookie quarterback Daniel Jones. Damon “Snacks” Harrison took the blame for the poor play of the defense this week, but it is not just him. Communication and technique are issues that certainly can be fixed, the question is how quickly can this defense turn around. It is ranked 31st overall (allowing 428.7 yards per game.) Patricia is a defensive specialist which makes this all the more surprising. Mike Daniels (foot) remains out, but Da’Shawn Hand is expected to play his first game this season.

2. The Lions secondary will be forced to make adjustments with Darius Slay (hamstring) sidelined and the trade of starting safety Quandre Diggs. Look for Tavon Wilson, along with rookie Will Harris and, possibly C.J. Moore, to see more snaps. Diggs was a leader on and off the field, so his presence will be missed all-around. Patricia mentioned that Miles Killebrew, who mostly plays special teams, could get involved in the defense. They must contain Golden Tate, former Lions’ wide receiver. You can bet Tate will be looking to have a great game. Patricia noted this week that he’s one of the toughest guys in the NFL to tackle. 

3. The Giants’ rookie quarterback Daniel Jones could cause real problems. He’s young so he’ll make mistakes. His stat line of six touchdown passes against seven interceptions is hardly impressive. Still, he should be taken seriously. Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni on Jones: “He’s very, very athletic, he has a very strong arm, he can make all the throws. He can do some real damage – he can do some real damage scrambling and running out of the pocket. They are running the zone-read play. He did do that against Tampa and had one heck of a nice run in the red zone for a touchdown. He’s a really, really, really good player, and I think it’s just he’s a little bit young and trying to get used to playing quarterback in the pocket with the speed and the violence of the game in the NFL.”

4. Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense has been solid but will be challenged without running back Kerryon Johnson who was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic will pick up the slack. Maybe fullback Nick Bawden could get more involved too. Johnson has almost half of the team’s rushing yards — 308 out of 619 — and both of the Lions’ rushing touchdowns. He also ranks sixth in receiving yards with 126. The Diggs trade took much of the spotlight off the bad news regarding the run game which has struggled at times with Johnson healthy. He’s a big loss and coordinator Darrell Bevell must come up with a way to compensate and in a hurry.

5. The fourth-quarter letdowns must end. The Lions have been outscored 38-16 in the fourth quarters of the last three games, all losses. 

PREDICTION: Lions 31, Giants 24 (No excuses, the Lions have to find a way to win this home game.)

Five things to know about Detroit Lions home loss to Minnesota Vikings

Detroit’s defense allowed 503 yards

DETROIT — No blaming officials at Ford Field on Sunday.

The Lions defense had no answer for the Vikings offense in Minnesota’s 42-30 win in the NFC North matchup.

The Vikings’ offense, led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, finished with 503 net yards, 169 of them on the ground. Over the past three weeks Detroit’s defense has given up an average of 462 yards. You don’t win games in the NFL with that stat.

A subdued Matthew Stafford put the blame on his own shoulders but he did as much as he could completing 30 of 45 pass attempts for 364 yards and four touchdown passes.

It is the defense that is clearly the weak point for this 2-3-1 team.

Coach Matt Patricia offered the typical answers for the poor defensive showing: Coach better, be a stickler on fundamentals and execute. 

“In general, a disappointing day for all of us,’’ Patricia said. “We knew on a short week we’d have to come out and play well and play together and do everything we could to win. Thought the guys worked through the course of the week but obviously it didn’t show up here today on Sunday. Need to go back to work, improve, try to get better, get everybody on the field we can. …’’ Really, we’ve heard it all before.

Five things to know about the Lions’ loss.

1. Let’s start with a positive. Detroit wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., who had one touchdown catch in the first five games, had four against the Vikings. “It just kind of happened that way. We go play the game, I try to throw the ball where I think it needs to go,’’ Stafford said. “Marv was doing a good job making some plays. His first touchdown by no means did, when I cut it loose, go, ‘Oh year touchdown.’ He made a great play. Had some contested catches which was awesome. I was really happy for him and wish I could’ve done more.” On that first touchdown it looked like he was headed out of bounds after catching the ball inside the 20, but made a few spin moves and made it into the end zone.

2. Vikings running back Dalvin Cook had an amazing day (25 carries, 142 yards, 2 touchdowns), thanks to the Lions’ weak defense against the run. It’s not like it was a surprise, Cook is one of the stronger backs in the NFL (ranked fourth in the league before Sunday’s game). “Obviously they just did a great job running the ball, they knocked us off the line of scrimmage, we’ve got to get it coached better and we’ve got to play it better and definitely we’ve got to tackle we had some situations there we didn’t finish the plays off,’’ Patricia said. “(Cook is) a great running back, he’s a strong runner we know that, we know he can do a lot of things on the field, we know how dangerous they are in the run game. When you don’t get that settled down then the play action game and the balls downfield are really hard to defend.’’

3. If Patricia had a cure for the defense (not just against the run game) he would have administered it already. Linebacker Devon Kennard said, “… They scored 42 points. I feel like they had their way with us defensively. It’s very frustrating, disappointing and nobody is coming to save us. We have to bond together on defense and figure this thing out and find ways to stop these offenses.” Patricia said he’ll look at everything. “We’ll try to make sure we can settle down and get better at the fundamentals that’s really the biggest thing,’’ Patricia said. He doesn’t see it as a problem with talent, but with a lack of consistency.

4. The Lions run game seemed anemic once again with 81 total rushing yards, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Still, Stafford didn’t see it as a problem. “We were close on a lot of them, Kerryon (Johnson) was dinged up at some point in the game, we had some guys step up and do a nice job. I thought we were decently efficient but to have what everyone wants to call a great run game you’ve got to have some explosive ones and kind of help the average,’’ Stafford said. “By no means did I think our run game was a minus for us today. (They) picked up a big third-and-short, J.D. (McKissic) around the corner. There was some plays that we really needed in the game  — some second-and-longs that got us into third and manageables when we were able to run the ball which was huge for us.’’ Kerryon Johnson left the game in the first half with a knee injury. Ty Johnson (10 carries for 29 yards) and McKissic (5 for 29) picked up the slack.

5. Patricia mentioned several times that inconsistent play is the problem. That should not be an issue six games into his second season in Detroit. He said they can’t let any frustration build up from previous games and/or previous situations. They were coming off a Monday night loss at Green Bay. Patricia says all the right things, but he has to find a way to get the players totally prepared for Sundays. So far he’s 8-13-1 going back to last season.

NEXT UP: The N.Y. Giants will play the Lions at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 27, at Ford Field. On Sunday, the Giants (2-5) lost 27-21 to the Cardinals,The early line has the Lions as a 7.5-point favorite.

NFC NORTH: The Packers (6-1) remain atop the conference, the Vikings (5-2) are in second, the Bears in third and the Lions (2-2-1) in the basement.