Lions frustrated after another close loss, this time to Dolphins

DETROIT — Perhaps Taylor Decker sums up the Lions’ frustrations with a few words.

“It’s exhausting, but there’s nothing I can do other than go back to work. There’s nothing this team can do other than show up to practice on Wednesday with a good attitude and try to get this thing right,’’ the left tackle said after Sunday’s 31-27 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Ford Field. “When there’s opportunities we just have to capitalize. This sucks.’’

Coach Dan Campbell echoed the sentiments. The Lions, who dropped to 1-6, have to keep working to somehow eke out a win.

“My thought is as frustrating as it is, I know how close we are because we are still talking about one play,’’ Campbell said. “The hard thing is to just keep doing your job and staying in the thick of the storm. The easy thing is to go down below and get under the blanket, eat all the food and whatever. The guys who are going to stay on the deck, continue to do their part cause they know the sun is coming, those are the guys we’re looking for.that’s how I choose to think of this.’’

When reminded that he has said this often, he replied, “Two years, two years.”

Five of the many things that played a key role in the loss:

1. The Lions held a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter and were up 21-7 at the half. The offense was good for 326 yards in the first half and 67 yards in the second half. Detroit had just three second-half possessions. The difference was mostly penalties — five in the second half, one in the first half. On the Lions’ first possession in the third they were whistled for three straight – false start (Penei Sewell), offensive holding (Sewell)  and false start (Decker). “In those 3 possessions I didn’t feel they did anything defensively that took us out of what we were doing …. It had nothing to do with them, that’s on us,that’s a self-inflicted wound we took ourselves out of our own rhythm.’’

2. With less than 3 minutes left, and the Lions behind 31-27, they had a fourth-and-1 at the Miami 35. Instead of going for the yardage, Jared Goff heaved one to Josh Reynolds in the end zone but he couldn’t grab it. It’s just one play of many but could have kept them in the game.

3. Detroit’s defense, which looked like it made a turn-around in the loss at Dallas a week ago, was overwhelmed. Miami finished with 476 total yards. They only punted once. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa finished 29 of 36 for 382 yards and three touchdowns. “We didn’t hit them at the line, that was part of the game plan. We did not disrupt. … We didn’t want to turn it into a track meet and it was a track meet,’’ Campbell said. He said coaches and players were at fault at not handling the defensive game plan that was specifically designed for the Dolphins.

4. After no touchdowns in the previous two games, it looked like the offense had made a turn for the better with three first-half scores. Goff played better, especially in the first half. He finished 27 of 37 for 321 yards and one touchdown. He was only sacked once. Nothing worked in the second half. “I don’t know how many drives we had in the first half, but we only had three in the second half and the two we kind of killed ourselves with penalties,” Goff said. “Kind of put us behind the eight-ball situation there and that last drive was the drive to win the game and we didn’t finish it.”

5. Close doesn’t count and Campbell would be the first to say so. In four of the Lions’ six losses they have lost by a total of 14 points, including a 4-point difference on Sunday. Campbell said that coach Bill Parcells used to say the only way to win close games is to win close games. Of course, it’s easier said than done. 

(Next up: Packers at Lions, 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, at Ford Field.)

Five things to watch as Lions face Dolphins; plus, prediction

Through the 1-5 start this season, coach Dan Campbell has remained confident in his team. He has said they are close. They’ve lost three of their games by a total of 10 points. Although the last two losses have been by a combined 53-6. Devastating.

Now they’ve got to get over the hump facing the Miami Dolphins (4-3) at Ford Field at 1 pm. on Sunday. The season is not over.

“I mean, look, I’m not blind to any of this. It’s – I appreciate that and I know, but I also know the reality. I mean, we’ve got to win. I mean there’s still urgency here. I mean that’s not – that’s never changed,’’ Campbell said on Friday. “This is a – I mean, we know what kind of business we’re in. I know what kind of business I’m in and I know that the patience only goes so long. So, look we’re trying to get one this week and then, after that takes place then you go get the next one. But I mean it’s all about winning. I mean, we’re not – we’re not trying to kick the can down the road. We’re not trying to say any of that. I mean, we’ve got a team here that I know can win and it’s my job to get them there.”

Five things to watch against the Dolphins:

1. Detroit’s defense played its best game in the loss at Dallas last Sunday. It was a group effort with contributions from several players. It’s a young defense — four rookies started at Dallas — so it’s a good sign that this bunch is heading in the right direction. “Any time you play like that, certainly the way we started and most of the game, they bought into what we were doing and they began to trust each other and what we are trying to do with it,’’ Campbell said. “That certainly helps. We still have a long way to go there, there’s still things that we have to get back to what we were doing. We’re are kind of changing the style in which we’re playing. It was pretty good so we just have to build off it.’’

2. Running back D’Andre Swift and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown could add an offensive spark. Swift missed the last three games while St. Brown had to leave early last week for concussion protocol. In the last two games without Swift, the offense has failed to score a touchdown. In the first three games, Swift had 27 arries, averaging 8.6 yards per carry with one rushing and one receiving touchdown. He’s got eight catches for 77 yards. “It would be good. I mean, those two guys can account for a lot of offense. A lot of production in our offense. So, having both of them back is a big jolt. And look, I would say this too, (WR Josh) Reynolds was out there practicing yesterday which was good,’’ Campbell said.

3. Goff has thrown five interceptions in the last four games. It’s an issue. He got off to a hot start leading the offense to the top of the NFL’s offensive ratings. “We’ve got to refocus on awareness in the pocket a little bit, and continue to hammer it home. It’s not just him, there’s quarterbacks who will drift a little bit, they feel certain things, you start moving and you don’t realize you may be moving deeper than you mean to or you;re moving into something else,’’ Campbell said. “We just have to continue to stress it, coach it, show it. He understands, he responds to it, he sees it, he knows it,. There again we have to get in a rhythm.’’ So far he’s completed 62.3 percent of his passes (below his career average of 64 percent) with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s been sacked a dozen times – five last week at Dallas.

4. Miami features two of the NFL’s top four leading receivers in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Double trouble for the Lions defense.  “It is challenging and when there’s one that’s that way you can use some resources to help over there by doing that you take away from your run defense so now you’re asking a lot out of your front,’’ Campbell said. “When you’ve got two you’re going to get spread pretty thin, we have to be on point. Everybody has to be where they’re supposed to be, we need to find a little bit of disruption.’’ The Dolphins are 4-1 with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in the lineup and 0-2 without him. He’s expected to start against The Lions. He’s completing 67.3 percent of his passes and so far has thrown nine touchdowns against just three interceptions He gets good protection from his offensive line and has just been sacked six times.

5. Injuries continue to be an issue with six players listed as out: S DeShon Elliott (finger, DE Charles Harris (groin), CB Mike Hughes (knee), CB Chase Lucas (ankle), S Ifeatu Melifonwu (ankle) and T Matt Nelson (calf). WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (concussion protocol) and G Jonah Jackson (neck) are questionable. Others who showed up on the injury report this week – including Swift – are a full go. 

(Prediction: Lions 28, Dolphins 24)

Lions Matt Patricia explains why he declined penalty; 2 plays later Dolphins scored

Coach placed faith in his defense to stop on third-and-7

ALLEN PARK >> It seemed a curious decision, when the Lions declined a holding penalty on the Dolphins during Detroit’s 32-21 win on Sunday.

The Twitterverse blew up, questioning what was going through coach Matt Patricia’s thought process.

In the second quarter, the Dolphins had a second-and-7 at their own 28 when quarterback Brock Osweiler attempted a pass to tight end Nick O’Leary that was incomplete. Miami’s Ja’Wuan James was called for offensive holding which would have given the Dolphins a second-and-17 from their 18.

Instead, Patricia declined the penalty. So the Dolphins had third-and-7 at their own 28.

Two plays later Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake broke through 54 yards for a touchdown, closing the gap and giving the Lions just a 6-point lead at 20-14.

The decision wasn’t a gut feeling by Patricia, it was based on statistics.

“Second-and-7 was probably right on the edge, probably third-and-8 is what you’re looking at from a statistical standpoint of declining a penalty in that situation and play third-and-8 instead of second-and-17. It’s right on the edge of it,’’ Patricia said at his Monday press conference.

“I thought we were in good field position, we had a good call, we were playing all right at that point as far as what they were doing. We just thought we wanted to stay in rhythm in the game, sometimes it’s about how the guys are playing at that moment,’’ the coach added.

Since the Dolphins scored on that drive it does not reflect well on the decision. If they had stuffed the run on third down and forced a punt, Patricia would have looked like a genius.

“It wasn’t a great decision by me,’’ Patricia said.

He had faith that his defense could stop Miami on third-and-7.

“Miami’s offense has some really big-play receivers and some big-play people out there. Some of those second-and-longer situations become, I don’t want to say more difficult to defend, but a little unpredictable as far as the space plays that they have dialed up,’’ Patricia said. “Third down we thought maybe we knew what they were going to do and could defend it.’’

It just didn’t work out that way.

That third-and-8 statistic could change team to team and week to week.

“There are certain markers you try to look at based on the team, based on where you’re playing, what you’re doing and what you feel the situation is right there,’’ Patricia said. “We’re probably right on the edge of it, in hindsight should’ve pushed them back.’’

Onward to preparing for the Seattle Seahawks (3-3) on Sunday at Ford Field. After winning two straight, the Lions are 3-3.