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.

 

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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.

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’ guard T.J. Lang seeks advice from concussion specialists

Lang back at practice, could play Sunday

ALLEN PARK — T.J. Lang spent part of his bye week examining his health, in particular the latest concussion that he suffered on Sept. 30.

The Detroit Lions starting right guard has practiced this week and could be back in the lineup for Sunday’s game at the Miami Dolphins. He missed the Oct. 7 win over the Green Bay Packers and Wednesday was the first day he practiced since the injury.

“I feel pretty good, back to the normal routine,’’ Lang said on Thursday after practice. He stopped short of guaranteeing he will be on the field at Miami but seemed confident that would happen.

It was not his first concussion and the 31-year-old Lang did not take it lightly.

“Dating back to last week and even two weeks ago I tried not to make too big of a deal about it. Obviously I’ve been down this road before,’’ Lang said. “The older you get the more you start to think. The guys here — the trainers, doctors, everybody that is involved in my personal life — did a good job setting me up with high-end experts, doctors, neurologists that I could talk to. I reached out to a lot of them and tried to gather as much information as I could. I would say most of those meetings are pretty positive.’’

He wouldn’t go into detail on the information he culled because as he said, “I’m just not that smart.”

His wife went on a few of the appointments with him.

“She seems to be pretty worked up about some of the head stuff with obviously everything that is going on in the public. At the end of the day you have to make a conscious educated decision to move forward. I think I gathered enough information to feel comfortable to continue to play when I’m feeling good,’’ Lang said.

He said he saw three or four specialists to gather information on former players and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). He wanted to know if concussion are overblown in the media. Also is the information out there accurate.

“The biggest question I had was, ‘Do you think I”ll be safe to return once I’m fully back healthy?’ And I think most of them said, ‘Yes.’ That gave me a lot of comfort knowing that when this is all settled and done, basically set the reset button and continue to play,”’ Lang said.

A few of the specialists had different opinions.

“For the most part it was you’d be fine to play, I don’t think there’ll be ramifications down the line if you continue to play,’’ Lang said. “There were some tough conversations, you have to have those conversations no matter what injury you have. …

“For me the biggest thing was I feel like I have teammates in this locker room that are counting on me to be out there and to play at a high level , that’s something that’s always driven me and will continue to drive me,’’ Lang said. “So I don’t know if its the brightest way to look at it when you’re comparing your health. At the same time it’s all I really know and I want to be known as a dependable guy.’’

His wife, his mother and his children all factor into his decisions.

“My kids are old enough to watch the games now and notice when something is wrong,’’ Lang said. “All that goes through your mind, it’s human nature. At the end of the day I try to explain that I’ll be all right.’’

After 5 games, Lions have identity crisis

They face Dolphins at Miami on Sunday

ALLEN PARK >> Five games into the season, the Lions have an identity crisis.

“It’s not about who I think we are, it’s about how we play that week,’’ safety Glover Quin said on Wednesday. “Do we play like the team that beat the Patriots because obviously we can do that. Or do we play like the team that lost to the Jets, obviously we can do that too. It’s not about who do I think we are, it’s about how do we go out and play each and every week.’’

OK, then. That brings up this week. Coming off the bye the Lions are 2-3 and play at Miami (4-2).

The Dolphins are 3-0 at home while the Lions are 0-2 on the road. Add in the factor that temps are expected to reach 87 on Sunday.

Also, the Lions are coming off their bye week so need to rev up and get back into the groove. That win against the Packers on Oct. 7 could have started a roll, but the brakes were put on due to the early bye week.

“It’s not really a concern. It’s something we have to go out and get back to playing football. We should be fresher, bodies should feel pretty good, we’ve had a week off,’’ Quin said.

The Lions veteran safety said it’s a good to be playing on the road because it’s easier to communicate defensively because the home crowd is quiet while their offense is on the field.

“You can hear — talk and communicate and make sure everybody is on the same page and we should be good,’’ Quin said.

Consistency is the key moving forward.

“If we get smacked, we’re probably the team that showed up against the Jets, if we dominate we’re the team that showed up against the Patriots and the Packers,’’ Quin said. “It’s about being consistent and not having that up and down — this week we were good, next week we were bad. We have to lock in and say we’re going to be good.’’

After five games with new head coach Matt Patricia, Quin seems fairly confident.

“The longer you play together, get to know each other better, it’s a new scheme for us, so we learn new things within the scheme, new things we can do, you get more comfortable,’’ Quin said. “When you first come out I mean everything is new you’re going into battle with a new head coach, new position coaches for the most part, everything is kind of new, sometimes it takes a feeling-out period, sometimes it don’t.’’

If the Lions are going to turn around the season, time is getting short.

Quin knows it is not too late because he has been through this before when he was in Houston in 2011.

“I think we started out 2-3 or something like that, 3-3, and we ended up winning seven games in a row and clinched at 10-3, the division,’’ Quin said. “It’s all about going out and playing at a high level and winning games, once you win you stack them and stack them and go on a run.’’

Sunday’s game against the Dolphins is certainly not a must-win, but it will help define this Lions team. Good or bad.

Detroit Lions: With Jamal Agnew out, Nevin Lawson could see time at nickel

Lawson details differences in responsibilities

ALLEN PARK >> Jamal Agnew won’t be replaced by just one of his teammates, it will take a village.

The Detroit Lions nickel back, who is a return specialist and occasionally pitches in on offense, was placed on injured reserve on Monday for a knee injury sustained in the win over the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 7.

“He’s obviously a very valuable player to our team. Really can do a great job of turning field position, does a great job when he’s out there at gunner, plays defense. So, a pretty multiple, versatile player for us,’’ coach Matt Patricia said on Monday. “But that’s the nature of the game. We have guys that are going to have to step up and fill those roles whether it’s one person or multiple guys. We’ll just try to put the best guy out there that we can.”

Patricia would not say if Agnew will return this season. It could be too soon to know.

“That’s the good thing about that kind of designation is we have options. If we get to that point where we can expedite him or use him, then we’ll try to do that. But it’s just a matter of time right now,’’ Patricia said.

He also wouldn’t clarify if Agnew will have surgery, saying he is still being evaluated.

After the injury, Nevin Lawson moved from corner to nickel to fill in for Agnew. So it’s possible that Lawson could fill in on Sunday when the Lions play the Dolphins in Miami. Don’t be surprised if Ameer Abdullah gets the nod on returns.

Lawson is good with playing nickel and said he doesn’t have a preference when it comes to position.

“I just want to be on the field so I can be out there competing and playing,’’ Lawson said on Monday. “At the end of the day it doesn’t matter where you are, you still going to have a chance to make plays..’’

Patricia and defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni love their players to be versatile.

“It’s two different roles, on the outside it’s really an island, you’re really by yourself,’’ Lawson said. “When you’re playing the nickel you have to constantly communicate with the safeties and the linebackers. It’s definitely different just knowing what to do and make sure you know what to do and you, the linebackers and safeties are on the same page.’’

With this new Patricia-style defense it occasionally looks like a corner has moved into nickel, but Lawson said things aren’t always how they look. A corner could move inside covering a certain receiver and that doesn’t necessarily make him a nickel.

“It’s different when a guy is playing inside mostly the whole game, that’s when he’s truly a nickel,’’ Lawson said.

He also specified that tackling is more important when playing inside.

“It’s important playing corner, but it’s definitely more important playing slot because you’re asked to add to the run game so you have to be able to come up and make tackles as well, not just tackles you have to make good open-field tackles,’’ Lawson explained.