Lions Matt Patricia: We’ve got 2 things, the game and each other

ALLEN PARK — Matt Patricia is not looking big-picture.

The Lions have lost six straight, compiled a 3-9-1 record and are 0-5 in the NFC North.

Instead the Lions coach is focused on Sunday’s opponent, the Tampa Bay Bucs (6-7).

“We talk a lot about purpose .. I think the best thing for us as a team and what we told them is the two things we’ve got right now, we’ve got the game and each other. So that’s what we’re focused on, we’re focused on the game and on each other,’’ Patricia said on Monday, following the 20-7 loss at the Vikings.

So while scores of Detroiters wonder about next season — will Patricia and GM Bob Quinn be back — that is not a conversation Patricia can be pulled into. He was asked if he had discussed his future with ownership and declined (like he always does) to go into detail about discussions with the Ford family.

“I’m trying to do everything I can to coach as hard as I can for the guys in that room, those guys work really hard, they’re trying to do everything they can, they’re competitive, they’re fun to coach,’’ Patricia said. “We just have to go out and execute better and do things better on Sundays.’’

Like any good coach in a bad situation, the focus remains on winning and not on draft position.

“I mean that’s the goal for us, we’re always trying to win, I think it feels good to win, that’s what we’re trying to do, go out there,” Patricia said. “We want to feel good about it, we want the fans to feel good about it and certainly that’s our motivation is to go out and win and really play well in all three phases and show the stuff that we’re seeing and try to do it consistently.’’

 

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)

 

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Minnesota Vikings

ALLEN PARK — Focus is key in this late-season NFC North contest between the LIons and the Minnesota Vikings.

The Lions (3-8-1) are out of the playoffs heading to Minnesota where the Vikings (8-4) are still trying to scrap together meaningful wins.

“I think for all of us we know how important the division is, that’s the first and foremost, but within each week that game is the most important. It’s a critical game because it’s our next game,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “That’s certainly how we approach it and things for next year always change. You can’t predict what’s going to happen as far as next year is concerned, from your team to other teams and across the League. What’s most important for us is this week.”

The Vikings won the first matchup, 42-30, on Oct. 20. After a tie at half-time, Detroit was outscored 21-9 in the second half.

Minnesota owns just a 1-2 record in the NFC North which is better than Detroit’s 0-4 mark.

Minnesota is coming off a loss at Seattle on Monday night. Coach Mike Zimmer is not afraid of losing focus because they’re facing a team that has lost five straight. 

“I don’t think so. It’s a division game, it’s important to us. We lost last week. We have to win games, and we have to go out and execute and do the things we have to do to win games,’’ Zimmer said on a conference call. “Trust me, we have all the respect in the world for the Lions and what they’re able to do and the players that they have.”

Five things to watch: 

1. The Lions defense has shown some improvement against the run in recent weeks. They need to maintain that against Vikings running back Dalvin Cook who gashed the Lions for 142 yards in their first meeting.  Cook has been injured but is expected to play.

2. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been dangerous this season with 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He’s thrown just two picks in the last 10 games. In the first game, he threw four touchdown passes against the Lions’ defense. “I would say they’re doing a great job of calling plays that fit right into his strong points,’’ Patricia said. “Obviously, the run game sets up a lot for the play-action, and the move out of the pocket sort of plays that they’re able to kind of get him out there and get him in space.’’

3. Protect quarterback David Blough in his second start. Even though the Lions lost to the Bears, the rookie was impressive in his debut on Thanksgiving. Stafford was sacked twice by the Vikings in their first meeting, both coming in the second half.

4. Let Bo Scarbrough run. The running back, who kind of came out of nowhere and has averaged 4.5 yards per carry with 53 touches for 236 yards in three games. Against Chicago, in key situations Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic got the ball when it was Scarbrough who was having success.

5. It’s up to Patricia to keep the team pumped up the rest of the season. It might be even tougher going into a tough environment like U.S. Bank Stadium where the Vikings are 5-0. The Lions are 1-4-1 on the road. 

PREDICTION:  Vikings 40, Lions 24

Finishing is issue for Detroit Lions who have led in all 12 games but won just 3

ALLEN PARK — In a few weeks when the Lions obituary is written for this season, not finishing games will be one of the causes of an early exit from playoff hopes.

The Lions (3-8-1) have led in all 12 games but won only three of them.

It gets worse. They have led or been tied in the fourth quarter five times, losing four of them.

Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni is optimistic about improvement.

“We’re a play or two away from being in position to hold those leads that we’ve had. We’ve been very fortunate, we’ve held a lead in a lot of games – probably all of them, maybe,’’ Pasqualoni said. “We just have to make another play. We’re a couple of plays away. I think it’s important that we’re playing well against the run, which gives you a chance to at least have an idea they’re going to through the ball, so you’re not always kind of in between what they are doing. I think the guys are playing really hard. I’m really pleased with how hard we play. I think we play really, really hard and I think we have a lot of guys that are going in and out of the game.’’

He thinks some of the young guys have responded “pretty well.”

“We just have to take care of some little things and get a little bit better and just make a few more plays. It’s a game of inches, you know I’ve always said that this game is a game of inches and I really believe it is a game of inches,’’ Pasqualoni said.

It’s on defense for not making stops and offense for not getting the big play when it most matters. The Lions have been outscored 105-70 in the fourth quarter.

If it continues on Sunday at the Vikings, put another one in the loss column. 

In their first meeting — a Vikings’ 42-30 win on Oct. 20 — the Lions held an early 14-7 lead, tied at the half and then were outscored 21-9 in the second half.

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.

 

Lions’ Damon Harrison takes blame in defensive woes against the run

Five thoughts from ‘Snacks’

ALLEN PARK — After three straight losses, the Lions’ defense is under scrutiny.

 It allowed 503 net yards, including 166 rushing yards in the loss to the Vikings on Sunday.

The head-scratcher is that going into the season, the Lions’ defensive line looked like it would be the strength of the defense.

So far that has not been the case.

Lions coach Matt Patricia blamed it on lack of communication, consistency and the need for better coaching on Monday. He still thinks they can improve in the 10 games left this season. 

“We’re always going to coach, and work, and try to improve and get better. Certainly, that’s happened many times in the years past where teams have gotten better as the season has gone on,’’ Patricia said on Monday.

Defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison agreed with his coach about communication and working on the details.

Harrison said no one is panicking yet, but they are certainly disappointed in the 2-3-1 start this season.

Five thoughts from Harrison: 

1. He points a finger at himself for not playing up to his usual standards. “Obviously it’s very disappointing, especially having the guys we have in the room. It really starts with me upfront, I have to do a better job in the middle getting some of those plays that I’m used to making that I’m not making this year,’’ Harrison said on Monday. “There’s a lot of things that I can blame it on but the only thing I can do at the end of the day is throw effort at it during the practice week and try to perform on Sunday.’’

2. The veteran, in his eighth NFL season, can’t pinpoint why he’s not making the plays he used to make routinely. “Let’s just say teams are doing a good job of making sure I’m accounted for, it hasn’t stopped me in the past and I don’t see why it should stop me now,’’ Harrison said.

3. When last season ended, the Lions defense was one of the best in stopping the run. Today they’re ranked 28th in the NFL, allowing an average of 139.2 rushing yards per game. (The overall defense is ranked 31st.) “It’s been a long season and we have a long season ahead of us, again we can’t look back in the past and we damn sure can’t look at what we did last year,’’ Harrison said. “It’s a new year, the offenses get paid too so they’ve done a pretty good job a scheming up some runs and things we aren’t doing well they’re exploiting them.’’

4. Harrison said he doesn’t think it has anything to do with missing the preseason. “There’s a lot of things to blame it on, that’s one of the things. Obviously I missed a lot of the preseason but again I’ve been playing football for a long time and the game hasn’t changed. Just got to get better and get better fast,’’ Harrison said.

5. The Lions host the Giants, Harrison’s former team, on Sunday at Ford Field. He said it’s no big deal. The big deal is facing Giants’ running back Saquon Barkley. “Because he’s big, fast and strong and can catch the ball out of the backfield,’’ Harrison said. “He can do just about everything on the football field including lining up at receiver. I’m pretty sure he can play quarterback too, he’s just one heck of an athlete.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

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.