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)

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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.

Quandre Diggs returns for Lions vs. Vikings; Darius Slay also good to go

DETROIT — The Lions defense will be bolstered with cornerback Darius Slay (hamstring) and safety Quandre Diggs (hamstring) active against the Minnesota Vikings today.

Diggs, who missed the loss at Green Bay, and Slay were both limited in practice this week and listed as questionable for today’s game. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins will challenge the Lions’ secondary so having Diggs and Slay should help

Right tackle Rick Wagner (knee) is active after he was limited in practice on Wednesday but had full workouts on Thursday and Friday.

Fullback Nick Bawden (back), who was limited in practice on Friday, is also active.

Defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand has missed every game this season with an elbow injury.

Defensive tackle Mike Daniels (foot) and cornerback Amani Oruwariye (knee) were declared inactive on Friday’s injury report. It’s the third straight game that Daniels has missed and second for Oruwariye.

Other Lions inactives: QB David Blough, guard Beau Benzschawel, offensive lineman Oday Aboushi and running back Tra Carson who was awarded to the Lions this week via waivers.

The Lions have lost three straight to the Vikings. Detroit’s last win against Minnesota was at Ford Field on Oct. 1, 2017.

 

Five things to watch as Lions host Vikings

ALLEN PARK — Turn the page, it’s been the Lions’ motto of this short week after the loss at Green Bay on Monday night.

While fans still lament the blunders from the officials in that game, the team has moved on. That’s been coach Matt Patricia’s message and the players have apparently bought in. They couldn’t even stick to the 24-hour rule —- there was no time for that.

Matthew Stafford said that by Tuesday morning he had moved onto the Minnesota Vikings who will play the Lions at Ford Field at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

The Vikings (4-2) are second the NFC North to Green Bay (5-1), while the Lions (2-2-1) are in the basement. Is there time left for the Lions to climb up the ladder? Yes, but not much. A win on Sunday would be huge. A loss would not mean the end of playoff hopes, but would certainly diminish them.

Five things to watch as the Lions play the Vikings: 

1. The Lions have to finish games. They have outscored opponents, 69-46, in first half action but have only scored 46 second-half points while opponents have scored 69. The fourth quarter is a standout ‚ they’ve been outscored 49-31 in the final stanza in the first five games. “We understand there are a lot of factors that go into closing out a game. Some of it happens earlier in the game, some of it happens later,’’ Patricia said. “That’s part of the process right now of trying to improve as a football team, is identifying some areas we think we can get better at. For us, that’s part of the work. That’s part of the improvement. … We have to stay dialed in and we have to make sure we finish it the right way, both coaching and playing, and I think everybody knows that.”

2. Perhaps you’ve heard this before, the Lions run game is too anemic. Detroit’s rushing game had its lowest output of the season at Lambeau with 56 rushing yards on 20 carries. “I think that we need to give credit to Green Bay. They did a nice job in some of the areas, but then I think it ultimately falls – it’s always going to come back to us and how we’re handling things,’’ Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “It kind of goes back to what I talked about a couple weeks ago in terms of – in the run game you have to really be on point. We were close on some of those runs. We just had either a guy falling off a block or just other issues where we were really one guy away again, and like I said, it’s happening too much. We have to get that corrected.” Kerryon Johnson had 13 carries for 34 yards against the Pack.

3. The offensive line needs to protect Stafford. Last year the Vikings sacked him 10 times in the Week 9 loss and twice in the Week 16 loss. “Obviously, they have a unique pressure system that is pretty good. But at the same time if they just want to rush four, they’re pretty good at that, too,’’ Stafford said. “They’ve got talent and scheme, which makes them a difficult out.”

4. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins may have gotten off to a slow start, but in the last two games — wins over the Giants and Eagles — he’s thrown six touchdown passes against just one interception. “He’s doing a really good job with decision making. I think he’s really trying to get the ball to his go-to players in just critical situations where I think they are very calculated plays,’’ Patricia said. “Give credit to Coach Stefanski (Vikings offensive coordinator) and the game plans that he set up. I think he’s doing an awesome job getting the run game going, letting the line of scrimmage kind of get going, take over up front. I think he’s using the tight ends really well. I would say (Kyle) Rudolph is in a little bit of a different role than he’s been in the past, but with the addition of Irv Smith and some of the things that he’s able to do, they are putting defenses in a lot more of a bind. … I think they’re giving plays to Kirk Cousins that are plays that he knows where the ball is going to go right now. He can get the ball out very quick, the decision making is very fast. When you balance that off with a consistent run game, I think that’s what you’re seeing that offense, or why you’re seeing that offense be so productive.”

5. It’s been a short week and while the players appear to have turned the page, they are only human. Deep inside it would only be normal if they’re still incensed about the bad calls against them. Will they come out angry and zeroed in? Or not. It should be clear early in the game. Patricia said he won’t know for sure about their mindsets until Sunday. He knows what he saw after the heart-breaking loss to the Chiefs two weeks ago. I’ll say this, in the game last week, I thought we were focused on that game. I thought the guys were trying to go out and compete hard in that game. Everything I would say, up to this point, about our team, I would say our team knows that,’’ Patricia said. “They’re mentally tough to do that and I anticipate our team doing that. Just doing everything they can to go play. We’ll see how Sunday turns out from that standpoint. We have to go play the game, but I think we’ll be out there fighting really hard. I love standing up in front of that group every single day knowing the mental toughness and the drive and the competitiveness that the team has to go try to win every week – it’s great for a coach because you can just put everything into it for them.”

Prediction: Vikings 24, Lions 17 (Expect the Lions to be focused, but Minnesota tough to handle.)

Lions Matthew Stafford ‘playing outstanding’ despite 2 straight losses

Vikings’ game crucial in NFC North race

ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford needs 87 yards to reach the 40,000- yard mark for his career.

Against the Vikings on Sunday at Ford Field, he’d be perfectly happy to pass for 86 yards if the Lions could pick up the win against the NFC North opponent.

That’s the kind of quarterback Stafford is and has been since he arrived in Detroit.

The Lions (2-2-1) are coming off losses to Kansas City and Green Bay, so this game is crucial to their chances of making the playoffs. 

With the officiating blunders in the Packers game, Stafford and the Lions have said they’re turned the page and their focus is solely on the Vikings not on what could have been on Monday night.

“The one nice thing about playing Monday night and going into a Sunday is that you lose that game on Monday night, the quicker you get to go out on the field and change that last outcome,’’ Stafford said on Wednesday. “We’re doing everything we can to get prepared. Obviously, a little bit behind the eight-ball time-wise, but our guys did a great job today coming in and trying to lock down the early stuff that we have to get going and get ready for the game.”

Let’s be honest, it’d be difficult for Stafford to pass for less than 87 yards, especially the way he’s been playing. He’s thrown nine touchdown passes and his only two interceptions in the first five games were in the win over the Chargers.

 “I think Stafford is playing outstanding. Maybe the best I’ve ever seen him,’’ Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said on a conference call. “He’s throwing the ball into a lot of tight windows, he’s pulling the trigger, he’s still scrambling like he has. I feel like he’s making the right reads, getting the ball out quick. Obviously, they have some outstanding receivers. I think (T.J.) Hockenson is a really, really good tight end. The receivers they have are really good. They are running the football some. They have play-actions, they have the quick throws, they have the shots down the field. (The offense) looks really good to me.”

If Stafford can reach 87 passing yards within his next four games, he will top his friend Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (151 games) for the fewest games needed to produce 40,000 passing yards in NFL history.

“I think when you step back and look at stuff like that, I think it’s just pretty amazing. I think it goes to his resiliency and his drive and his competitiveness that he shows every single day,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “To be honest with you, we were just having a conversation and comparing some notes on Minnesota – it just takes me back a minute every single time that he and I have those conversations of just how hard this guy works, how competitive he is, how much he wants to win, how much he just continually leads this team. That’s why you hear something like that or a stat like that and you’re like, ‘It’s super impressive, and it’s super amazing,’ but I also kind of step back, and I look at it and I go, ‘Yeah, that’s about right,’ because that’s just who the guy is. I think he’s just that driven. That’s pretty cool.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Five reasons the Lions lost, 27-9, to playoff-bound Minnesota Vikings

Plenty of frustration, not many answers

DETROIT  — The Lions have gone five straight games without scoring more than 17 points. Not surprisingly four of those were losses including Sunday’s 27-9 beatdown by the Minnesota Vikings.

Coach Matt Patricia is big on talking about improving not just game to game, but also day to day in practice. If it’s happening, it’s not showing on Sunday.

The Lions dropped to 5-10. It’s their worst record since 2012 when they finished 4-12 in Jim Schwartz’s fourth season. It’s the fourth season since 2008 when the Lions finished 0-16 that the losses have been in double digits.

You can wrap it up and put a bow on it but there’s nothing pretty about this season. And, it’s not over yet. The Lions play the Packers at Green Bay next Sunday.

It’s been another season of frustration for all involved. The crowd gave up early on Sunday, leaving Ford Field en masse in the second half.

Perhaps Matthew Stafford summed up the frustration best. The quarterback can’t tell you one thing that is missing from this team.

“I think you look at each game as different. That’s part of the frustrating part, it’s not one thing where you say, ‘OK, let’s go fix it and we’ll be fine,’’’ Stafford said. “It’s tough to win games in the National Football League and, for one reason or another, execution and play-making we haven’t done enough of.’’

Five things to know about Sunday’s loss:

1. The offense struggled against a solid Vikings’ defense. The three field goals in the first half were dandy, but they needed to get in the end zone and could not do it. “Just didn’t execute well enough, had some chances, got down in the red zone the one time and didn’t execute I can give Kenny (Golladay) probably a better ball on that one down the sideline there,’’ Stafford said. “Got into field goal range a few times and had some negative plays — a screen that went for minus, a couple runs that went for minus and against that defense it’s tough. You have to stay ahead of the chains and we weren’t able to do it. You get third-and-long against those guys it’s tough.’’

2. The defense was solid stuffing the Vikings’ run game and preventing them from picking up a first down until late in the second quarter. But once the damn burst, it was trouble. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins connected with Adam Thielen for 40 yards on a third-and-17 at Detroit’s 49. Two plays later he found Stefon Diggs in the end zone for their first touchdown. One minutes and 33 seconds later, Cousins threw a 44-yard Hail Mary touchdown to Kyle Rudolph. Putting the Lions in a 14-9 hole at the half. “We just have to get a little bit better from an alignment standpoint, we have to get some of those guys in better position,’’ Patricia said about the Hail Mary. “Get the guy who caught the ball boxed out and get him out of there. So, a couple details there.”

3. While it appeared that those back-to-back touchdowns sucked the life out of the defense in the second half, Patricia said it wasn’t so. “We were out there trying to battle nonstop. I think those guys, even when the ball got put in some tough field position standpoints, everybody’s out there fighting real hard,’’ Patricia said. “So, it’s a tough game and that was a good team. They have a lot of good players. Our guys fight hard.”

4. Plenty of talk about needing to execute better from everyone involved. It’s the same thing that’s been said since Week One. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon, but it’s kind of a head-scratcher. “We just didn’t execute and do the things we needed to do to get off the field and get the ball back to our offense,’’ said cornerback Nevin Lawson who had his first career sack. Execute is the word of the season.

5. The play-calling on offense continues to be an issue. On third-and-13 in the first quarter from the Vikings’ 37 Theo Riddick’s sweep loses 4 yards. Two plays earlier LeGarrette Blount had lost 3 yards on a first-and-10. So effectively those two plays took the Lions out of field goal range. Earlier, on the third play of the game, running back Zach Zenner scampered for 29 yards. He’s their best running back at this point of the season, but they won’t stick with him. They keep going back to Blount and Riddick who are not getting the job done. Zenner averaged 5.9 yards per carry on Sunday while it was 2.6 yards per carry for Blount and minus-0.7 for Riddick. Go with what’s working. It’s a mystery, the same as when they repeatedly throw short passes in long-yardage situations. They want to protect Stafford, but the coaches (Patricia and  Jim Bob Cooter) have to unchain his handcuffs.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

Detroit Lions: No surprises among inactives; Treadwell out for Vikings

MInnesota still in playoff hunt

DETROIT >> While the Lions (5-9) are out of playoff contention, today’s game at Ford Field has playoff implications for the Vikings (6-7-1). If they win and the Eagles lose or tie with the Texans, Minnesota earns a wild-card berth.

No surprise that quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has a back injury, will start his 127th consecutive game. Stafford was limited in practice again this week. The Vikings sacked him 10 times in their meeting on Nov. 4 which was won 26-9 by Minnesota.

Cornerback Jamal Agnew (knee), who has not played since Oct. 7, is active against the Vikings while Teez Tabor is inactive after playing last week.

Running back LeGarrette Blount (calf), wide receiver Kenny Golladay (chest), defensive tackle Damon Harrison Sr. (ankle) and linebacker Devon Kennard (hip) were listed as questionable on Friday but all are active.

On Saturday the LIons placed WR Bruce Ellington (hamstring) and S Charles Washington (hamstring) on injured reserve and and signed WR Chris Lacy and CB Dee Virgin to the active roster from the practice squad.

Other Lions inactives: Linebacker Nicholas Grigsby, DE Kerry Hyder, C Leo Koloamatangi, OL Andrew Donnal, CB Dee Virgin and WR Chris Lacy.

Vikings inactives: WR Laquon Treadwell (healthy), QB Kyle Sloter, CB Craig James, RB MIke Boone, LB Eric Kendricks, G Danny Isidora and DE Tashawn Bower.

Kickoff at 1 p.m. on FOX with Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston and Laura Okmin.