Five things to watch as Lions face Vikings

Every NFL team has to deal with the limitations due to the coronavirus pandemic. This week it was the Lions that took a hit with Matthew Stafford and Jarrad Davis being exposed and forced into quarantine.

Still the Lions (3-4) had to keep an eye on the goal for this week — beating the Vikings (2-5) at Minnesota on Sunday.

I think for us it’s really important that we’re trying to do everything we can protocol-wise to stay in front of it and stay safe,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “We knew that probably getting towards the month of November and December as flu season kicked up – we certainly understood that situations might change, and things might change from that aspect of it.’’

Luckily many of the team and individual group meetings are virtual. So Stafford and Davis have been able to keep up that way.

“Obviously trying to stay ahead as far as what’s going on out in the communities and knowing that will definitely affect us as we go. Doing the best we can to stay in front of it from that standpoint and trying to always go more extreme than we need to, just to make sure that we’re staying safe, but understand that everything can change, you know, day-by-day,’’ Patricia said.

Five things to look for against the Vikings:

1. Stafford has not been able to practice but that shouldn’t be a huge factor. “I think if you called Matt Stafford on an April day and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to go play a 60-minute football game,’ he’d be able to go out there and rip it. He’d be fine. He’d see defenses; he’d see coverage. He’d be doing all the right things. He’s a great vet. He knows how to play the game,’’ Patricia said. “… I trust Matt Stafford to always do the right things, be ready to go and that’s where we are right now. I think just in general – I think that the game of 11 guys working together at the same time, that’s why some of that stuff is important. It’s not necessary, but it’s definitely important.”

2. Defensive end Everson Griffen will be playing his first game for the Lions and it’s against his former team. After the trade from Dallas, Griffen could not join the team immediately due to coronavirus stipulations. His first practice was Wednesday. “I thought his communication was really good on the field, and he’s got a high motor. He practices at a high level, so that was really good. It was good for us to be out there in pads and to be able to see some of that and just get him used to some of the communication out on the field. I thought it was a good first step,’’ Patricia said.

3. After losing five of their first six games, the Vikings upset the Green Bay Packers last week. Minnesota’s ground game averages 144 yards per game while the Lions defense has had some trouble stopping the run. Last week the Colts ran for 119 yards. Running back Dalvin Cook is the workhorse with 10 rushing touchdowns. Three of those were against the Packers last week.

4. The Vikings defense is young but strong through the middle. “Certainly, to me, it starts with (Eric) Kendricks in the middle (with) his ability to communicate, especially with the front. I think the front’s improving every single week. Those guys are long, they get off the ball, they knock the line of scrimmage back,’’ Patricia said.  So, I think he’s done an outstanding job in the middle (of) kind of settling all that down, and certainly (Eric) Wilson, he’s played a lot of football for them and he’s a good player. I feel that the strength at the linebackers, plus the strength of the safety position – Harrison Smith, obviously, and Anthony Harris – those guys are phenomenal. A lot of what they do out of their pressure packages is because of the disguise that those two can come up with. They’re very in sync with all that, and you see them communicating out to the corners. I feel that their defense is getting better each week. I think that those guys are out there and they’re getting more familiar with each other and the communication looks like it’s getting better. Those guys are playing at a high level. The strength through the middle of the defense, I think, is important. They have that.”

5. No excuses for the Lions who are coming off the 41-21 loss to the Colts at home.  They will be missing three key players — Kenny Golladay, Jamal Agnew and Tracy Walker are out with injuries. Also, Joe Dahl, Christian Jones, Darryl Roberts and Halapoulivaati Vaitai are questionable.

PREDICTION: Vikings 28, Lions 24

Lions Adrian Peterson, Everson Griffen have a history

Well, this could be interesting.

Lions running back Adrian Peterson and newest defensive end Everson Griffen like to “wrastle.”

The two, who were close when they played with the Vikings for seven seasons, will be reunited with the Lions next week when Griffen joins the team after his pandemic protocol. The Lions received him in a trade with Dallas this week.

Oddly enough, the first opponent after Griffen arrives will be the Vikings at Minnesota on Nov. 8.

Peterson, a good storyteller, shared one memory with the Detroit media on Thursday. 

“Me and Everson we used to lock up. In case you don’t know what that means it’s like a wrastling match. Every training camp at least once or twice, but normally it was once because it was pretty intense,’’ Peterson said.

This particular story happened after camp when they were back at their practice facility ready for lunch following a Friday practice.

“We normally had our tables lined up and these restaurants would provide meals and this day was a Chinese restaurant that a lot of the guys really loved the food. It was all laid out,’’ Peterson said.

“I don’t know what kicked it off or what started it. I’m sure it had to do something with us talking, going back and forth. We locked up again. It was intense. He’s very competitive, I’m very competitive. We ended up locking up — we’re tussling, falling to the ground and getting up and pushing each other back and forth. If you were an outsider and you didn’t know we were having fun, you probably would’ve thought we were into it.

“I caught him slipping — you’d have to ask him about this — he won’t admit it. I caught him slipping and his knee bent back and I took advantage and rushed him and I ended up stopping because I was going to run into the food. 

“Now when I think about it I think I should’ve sacrificed the food because when I eased up he came four steps ahead and slammed me to the ground, I was like, ‘Alright that pretty much ended it. You seen that I give up, why did you take advantage?’ … He said he had to.’’

So now they will be back together and it raises a few questions:

Is wrastlng a pandemic-friendly activity?

What will coach Matt Patricia think?

“It is strange, it’s funny how things work out, who would’ve thought we’d meet again playing for the Detroit Lions and the first (game) we play together would be against the Vikings,’’ Peterson said. “It’s kind of cool, it’s funny how things come full-circle.’’

Meanwhile, the Lions (3-3) host the Indianapolis Colts (4-2) at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Ford Field.

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.’’