Five things to know as Lions play Packers

The Lions only get one Monday Night Football appearance this year and plan to make the most of it.

Detroit (2-1-1) will face the Packers (4-1) in a huge NFC North division battle. It will be the Lions’ first conference game while the Packers beat the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings to open the season.

Lions coach Matt Patricia refuses to budge off his belief that this game isn’t bigger than others.

“It’s really just that the next game is always the biggest game. I think certainly from that standpoint, the only thing that does really affect anything along those lines – but the next game is always the biggest game – it’s just when in the season is it,’’ Patricia said. “I think as the season goes and the farther you get along in the season then from that aspect of it those games are always critical from that point. They’re all important. We only have so many of them. That’s just kind of the way the NFL works. Really for us, it’s staying within the moment. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

The Lions have won two straight at Lambeau and three of the last four there. For years it seemed like they’d never win again at the Packers. Kicker Jason Hanson never won a game there in his 21 years with Detroit. But after losing 22 straight games in the state of Wisconsin (includes 3 games in Milwaukee 1992-1994) the Lions snapped the streak with the win on Nov. 15, 2015.

No excuses now.

Five things to know about Lions matchup at the Packers:

1. Matthew Stafford knows his work will be cut out for him  “They’ve got guys up front that wreak havoc on the game and guys in the backend that are really sticky in coverage and do a great job when the ball is in there of going and making plays on it,’’ Stafford said. “We’ll have our work cut out for us. It’s always a tough environment to go play there. It’s a lot of fun playing there. It’s a great stadium, but they’re a really good football team.” Stafford said it’s key to limit turnovers against the Packers, just like in every game.

2. Aaron Rodgers is back to being Aaron Rodgers. He’s thrown six touchdowns against just one interception in the 5-1 start for the Packers. The offense looks to be revived under new coach Matt LeFleur. “One of the fiercest competitors with just this calmness about him that’s pretty amazing. I think, when you step on the field and see what he can do and operate at such a high level. Just really unphazed by so many things that are happening around him and just continues to make these great plays. It’s pretty unbelievable,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “One of the things that they are doing that they’ve been known for, but I think he’s just doing a great job this year are some of the free plays that he’s getting. Whether it’s substitutions or – his cadence is amazing, so he gets the hard counts, he gets guys to jump. They’re really converting those into touchdowns.’’

3. Packers running back Aaron Jones was named the NFC offensive player of the week after scoring four rushing touchdowns in the win at Dallas on Sunday night. He also caught 7 passes for 75 yards. “They are running the ball very well, and obviously Aaron Jones is one heck of a back. It puts a lot of stress on you,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. “It puts a lot of stress on the defense because regardless of what level of football you’re at, I think as a defensive coach you preach to stop the run, and they’re running the ball very well. Of course, they have a great quarterback, they have a Hall of Fame quarterback who is playing extremely well. They do have a nice play-action concept off of those stretch runs. You have to bring your A-game and you have to be at your best because it’s just very difficult to stop.”

4. The Lions’ run game must continue to evolve. Their 186 rushing yards against the Chiefs (125 by Kerryon Johnson) helped keep them in that game. “I mean the last couple games that he’s played, he’s really been beginning to trust the scheme that are going on in front of him. I think he’s beginning to trust himself in kind of what we’re asking him to do. He’s done a really nice job,’’ Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.

5. Coming off the bye week, the Lions are healthier. Tight end T.J. Hockenson, finished concussion protocol, and is expected to play. After missing the loss against Kansas City, cornerback Darius Slay and wide receiver Danny Amendola will return. Defensive linemen Mike Daniels and  Da’Shawn Hand will be sidelined, per Saturday’s injury report. For the Packers, wide receiver Davante Adams is out. 

PREDICTION: Lions 27, Packers 24. Detroit have the advantage of an extra week of rest and preparation. 

Detroit Lions release 2019 schedule

Will play one Monday night game on the road

Not too much drama in the release of the Detroit Lions’ 2019 schedule on Wednesday night although just two of the first five games will be played at Ford Field.

The Lions open on the road at the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 8 with their first home game in Week 2 against the Los Angeles Chargers who finished 12-4 last season.

They will play on Monday night game, on Oct. 14 at the Green Bay Packers. It will be their first game after the bye in Week 5 (Oct. 6).

On Oct. 27, the Lions will welcome the New York Giants and wide receiver Golden Tate.

On Thanksgiving they will face the Chicago Bears for the second straight season. In 2018 the Bears feasted on the Lions with a 23-16 win.

The regular season — the second under coach Matt Patricia —  will wrap up on Dec. 29 against the Packers at Ford Field. It’s the second straight home finale against the Packers. The Lions won that game 30-0 last year to finish the season, 6-10.

2019 REGULAR SEASON LIONS SCHEDULE

Sunday, Sept. 8 at Arizona Cardinals, FOX, 4:25 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 15 LOS ANGELES CHARGERS, CBS, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 22 at Philadelphia Eagles, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 29 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 6 BYE WEEK

Monday, October 14 at Green Bay Packers, ESPN, 8:15 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 20 MINNESOTA VIKINGS, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 27 NEW YORK GIANTS, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 3 at Oakland Raiders, FOX, 4:05 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 10 at Chicago Bears, CBS, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 17 DALLAS COWBOYS, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Nov.24 at Washington Redskins, FOX, 1 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 28 CHICAGO BEARS, FOX, 12:30 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 8 at Minnesota Vikings, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 15 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, FOX, 1 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 21/Sunday, Dec. 22 at Denver Broncos TBD

Sunday, Dec. 29 GREEN BAY PACKERS, FOX, 1 p.m.

PRESEASON SCHEDULE

Thursday, Aug. 8 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, WJBK-TV FOX 2, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 17 at Houston Texans WJBK-TV FOX 2, 8 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 23 BUFFALO BILLS, CBS, 8 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 29 at Cleveland Browns, WJBK-TV, FOX 2 7:30 p.m

Don’t count out Lions Quandre Diggs against the Packers

Glover Quin has played with a broken hand with success

ALLEN PARK — Don’t count out Quandre Diggs for Sunday just yet.

The Detroit Lions nickel cornerback/strong safety broke his left hand in Sunday’s loss at Dallas.

Diggs had limited participation in Wednesday’s practice which is a good sign that he could be available on Sunday. He was wearing what appeared to be a cast on his left hand.

Diggs has been an integral part of the new Matt Patricia-style defense. He’s started all four games, playing 100 percent of the defensive snaps in Weeks 2 and 3, and 97 percent in the opener.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The Lions (1-3) host the Green Bay Packers (2-1-1) on Sunday at Ford Field. Defending quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a monumental task so having the whole complement of the Lions’ secondary on the field is huge.

Glover Quin said a safety can play with a broken hand. He has done it.

Quin said in his second season (2010), playing for Houston Texans, he broke his hand in a game against the Jets. In the next game he had three interceptions in a win over the Tennessee Titans. (A check of NFL stats proved his claim. By the way, they were his only three interceptions that season.)

“There are definitely some challenges (playing with a cast), especially as a defensive back. You use your hands a lot,’’ Quin said on Wednesday. “You can deal with the pain, you can make it.’’

Of course not all broken hands are equal. If Diggs fracture is more serious he could be forced to the sidelines.

In the first four games Diggs, who signed a three-year, $18.6 million extension last month, has 16 tackles, four pass defenses and an interception in the first four games.

Five things to watch as Lions face 49ers

Both teams want to avoid 0-2 start

After Monday night’s 48-17 loss, the Detroit Lions have much to prove today at the San Francisco 49ers.

They can quiet the rumors that the team doesn’t buy into new coach Matt Patricia. The defense can show that Patricia and Paul Pasqualoni have drawn up a scheme that complements the players’ talents.

They can prove this team is ready to take a step up from a 9-7 record last season. They can show that they can compete for a playoff spot.

(Kickoff is at 4:05 p.m. on FOX)

The Lions’ short turn-around from playing on Monday night is no excuse. This is the NFL, this is what they do.

In the past 10 seasons only 10 NFL teams  made the playoffs after an 0-2 start. Here’s the thing, though. San Francisco is 0-1 too — although they looked more competitive in the 24-16 loss at the Vikings.

It all sets up for a Week 2 game with plenty on the line for both teams.

Five things to watch:

1. Matthew Stafford should have a better game. The four interceptions were not all on him, but he made some bad decisions in the first game of this tenth season. He is better than that. Of course when he delivers a ball to a receiver, they cannot drop it. Golden Tate alone had two drops. He knows he can do better.

2. The offensive line last week didn’t allow Stafford to be sacked. However, the quarterback faced much pressure. With T.J. Lang (foot) out at right guard we could see Kenny Wiggins start in his place. He is experienced after starting all 16 games last season for the Chargers. The line — all five of them — have to play better than last week not just in protecting Stafford but opening up holes for the running backs.

3. That run game that has been talked about since the final snap of the 2017 season, needs to get in gear early. Let’s see more of rookie Kerryon Johnson and veteran LeGarrette Blount. Last week Ameer Abdullah was inactive (coach’s decision) and would expect the same at San Francisco. The Lions only had 39 yards rushing in Monday night’s loss to the Jets. They had to get away from the run in the second half because they fell so far behind. In the first half they managed just 18 rushing yards. It’s befuddling, that’s for sure. If it’s not corrected, their chances of beating the 49ers are diminished.

4. Detroit’s defense got off to a terrific start with Quandre Diggs intercepting Sam Darnold on the Jets’ first play from scrimmage. It was pretty much downhill from there with the defense giving up five touchdowns, 169 rushing yards and 48 total points. It doesn’t get easier. Coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense has plenty of weapons with Jimmy Garoppolo connecting on passes of 36 yards or more to three different receivers last week. Shanahan said he watched Patriots’ film from the Super Bowl to acquaint himself with Patricia’s defensive scheme. The line must get pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo to force him to throw interceptions. Last week he threw three, which is uncharacteristic for him. In six games last season he was picked off just five times. The Vikings made him uncomfortable (he was sacked three times) and it worked.

5. Special teams must get its act together after a lousy start against the Jets. They gave up a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown and Matt Prater missed two field goals (56 and 44 yards). Sam Martin’s punts averaged a healthy 50.7 yards but those were returned for a total of 137 yards. Special teams can be overlooked, but this unit needs to step up.

Lions Matt Patricia stresses hard work, execution on day after stunning loss

Jets’ defense knew the Lions’ plays

The day after the debacle, Lions coach Matt Patricia stayed on message. He’s moving on from the 48-17 loss to the Jets on Monday Night Football

Patricia, on a Tuesday evening conference call, said the team is working hard to get better every day.

Pure coach speak. With the way the Lions stunk up Ford Field, it seems Patricia would be a little more fiery and address the areas that failed (basically all of them).

Here are two concerns:

— Have the played bought in to his message?

— How come the Jets defense knew what was coming on Detroit’s offense?

If he’s worried that some of the players may have tuned him out, he did not let on.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

“The good thing about this game, one of the things we try to do is build mental toughness, that’s part of the game and what we’re all about,’’ Patricia said in a Tuesday conference call.

Really, it could have been any coach of any team in any sport uttering those same words.

This is an area that cannot be overlooked. If Patricia has lost the team — and it’s an if — one game into the season, it could turn into a four-month nightmare. Lions’ fans know the script.

Along with messaging, it certainly can’t be overlooked that Jets defensive and offensive players said they knew what plays the Lions were running and were able to adjust. This is the first game of the season so they must have gone back to last season for film — and maybe to Patriots’ film on defense. Afterall they intercepted Matthew Stafford four times and Matt Cassel once.

Patricia doesn’t seem fazed by this.

“I would say in general, there are a lot of things that go on in the games that are identifiable to the players on both sides of the ball through the course of the game and that happens at times. Those things come up,’’ Patricia said. “There are certainly very specific things that are used in the course of a game where guys do a good job of steering things or studying things and seeing stuff at that standpoint. We try to do the best we can to keep it moving on both sides of the ball. We certainly have the same situation from our side, we study opponents the same as everybody else does and you kind of, group, I would say, things into categories based on schemes and systems. And that’s really important to understand. So, if you do that, sometimes that’s helpful and sometimes it’s not.”

Got that?

The offensive woes on Monday night were possibly most worrisome since it’s basically the same offense that Jim Bob Cooter ran last year. It seems like he would have changed formations and signals, or maybe he did.

Patricia brought in a new defensive scheme. Do the Lions have enough talent and depth on defense to execute it? He didn’t really say.

“We have the players that we have that are going to help us try to get better. I think the biggest part of it for us, again I’ll start with myself, some of the coaching and some of that stuff has to be better and some of the execution of some of the things we were trying to do last night has to be better,’’ Patricia said. “I don’t think it was a situation where we were outmatched or out-manned , we just got out-executed, give credit to the Jets.’’

Veteran safety Glover Quin said it felt like the defense never was in control of the game.

The Lions finished 2017 with a 9-7 record. They’ve won at least nine games in three of the last four seasons. Patricia doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. This is not a rebuild. This is not a young team by NFL standards. These guys know football.

“I feel like we were right in the game in a good situation at the beginning of the third quarter and we let things spiral out of control from there,” veteran linebacker Devon Kennard said. “Like I said, being a defensive guy, I would’ve loved to get a stop after our offense scored and put them in position to maybe score again. But we didn’t do that and things got out of control.”

 

Lions, Matt Patricia had seven months to prepare for Jets; results inexcusable

Lopsided loss raises doubts

Seven months. Coach Matt Patricia and his staff had seven months to prepare for the N.Y. Jets. The results are shameful.

The Lions are coming off a 9-7 season which was not good enough to keep Jim Caldwell around. On paper it’s a decent NFL team. Not elite, but it should be at least an eight- or nine-win team.

This is not a rebuild. This is a team that should re ready to take the next step, a playoff win.

Then came a stinker like Monday when the Lions lost 48-17 at Ford Field to the Jets and their rookie quarterback Sam Darnold.

Color me befuddled.

It would be understandable if Stafford happened to have a bad day but the defense and special teams held their own. Or any variation of that – defense bad and Stafford and special teams good. Or, if one of the key players had been out with an injury it would have been a little less befuddling.

But it was all three phases that stunk in Monday night’s debacle. Even Matt Prater missed two field goals.

Stafford threw four interceptions and afterward several Jets defenders said they knew what play the Lions were going to run by their formations and Stafford’s hand signals, according to Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports.

How can that happen? Patricia is a defensive guru — he’s the guy who has been looking for tells on other offenses. How can he not see them in his own offense?

He took partial blame, but should have put it all on his shoulders. That’s what Stafford did – he told his teammates that loss was on him. That’s a sign of a leader.

Seven months.

Look back to 2009 when Jim Schwartz, also a first-year head coach, took over the Lions who had stumbled to an 0-16 record in 2008. That was a job no one wanted. The roster he inherited had more weak points than strengths (Calvin Johnson). Matthew Stafford was a 21-year-old rookie. The team culture was all about losing. The roster didn’t have near the talent or depth that today’s does.

The 2009 season opener was in New Orleans, a tough place for any NFL team to win except the Saints. Drew Brees threw six touchdown passes and zero interceptions while Stafford threw three interceptions and zero touchdowns. And, yes, the Lions lost, but the score was 45-27. Detroit had 33 rushing yards, even then it was a weak point. It was not a great start for Schwartz, but considering where the Lions came from, it was not that upsetting.

In 2014, Jim Caldwell won his first game as Lions coach on a Monday night against the Giants, 35-14, at Ford Field. Those Lions were coming off a 7-9 season that got Schwartz fired.

That was then, this is now. Patricia’s message has been “last year was last year.”

Well, last year is looking pretty good.

Five thoughts on the Lions embarrassing 48-17 loss to the N.Y. Jets

Even Prater missed a pair of field goals

DETROIT — It wasn’t just a loss. The Lions through the years have dropped many games they were supposed to win.

No, Monday night’s season-opening 48-17 loss to the N.Y. Jets was humiliating, embarrassing and all-around atrocious.

To say it was awful is just too kind.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The Lions were beat solidly in every phase on Monday night in the friendly confines of Ford Field by rookie Sam Darnold, the youngest quarterback to ever start a game in the NFL.

Five thoughts:

1. Let’s start with the coaching. Did Matt Patricia have this bunch fully prepared? It did not look like it. Patricia’s first start as an NFL head coach was abysmal.

“Look we’re just trying to come out here everyday and get better. It’s a team game but it starts with me and we’ve got to do it better,’’ Patricia said afterwards. “Look we work hard, try to do the right things, we try to coach it the right way, we try to run it the right way, we try to execute the right way we obviously didn’t do a good enough job tonight.” Obviously.

2. Matthew Stafford is a talented quarterback with a big arm. He is not just a gunslinger. His former backup, Dan Orlovsky, said on WJR’s pre-game show that most people don’t understand the level of Stafford’s intelligence. It was the first game of Stafford’s 10th season and he threw four interceptions. Four. His record is five in a game but that was back when he was a rookie. Stafford got dinged twice in the game, but made it through until there was absolutely no need for him to be on the field.

“The story of the game was turnovers, we had too many of them, I had too many of them. I told those guys in there I’ll take (the blame) for this one. I hope I never have to say that again, I don’t want to do it, I’ll push myself as hard as I can to make sure I don’t have to. Felt prepared coming into the game, but didn’t make enough good decisions or good throws,’’ Stafford said.

3.  It is not the first time opponents said they knew what plays the Lions offense was running before the ball was snapped. Dan Wetzel, Yahoo columnist, tweeted that “a number of  Jets defenders said they knew what plays the Lions were going to run based on formation and Stafford hand signals.’’ Could explain why the Jets defense intercepted Stafford four times and Matt Cassel once. This is inexcusable and it can be blamed on coaching. Patricia knows better than this.

4. Defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said finger-pointing will not help. He emphasized that players and coaches have to examine their roles in the debacle. Francois started with himself.

“We just got beat across the board. Tonight is a game we need to look at, we need to look at each individual self including my damn self. I need to look myself in the mirror and look at this game. I have to put it behind me fast,’’ Francois said. “This is a game we need to learn off of. The bad part about it, we got beat this way. The good part about it is we get to learn from it. We’ve got 16 more weeks to play.’’

5. Bailing out the water from this sinking ship can’t be a drawn-out process. It has to be done before Sunday when the Lions play at the 49ers.

“There’s not a lot to be happy about here. I think in general all of us have to be better, start from the top and work our way down, I don’t think there’s anything you can say other than it’s all execution and coaching it all has to be better from that standpoint,’’ Patricia said.

BONUS 1: Wide receiver Kenny Golladay (7 catches for 114 yards) and rookie running back Kerryon Johnson (5 carries for 17 yards; 3 catches for 20 yards) provided highlights on offense. … Safety Quandre Diggs intercepted Darnold on the first play from scrimmage and ran it back 37 yards for a touchdown. It was a great way to start a game. … Detroit’s defense allowed 169 rushing yards and 349 yards overall. … Matt Prater missed two field goal attempts (55 yards short and wide right from 44 yards). … Ziggy Ansah had a sack early, but couldn’t finish the game due to a shoulder injury. Devon Kennard also sacked Darnold. … Ameer Abdullah and A’Shawn Robinson were inactive.

BONUS 2: Ricky Jean Francois gets the final words: “As long as nobody in this locker room, this organization lost faith, I could care less (what’s said) outside the door. None of them play for us. The only people who play for us are the people in this locker room, who I go to practice every day. As long as they still have confidence, as long as they know we have 16 weeks and as long as they know we’ve got a quick turnaround for this game we have to play (Sunday). That’s all that matters to this Lions organization.’’