Five keys to the Lions beating Giants, 31-18, for third straight win

Give Lions coach Dan Campbell credit. While his coaching ability was being questioned after a 1-6 start this season, he remained steadfastly confident that his team was close. He said it repeatedly, loss after loss. He did not waiver.

On Sunday the Lions (4-6) won their third straight game with a 31-18 drubbing of the New York Giants (7-3) on the road. It’s the first time since 2017 the Lions have won three straight. 

In the last three weeks, the offense and defense have worked together to find ways to win. The offense was golden from the get-go when the defense was stumbling. The offense has recovered after a downfall and the defense, which started three rookies, has grown from week to week.

“This is the same team it’s been. It’s the same team that showed up after the Washington game and the week after  that,’’ Campbell said in a postgame media session. “They put in the same amount of work, but when you bank the reps and you continue to talk about these things and you clean up a few things and you know that you’re really only one play away literally and you can’t look at anything outside of that, you just say,  ‘Look, for all the errors or things we made a mistake on the opponent did too, but we made the error that killed us. Now we’re making the plays that are helping us win these. But nothing has really changed as to what we are or what we do. We’re figuring things out.’’

With the win they moved into second place in the NC North. They face the Buffalo Bills (7-3) on Thanksgiving at Ford Field.

The defense, which was ranked 32nd in the NFL entering the game, was in beast mode, The offense came up with key plays.

“Everything that we said we had to do and needed to do to beat this team, we did that for almost all of the game, there were a couple of spots in there,’’ Campbell said. “These guys are playing their asses off and they are starting to figure out a way to win – we all are – it’s a credit to these guys and the coaches.’’

Five of many keys that contributed to the win:

1. Win the turnover battle, win the game. The LIons forced three Giants’ turnovers while the offense never turned the ball over.. Aidan Hutchinson and Kerby Joseph intercepted quarterback Daniel Jones who had gone six games without an interception. Then in the fourth quarter when the Giants were trying to claw their way back Charles Harris forced a fumble and Hutchinson recovered it. In these three straight wins the LIons have created seven turnovers. It’s a focus and they are making it happen. “It becomes contagious. When you’re able to get a couple and you get a couple more. Pretty soon it becomes second nature,’’ Campbell said. “It’s hard to explain but it always starts with effort.’’

2. Giants running back Saquon Barkley, who averaged 103.4 yards per game this season entering the game, was held to 15 carries for 22 yards. His longest scamper was 4 yards. The Lions defense turned him into a nonfactor. “We knew he was the key, we could not let him get going and we did that. … That was huge because everything did run through him,’’ Campbell said. “That was the main focus of our defense this week, they performed it perfectly.’’ Barkley never got going – in the first drive he had six carries for 6 yards.

3. With three rushing touchdowns, Jamaal Williams was the key to the offense. That makes it a dozen for the season for him which is equal to the total rushing touchdowns the Lions had last season. “Look, his production speaks for itself and everything you see and know about him is who he is. He’s all heart — he’s emotion, he’s heart — he just is a steady productive, hard-running, hard-working smart football player,’’ Campbell said. “ If you listed your most consistent players, most dependable consistent players he would definitely be at the top of that list.’’ Williams finished with 17 carries for 74 yards. 

4. Again, it was a game won in the trenches. The defensive line including Hutchinson and Alim McNeill, who was in Daniel Jones face early and often. McNeil and John Cominsky were credited with sacks. McNeil and Isaiah Buggs were credited by Campbell for  clogging up the middle making it tough to get anywhere on the ground. The offensive line created holes for Williams, D’Andre Swift (5 carries, 20 yards) and Justin Jackson (9 carries, 66 yards) especially late in the game when the Lions had a big enough lead that they just wanted to literally run time off the clock. “That’s another credit to this offensive line. It’s not the easiest thing in the world now when you choose to run the ball and the defense knows you’re going to run it and they probably have an idea where they’re going to run it when you get late in the game,’’ Campbell said. “The offensive line finished that game out for us.’’

5. Quarterback Jared Goff and the offense took advantage of Hutchinson’s interception in the  second quarter with an 18-yard effort finishing with Williams’ 4-yard touchdown run which gave the Lions a 10-6 lead. While the defense will get much credit for the win, the offense was in gear through all four quarters. They didn’t play perfectly but also did not shoot themselves in the foot. Goff finished 17 of 26 for 165 yards and zero interceptions. The Lions finished with 325 total net yards.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

BY THE NUMBERS: DeShon Elliott and Will Harris led the defense with 8 tackles each. … Aidan Hutchinson had an interception, a pass defense, a fumble recovery and three tackles. … The Giants were 5 of 13 on third downs while the Lions were a bit better at 6 of 13. The Giants were 2 of 3 on fourth downs while the Lions never attempted one. .. The Giants missed on all three point-after attempts – two bad kicks and an incomplete pass.

Five thoughts from Lions QB Matthew Stafford on win over Giants

DETROIT — Matthew Stafford has kept his head up and continued to work through the rough start to the season for the Lions.

When they lose, the quarterback shoulders the blame.

When they are victorious — like Sunday’s 31-26 win over the Giants — he credits his teammates.

“He is just a competitive, competitive guy. He always wants to be the best, and he’s great. He works really hard, he’s competitive, he’s tough, he’s grinding it out every single day,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “He did a great job today, leading the offense and just staying consistent all the way through. He handles pressure really well. You just have to love the guys. You have to love how hard he works, how he battles, and you have to love how tough he is, and he’s smart.’’

Stafford completed 25 of 32 pass attempts for 342 yards. It was his third game of the last four that he threw at least three touchdown passes. He had one blip — an interception — that he is absolutely not happy about.

Five thoughts from Stafford on the win:

1. A flea-flicker play in the fourth quarter resulted in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to Kenny Golladay with an assist from J.D. McKissic who got the ball first. It’s more proof that offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell looks outside of the box. “I like that’s he’s willing to try those things, put them in and if we execute them (in practice) and they look good, then he has confidence to go out there and just like any other play and call it during the game,’’ Stafford said. “Obviously we had a good spot on the field to call it and got a little bang for our buck and scored.’’

2. Every Sunday a different wide receiver steps up. This game it was Kenny Golladay with a pair of touchdown catches among his 6 receptions for 123 yards. Danny Amendola had eight catches on eight targets for 95 yards. Marvin Jones Jr., had just four receptions for 22 yards after he scored four touchdowns a week ago. “I’m just trying to get the ball to the guy who’s open, to where the coverage tells me to throw it,’’ Stafford said. “I’m trying to read every play appropriately and trust in our guys are going to win. They’re winning a bunch right now and making great plays for me. That’s just what i’m trying to do, I don’t go into a game thinking i’m going to feed this guy or feed that guy.’’ 

3. Amendola, in his first season with the Lions, has fit right in. He’s Stafford’s kind of player. “He’s doing a great job, I still think he and I can continue to build and be better but he’s doing a really nice job on the inside part of the field,’’ Stafford said. “… He’s just doing everything for us. You guys know what he is, he goes out there, works his tail off, gets open when he’s supposed to get open, makes great catches, blocks in the run game, he’s a guy who does everything right. ‘’

4. Wide receiver Marvin Hall had just one catch but it was for 49 yards and a touchdown. He doesn’t get the ball often but makes big-time yardage when he does. “He’s done a great job, he’s an explosive player. I think I  should’ve thrown it to him one more time, he got behind some guys on another ball I didn’t find him on, he’s done a great job,’’ Stafford said. “He’s smart guy, he’s in the right spot, does the right things, when I’ve given him chances he’s come through. That was a huge play today, third-and-15. Any time you convert that it’s great, to score a 50-yard touchdown on it it’s even better.’’

5. Stafford’s interception came on the Lions’ opening possession on a first-and-10 play from the Giants’ 40-yard line. The ball was intended for Marvin Jones Jr., but Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins made the play.  “I got totally in-between on how I wanted to throw the ball — whether I wanted to rip it over 21’s head (Jabrill Peppers) or I wanted to throw it in the back of the end zone and let Marv go get it,’’ Stafford said. “And somewhere in-between was not a good place. Poor decision/throw, just a bad play. I was beating myself up pretty good about that one.’’

 

Five things to know about Detroit Lions’ 31-26 win over N.Y. Giants

DETROIT — After three straight losses, the Detroit Lions absolutely needed to beat the N.Y. Giants to have a chance to turn the season around.

And so they did.

The Giants hung tough, but Detroit won 31-26 on Sunday at Ford Field. With the Bears’ loss to the Chargers, the Lions (3-3-1) moved up to third in the NFC North.

Detroit’s defense scored first when Devon Kennard returned a fumble for a touchdown. It turned out to be a good sign of things to come.

“It was a lot of fun. It was my first time scoring since high school, so touching the paint and getting in the end zone was a lot of fun for me,’’ Kennard said.

A flea-flicker play that resulted in a 41-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Kenny Golladay provided a little razzle-dazzle, but it was mostly grind-it-out football by both teams.

Five things to know about the win:

1. Stafford’s stellar season continues. He passed for 342 yards (25-32), three touchdowns and one interception. He has thrown for at least three touchdowns in three of the last four games. Stafford led the offense to convert 8-of-14 third-down chances and two of those were scores. Stafford, of course, shines the light on his teammates. “There’s a bunch of great players around me, just trying to get the ball to those guys, they make some great plays and we get in the end zone,’’ Stafford said. “It doesn’t matter to me if I’m throwing it in or we’re running it in I just want to score points, obviously left a few out there today but made enough plays to win the game.’’

2. Golladay’s half-dozen catches for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns were key. Just before the flea-flicker touchdown catch, he caught an 18-yard pass on second-and-9 with his arms totally outstretched and somehow on his way to the turf managed to hold on to the ball. The offense had practiced the flea-flicker —  the handoff to J.D. McKissic, who tossed it back to Stafford, who found Golladay — in the past two weeks. It worked in practice so coordinator Darrell Bevell found the perfect time to put it in play. Golladay’s first touchdown reception came on third-and-2 at the Giants’ 9-yard line. “The defender tried to undercut it, so I pretty much just had to do just hands it and not really let it get too close to him. I just snatched it away, quick turn, and made sure both feet were in,’’ Golladay said. 

3. Detroit’s defense had its hands full with running back Saquon Barkley who not only is a phenomenal runner but can also pick up yards after the catch. Barkley had 19 carries for 64 yards and eight catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. The Lions were able to contain the Giants enough for the win. It was tough late in the game when they lost safety Tracy Walker to a knee injury especially since Darius Slay (hamstring) was inactive and they traded Quandre Diggs earlier in the week. 

4. Defensive end Trey Flowers who had one sack in the first six games had back-to-back sacks in the fourth quarter. The first one came on the Giants’ first-and-10 on Detroit’s 43. Flowers knocked the ball out of quarterback Daniel Jones’ grip but Jones was able to recover for a loss of 10 yards. On the next play Flowers sacked him again for  a 6-yard loss. So Giants went from first and 10 to third-and-26 courtesy of Flowers. It was key because the Giants were down by 12 points but there were six-plus minutes left in the game. “(Credit) to the defense on those plays that allowed me to be able to get back there, and I just made the play when it came to me,’’ Flowers said. “There are a lot of guys on this defense that are capable of doing it, and we’re just going to continue to work.”

5. With Kerryon Johnson on injured reserve, running-back-by-committee looked to be the best option. And it was. But not many expected Tra Carson, who the Lions signed on Oct. 17, to be the starting back. He ran on three of the Lions first plays in their opening possession and gained 23 yards. He finished with a dozen carries for 34 yards. Ty Johnson (7 for 25), Paul Perkins (3 for 4 yards) and McKissic (one for minus-1) also got in on the action.