Five things to know about Lions’ 30-27 loss to the San Francisco 49ers

Lions now 0-2, welcome Patriots on Sunday night

The Lions made it interesting in the waning minutes, but had fallen too far behind to catch up. Detroit fell to 0-2 in Matt Patricia’s inaugural season with a 30-27 loss at the San Francisco 49ers.

New coach, many of the same old problems — missed tackles, run game inefficiencies and too many penalties.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

On top of that all, Matthew Stafford’s game was not spot-on. Again. He missed Marv Jones Jr., deep on three long attempts and Golden Tate on another. Those are passes that should be automatic.

Here are five things to know about the loss:

1. Stafford played better than he did in the opening loss to the Jets, but still didn’t look himself. He did not throw an interception but lost a fumble and couldn’t connect at key times. It was not all on him. It looked like Theo Riddick dropped a fourth-and-2 pass with seconds left while the Lions were trying to get in field goal position for Matt Prater. Stafford had injured his calf in the Monday night game but was not on the injury report all week. He was sacked twice on Sunday and pressured often. He shouldered the blame for the loss to the Jets, saying he had to play better. He did, but it wasn’t enough. Stafford was 34 of 53 for 347 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

2. The Lions defense gave up to many chunk yardage plays while the Detroit offense had trouble running or passing against the 49ers for big chunk yardage. Golden Tate caught a 67-yard pass late in the game. Kenny Golladay’s touchdown was from 30 yards out. The longest run was for 21 yards by Kerryon Johnson.

3. The Lions’ run game looked less anemic than on Monday night, finishing with 98 yards rushing compared to 39 in loss to Jets. Johnson led with eight catches for 43 yards (5.4 yards per run) while LeGarrette Blount averaged 4.8 yards per carry (eight carries, 38 yards). This offense is not meant to operate at a 50-50 run-pass ratio, but they have to be able to run the ball. And, actually, as Chris Spielman explained it — throwing the ball would open up the run.

4. The defense — playing without the injured Ziggy Ansah — sacked Jimmy Garoppolo six times for losses of 50 yards. But he was able to complete 69.2 percent of his passes, including a pair of touchdown tosses. The Lions’ defense struggled big-time stopping the run. They  allowed 190 rushing yards with Matt Breida marking career highs with 138 rushing yards and a 66-yard rushing touchdown. This was an issue on Monday night when they allowed the Jets to rush for 169 yards. It was a concern, but obviously it was not fixed.

5. Penalties were killers. Jamal Agnew’s fourth-quarter 73-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was negated when flags were thrown for blocks in the back by two Lions. Detroit was called for 10 penalties costing them 105 yards and likely the ball game. Veteran running back LeGarrette Blount was kicked out of the game in the fourth quarter, when he came off the bench when Elijah Lee knocked Stafford out of bounds and no penalty was called. Blount shoved Lee and was ejected. Stafford’s wife Kelly had something to say about Blount’s ejection on Instagram: “I don’t care. I love Blount for that sh–.” She’s right, it did show passion, something the Lions were missing on Monday night.

NEXT UP: The Lions (0-2) play the New England Patriots (1-1) on Sunday night at Ford Field. The Patriots lost to the Jaguars, 31-20, on Sunday.

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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.”

 

Detroit Lions: Five things to know about LeGarrette Blount on eve of opener

Winning more important than number of carries

ALLEN PARK >> LeGarrette Blount is happy to talk about the three Super Bowl rings he’s won in the last four seasons. It’s rare he’ll wear them in public and when he does, it’s the duplicates not the real diamond-encrusted bling. And, oh by the way, the Lions running back says he wears all three together.

However, when it comes to Monday’s season-opening game against the N.Y. Jets at Ford Field, Blount is all business.

“I’m really excited about it, just the opportunity to go out there and play a real game against a lot of different guys, against a really good defense. Obviously we know they’re a good team. I’m excited about it,’’ said Blount whose last game was for the Eagles in the Super Bowl on Feb. 4.

Five things to know about Blount with the regular season a few days away:

1. He’s one of four Lions’ running backs who should get touches in every game. He’s not concerned about his workload or lack of it. “We’re just worried about winning the games, we don’t care about the touches at this point,’’ Blount said on Friday. Last season he led the Eagles with 173 carries for 766 yards (4.4 yards per carry). He also scored a pair of rushing touchdowns. That’s about 18 carries a game. He was the Eagles’ top producing back. Jay Ajayi had 70 carries for 408 yards, while Corey Clement had 74 for 321 yards.

2. Blount loves the versatility among the Lions’ backs which should cause headaches for opposing defensive coordinators. “(There’s) an unlimited amount of mismatches, let’s just say that. Like I said we have a lot of different dynamics in our room. Obviously Theo (Riddick) is one of the most dynamic running backs in this league. AA (Ameer Abdullah) is also one of the most elusive guys in this league. We have a dynamic group and we’re excited to see what we all can do,’’ Blount said, also mentioning rookie Kerryon Johnson.

3. One reason Blount signed with the Lions is that he had a good relationship with Matt Patricia when they were both with the New England Patriots. It’s a mutual admiration society. “He’s been in a couple different programs, so he can really adapt pretty quickly to different structures, different schemes,’’ Patricia said on Friday. “Obviously a physical presence, he runs the ball with a good aggressiveness, a good nature of trying to get the ball vertical into the defense and with a good run attitude from that standpoint. But he really just does a great job. He’s a great teammate, he works extremely hard, he really cares. He cares about winning, he cares about competition, which is great and which obviously you can just keep pushing everything every single day, as far as that’s concerned, to get better, which is what we’re trying to do.’’

4. Blount seems to be a good fit no matter the team. Since his rookie season in 2010 he has played for Tampa Bay (2010-12), the Patriots (2013, 2014-2016) , the Steelers (part of 2014) and the Eagles (2017). “One thing I can say is I just get along with everybody. I bring a lot of energy and joy to wherever I’m going, I think that’s part of it,’’ Blount said. “I never go into any situation with that thought (that I won’t fit in) in my head. I always make my decisions based on what’s best for me whenever I choose to go to a team — what’s best for me, what’s best for my family. I pray over it and I make my decision. I haven’t been anywhere where I was like, ‘I don’t think this is going to work.’’’

5. Even though he’s a short-timer, he’s aware of the Lions’ sad history in the run game since Barry Sanders retired and the 68-game stretch since a back (Reggie Bush) has run for at least 100 yards in a game. “Our group, we want to step up to any challenge that’s presented to us. I wouldn’t say since Barry, I would say since Reggie. I think Reggie was one of the most dynamic backs this league has seen in a long time. He’s one of the good running backs who’s come through here also. I give props and respect to him. I’ll just take full responsibility on how good our room plays. I want to make sure we’re in the best place possible, the best position possible to win the football game and make sure our group does everything possible to put us in that position.’’ Running for 100 yards in a game isn’t the goal, winning games is.

 

Lions release Jake Rudock; 5 reasons Matt Cassel best choice as No. 2 QB

Cassel’s experience a boost on and off the field

The Lions released quarterback Jake Rudock Saturday as one of their cuts on the way to the initial 53-man roster which was due at 4 p.m.

Matt Cassel, the NFL veteran, will back up Matthew Stafford this season.

Do not think for a minute that the backup has to be the quarterback who has best moved the offense in the preseason games or the younger guy. Look at the big picture.

“Their preparation, their professionalism, how they attack the day, the daily game plan, the weekly game plan, how they prepare themselves, is definitely all part of the evaluation,’’ coach Matt Patricia said.

This is not an attack on Rudock who could land on the practice squad if he clears waivers.

However, keeping Cassel over Rudock is a good move. Here are five reasons why:

1. After watching both at training camp, Cassel at age 36, has a better arm than the 25-year-old Rudock who served as Stafford’s backup the past two seasons after he was drafted in the sixth round out of Michigan in 2016. The Lions wouldn’t have signed Cassel if they thought his arm strength was gone and they wouldn’t have kept him if he didn’t meet expectations in the offseason and preseason.

2. It is not, however, all about arm strength or even the ability to move the offense down the field. Certainly those help, but the backup quarterback serves as another set of eyes for Stafford on the sideline during games, at practice and in the film room. This is a huge part of the job description. It only makes sense that this is the strength of Cassel who is entering his 14th NFL season. Deciphering defenses is second nature. Cassel has seen it all as a starter and backup on six other NFL teams. That experience is invaluable.

3. Rudock had a head-start on the Jim Bob Cooter offense, but Cassel seemed to be a quick learner. It happens with experience. Did I mention the benefits of experience? Cassel has played in 105 NFL games completing 1,571 of 2,666 passes (58.9 percent). As an NFL starter, Cassel owns a 36-45 record. He had two 10-5 seasons — in 2008 (Patriots) and 2010 (Chiefs). Rudock got some garbage time in three games last season completing 3 of 5 pass attempts with one interception.

4. Cassel, who was drafted in the seventh round in 2005 by the New England Patriots, has a history with Patricia. While Patricia ran the defense in New England, the two were not strangers. This is not the only reason Cassel got the nod as the No. 2 quarterback but it helps that Patricia knows him well and obviously trusts him.

5. Rudock is a nice guy and has worked hard the past two seasons. This isn’t a nice guy contest, although Cassel seems like quite a champ in that department too. It’s a business. Remember how Jim Caldwell felt comfortable with Dan Orlovsky as a backup? That’s how it looks for Patricia and Cassel.

(BONUS tidbit: Cassel has NFL career earnings of $61 million, according to FOXsports.)

Expect changes through the next few days. Initial roster cuts:

RELEASED (VESTED VETERANS)
LB Jonathan Freeny
C Wesley Johnson
TE Sean McGrath
CB DeShawn Shead

WAIVED
DE Alex Barrett
WR Jace Billingsley
LB Freddie Bishop
WR Dontez Ford
CB Mike Ford
CB Chris Jones
WR Chris Lacy
DT Jeremiah Ledbetter
S Rolan Milligan
QB Jake Rudock
LB Darnell Sankey
P Ryan Santoso
T Dan Skipper
RB Dwayne Washington

PLACED ON RESERVE/INJURED
RB Zach Zenner

PLACED ON RESERVE/PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM
WR Andy Jones

TRADED
Traded T Corey Robinson to the Carolina Panthers for an undisclosed future draft selection.

WAIVED FROM RESERVE/INJURED
DT Toby Johnson