Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face N.Y. Giants at Ford Field

After three straight losses, the Lions face a must-win situation when they face the New York Giants on Sunday at Ford Field.

Must-win in October? Absolutely.

The Lions (2-3-1)  are in the NFC North basement, with two straight division losses. Also they hit the road for the next two weeks — at Oakland on Nov. 3 and at Chicago on Nov. 10.

The Giants (2-5) have won just as many games as the Lions. Think about that.

“We have a big challenge in front of us. I think this is a really good Giants team and I think they’re building confidence as the season goes, and certainly they create a lot of problems on both sides of the ball,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “Offensively, they have some skill players that are just so dangerous, starting obviously with the running back (Saquon) Barkley and the tight end position (Evan) Engram – when you watch him more and more, his speed is really a major issue – especially, down there with a size matchup and stuff. Defensively, the packages that they mix and the pressures, and things like that they are bringing down in the red (zone) area are really hard …’’

Five things to watch:

1. Detroit’s defensive line must play better, get some pressure on rookie quarterback Daniel Jones. Damon “Snacks” Harrison took the blame for the poor play of the defense this week, but it is not just him. Communication and technique are issues that certainly can be fixed, the question is how quickly can this defense turn around. It is ranked 31st overall (allowing 428.7 yards per game.) Patricia is a defensive specialist which makes this all the more surprising. Mike Daniels (foot) remains out, but Da’Shawn Hand is expected to play his first game this season.

2. The Lions secondary will be forced to make adjustments with Darius Slay (hamstring) sidelined and the trade of starting safety Quandre Diggs. Look for Tavon Wilson, along with rookie Will Harris and, possibly C.J. Moore, to see more snaps. Diggs was a leader on and off the field, so his presence will be missed all-around. Patricia mentioned that Miles Killebrew, who mostly plays special teams, could get involved in the defense. They must contain Golden Tate, former Lions’ wide receiver. You can bet Tate will be looking to have a great game. Patricia noted this week that he’s one of the toughest guys in the NFL to tackle. 

3. The Giants’ rookie quarterback Daniel Jones could cause real problems. He’s young so he’ll make mistakes. His stat line of six touchdown passes against seven interceptions is hardly impressive. Still, he should be taken seriously. Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni on Jones: “He’s very, very athletic, he has a very strong arm, he can make all the throws. He can do some real damage – he can do some real damage scrambling and running out of the pocket. They are running the zone-read play. He did do that against Tampa and had one heck of a nice run in the red zone for a touchdown. He’s a really, really, really good player, and I think it’s just he’s a little bit young and trying to get used to playing quarterback in the pocket with the speed and the violence of the game in the NFL.”

4. Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense has been solid but will be challenged without running back Kerryon Johnson who was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic will pick up the slack. Maybe fullback Nick Bawden could get more involved too. Johnson has almost half of the team’s rushing yards — 308 out of 619 — and both of the Lions’ rushing touchdowns. He also ranks sixth in receiving yards with 126. The Diggs trade took much of the spotlight off the bad news regarding the run game which has struggled at times with Johnson healthy. He’s a big loss and coordinator Darrell Bevell must come up with a way to compensate and in a hurry.

5. The fourth-quarter letdowns must end. The Lions have been outscored 38-16 in the fourth quarters of the last three games, all losses. 

PREDICTION: Lions 31, Giants 24 (No excuses, the Lions have to find a way to win this home game.)

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.

 

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford has found recent success at Green Bay

Five things to know about Stafford’s records against Packers

ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford has played well against the Packers in recent years, with the Lions winning four straight against them and three of their last four at Lambeau Field.

The Detroit Lions quarterback will get his next shot on Monday night when the Lions play the Packers at Green Bay in their first NFC North matchup of the season.

“The toughest part about playing Lambeau — I say it all the time — is playing the Packers. It’s not the environment, it’s not all that, you’ve got to play the Packers they’re a good football team,’’ Stafford said on Wednesday. “They’ve got a really good defense this year, got an offense that’s explosive, they’ve got a great quarterback. They do a good job of playing great at home, it’s on us to play a little better.’’

The Packers (4-1) are tops in the NFC North with the Lions (2-1-1) in second place. It’s the first division game this season for Detroit.

“All the games count and no doubt a division game against a really good football team, it’s going to be a fun atmosphere. Monday night will be a whole bunch of fun. We’re going to have some young guys that I’m sure first time playing on Monday will remember it for a long time playing at Lambeau, excited to get out playing again,’’ Stafford said.

He can climb up the record charts with a good game.

Five things to know:

1. Stafford has seven wins against the Packers, tied for the 12th-most in NFL history. A win would bump him into a tie for eighth-most. A win would also mark his fourth win at Lambeau Field which would put him in a tied for seventh all-time. He’s 7-10 all-time against Green Bay.

2. Stafford has thrown for two or more touchdown passes in nine straight games against the Packers. With two touchdown passes on Monday night he would join Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino as the only players in NFL history to throw at least two touchdowns in 10 straight games against a singular opponent.

3. With one touchdown pass, he’ll become the quarterback with the most TD passes against the Packers in NFL history. His current total of 34 is tied with Johnny Unitas. 

4. Stafford needs only 58 passing yards against Packers to move into first place all-time in that category. He is already among elite company. Three of the top five in passing yards against Green Bay are Hall of Famers: No. 1 Fran Tarkenton, No. 3 Unitas, No. 5 Bobby Layne. Also, Vinny Testaverde is at No. 4.

5. Stafford needs 352 passing yards to reach 40,000 for his career. Also he needs just four touchdown passes to reach 250 for his career. It comes as no surprise that Calvin Johnson was on the receiving end of the most (56) with Golden Tate (22) in second and Marvin Jones Jr. (19) in third. (Titus Young, a blast from the past, ranks in the top eight of receivers with most touchdown passes from Stafford with nine.)

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Lions Glover Quin says season not lost

‘As long as we have a chance, we have a chance’

ALLEN PARK — Glover Quin’s glass is half-full until it’s knocked to the floor and shattered.

The safety, a veteran of 10 NFL seasons, does not think the Lions season is over despite their  3-5 record.

“For me, and I say this whenever it’s appropriate, the season is not lost until it’s lost. As long as we have a chance, we have a chance,’’ Quin said on Wednesday. “If we’re not mathematically eliminated on Sunday, we’ve still got a chance. It’s just the NFL.’’

Of course he is right. Technically the Lions are still in the NFC North hunt. It’s just difficult to imagine they could finish on top due to the last two games, both lopsided losses — one to the Seahawks, one to the Vikings.

“I think when you look at these games, the Seattle game I mean we just didn’t make the plays, we were there, we were in position, we were here and there we just didn’t make the plays, that’s on us,’’ Quin said.

“You look at this last game against Minnesota, we gave up a big run on a mis-fit whatever but we played pretty solid defense for the most part in that game,’’ Quin said referring to a 70-yard Dalvin Cook scamper.

“Second half I don’t think we gave up a point. They had the first drive where they scored on us, the one run and they got a score. I think we’ve been playing pretty well we just have to put it all together. We’ve got to put together a full performance, where offensively we play well and control the game, defensively we play well and keep them off the field, and special teams we control the games and make some big plays,’’ Quin said.

“This league, this game. everything is about momentum, about confidence. When you’ve lost two in a row you just have to dive deeper and do whatever it takes to get a win because all it takes you get that one win, confidence gets high, then coming home for three straight games, you never know. It’s really on us we have to prepare well and go to Chicago with the mindset to get a win,’’ he added.

The Bears (5-3) are atop the NFC North. They are 3-1 at home with wins over Seattle, Tampa Bay and the Jets. The Lions are 4-1 in their last five visits to Chicago’s Soldier Field.

“Look at it, the Texans started out 0-3 and they won six in a row now they’re 6-3 and everybody’s talking about, ‘Oh man it’s  the greatest team,’’’ Quin said. “So who knows once you start playing well, you get on a roll, things start happening, you can win what do we have eight  games left? You never know what can happen. Like I always say, and I’ve been saying it in the past, until we’re mathematically eliminated we have a chance and that’s how we have to approach it.’’

.In Detroit’s only two divisional games so far they beat the Packers and lost to the Vikings. They will play the Bears again on Thanksgiving at Ford Field.

Lions Matt Patricia: Fundamentals, execution holding us back right now

Next up, Lions head to Chicago, the NFC North leader

ALLEN PARK >> Matt Patricia said there was not one glaring factor when Matthew Stafford was sacked 10 times in the 24-9 Lions’ loss at the Vikings on Sunday.

Obviously, more sacks than points scored is never good.

“It’s a full team thing, it’s a full unit thing and we have to do a better job. We can’t play that way,’’ Patricia said at his Monday press conference.

And, even though it’s November, half of the season is history and the Lions are 3-5, the first-year coach is leaning on basics.

“Fundamentals and execution is what’s holding us back right now,’’ Patricia said.

Talent? The coach said they have plenty of talented guys to help them win.

So where are the wins? How could they get humiliated two straight weeks? Yes, the Vikings and Seahawks are good teams, but the Lions didn’t just lose, they were embarrassed.

Certainly the Lions’ coaches made adjustments as Sunday’s game went on, it was just difficult to see the improvement.

“What happens as the season goes and you have some success in certain areas, obviously teams are going to gear up to try to stop those things you do and make you do them differently,’’ Patricia said. “We have to be able to handle those changes better than what we do right now and put our players in a better situation to give them some success, especially with the offensive run game. The defensive run game definitely seeing some repeat runs which are giving us problems.’’

And, of course, there was Dalvin Cook’s 70-yard run which Patricia called “catastrophic.”

The Lions ran for just 66 yards at the Vikings and the Detroit defense gave up 128 rushing yards.

“With both offensive and defensive lines I would say the point of emphasis right now is fundamentals,’’ Patricia said. “Some of our fundamentals (Sunday) got out of whack, some of our technique stuff was not necessarily where it needs to be on a consistent basis.’’

It all seems a little nuts. They worked on fundamentals in long, grueling training camp sessions in July and August. Much of the roster is composed of NFL veterans who should not need to go back to square one for Football Fundamentals 101.

But they will work on basics this week in the meeting rooms and Patricia said he might add some extra periods during practice. “It’s hard when we’re trying to get everything we can done and get ready to go. It is what it is, we have to get it done, put a little more effort into it,’’ Patricia said.

Next up is another road game against a divisional opponent, the first-place NFC North Chicago Bears (5-3).

Patricia said they had a good week of practice last week, it just didn’t carry over.

“We were prepared and ready to go we just didn’t show up on Sunday enough all the way around,’’ Patricia said. “Just got to do a better job.’’

That is everyone, coaches included.

When Patricia was hired by the Lions in February, he was not brought in for a rebuild. The long-time Patriots defensive coordinator was expected to improve on the Lions’ 9-7 record from 2017.

General manager Bob Quinn made it clear the reason Jim Caldwell was fired was because he thought they were capable of winning more than nine games each of the last two seasons. He traded Golden Tate, the top wide receiver, last week. Maybe it’s a move for the future but Quinn knew they had two divisional opponents coming up.

Any talk that the Lions are currently sinking because it is all a part of the plan is just not true unless they’ve changed course and didn’t mention it.

Sunday’s loss at the Vikings was cringe-worthy.

Fundamentals and execution. Seems like we’ve heard those two words before.

The season appears to be basically over thanks to a 3-5 record. Not sure this was part of the Quinn-Patricia plan.

Lions WR Kenny Golladay comes up big in NFC North win over Packers

His touchdown in the fourth was key

DETROIT >> Kenny Golladay is not a big talker. Doesn’t matter much since the Lions wide receiver lets his actions speak for him.

Golladay had four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown in the Lions’ 31-23 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Ford Field.

“Like I have been saying, whenever my number is called, I’m just trying to make the play,’’ Golladay said. “So if they want to throw it to me five times or four times a game or nine times a game, I just want to make all the plays.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

His touchdown came early in the fourth quarter on a second-and-five play from the Green Bay 5-yard line while covered by cornerback Josh Jackson. It was a beauty of a play as he jumped up for the ball in the back of the end zone. Without missing a beat, after he caught it, he zinged the ball into the crowd.

In his second season, his relationship with quarterback Matthew Stafford continues to grow.

“He’s obviously a big kid (6-foot-4), physical kid, can run, wants to be a really good player. Smart, has dialogue with me. All of our guys do, really, which is great,’’ Stafford said. “What they’re seeing out there, what they think we can do — so, I’m just happy for our team to get a win. Obviously happy for Kenny. He had a good one.”

Along with Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr., the Lions have one of the best receiving trios in the NFL. They can’t all have big numbers each game, but it works.

“This is just a game of matchups. Last week, GT (Golden Tate) went for 100 and whatever, this week Kenny had a big one. Marv (Marvin Jones Jr.) will have a big one next week. That’s what makes this offense difficult to defend, we have a lot of guys that can make plays,’’ Stafford said. “I was happy that Kenny had some opportunities today and made some big ones. I had a couple chances at some others and for one reason or another those got called back or whatever. So, just proud of the way we fought as a team. Kenny obviously had a nice game.”

In the first five games this season, Golladay has 27 catches for 428 yards and three touchdowns. Tate has 33 receptions for 431 yards and three touchdowns. Jones had 16 catches for 241 yards and three touchdowns.

Five reasons the Lions beat the Packers

Stafford: A total team win

DETROIT — The Lions’ offense was good but not spectacular, the defense shut down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers for a half and special teams had a good day.

It was the perfect equation for the Lions’ 31-23 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Ford Field.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford called it a “total team win.’’ It is exactly what this team strives for every week but it doesn’t always happen.

The Lions now own a 2-3 record, (1-0 in the NFC North) heading into their bye week.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Oddly enough Detroit has beaten two of the best quarterbacks (Tom Brady and Rodgers) and fallen short against lesser teams.

“I think I’ve said it for forever and you guys hate hearing it. You have to prove it every week,’’ Stafford said. “And we’ve been close in a couple other games too, and just haven’t gotten it done at the end of the game. So, proud of our guys for getting it done at the end of the game.’’

In other words, it’s the NFL.

The Lions jumped out to a 24-0 lead at the half. Yet everyone knew the game was just getting interesting.

Five reasons the Lions hung on to win:

1. Packers kicker Mason Crosby missed four straight field goals and a point-after attempt. The first three misses were from 38, 41 and 42 yards — chip shots. The fourth was from 56 yards. He finally made a 41-yarder when it was so late it didn’t matter. Had he been on his game, the Packers could have won. “So, this one unfortunately was really bad and going to have to really look at this one, and you know this one hurts a bunch.  I left a lot of points on the field for this team and I’m disappointed in my performance,” Crosby said. “And, this is, I look back, I’m thinking in my childhood, you know high school, this is definitely a lot worse.  I’m bummed about that.”

2. The Lions secondary was a patched-up group thanks to injuries and yet effective. Tavon  Wilson was inactive, Darius Slay was injured in the second half but able to return and Jamal Agnew was carted off the field with a knee injury in the fourth quarter. Aaron Rodgers threw for 141 yards in the first half but wasn’t able to get the Packers on the board. In the second quarter he threw a 30-yard bomb to Davante Adams to get to Detroit’s 9-yard line but Detroit’s defense held and Crosby missed the field goal. Rodgers scored touchdowns on the first three possessions of the second half. But then a huge stop came on third-and-15 from Detroit’s 38, forcing a field goal attempt that was missed.

3. Aaron Rodgers was sacked three times and lost two fumbles. It appears the Matt Patricia defense is starting to click. Rodgers can make defenses look weak but Detroit found a way to pressure him. He finished with 442 passing yards and three touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough. Rodgers was taken off the injury list this week, but he was missing two of his best receivers in Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison. Also the Packers rushed for just 98 yards against the Lions’ rushing defense which is the worst in the NFL. “Defense is hard. It’s always hard every single week going against great quarterbacks, schemes, coaches. They do a phenomenal job and we’re just trying to dial it in,’’ Patricia said. “I think the biggest thing for us is some continuity. Maybe a little bit of continuity here the last couple games, which is good. That helps the communication from that aspect of it.’’

4. Even though they had a 24-0 lead at the half, the Lions’ offense remained aggressive in the second half. That was the plan. Stafford said he and Jim Bob Cooter talked throughout about remaining aggressive. Stafford finished 14 of 26 for 183 yards, two touchdowns and a 101.9 rating. The offense can play to its strengths when playing with a lead. “This is the way you want to play the game, out in front and to not have to come back. I just think that we had a great week of practice and it showed in the game,’’ Stafford said. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay had the gaudy numbers with four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown.

5. Once again, the run game helped balance the offense. Veteran running back LeGarrette Blount was signed as a short-yardage back and he got the job done on Sunday. He ran for a yard to convert a third-and-1 and then rammed through for a one-yard touchdown run early in the first quarter. He had a dozen carries for 22 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson’s first scamper was for 16 yards and he finished with a dozen carries for 70 yards (5.8 yards per carry). Johnson injured his ankle early in the fourth after a 24-yard run that led to Stafford’s 5-yard pass to Kenny Golladay for a touchdown to vie the Lions a 31-14 lead. His ankle was taped up but he didn’t get back into the game.