Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford’s favorite target changes game to game

ALLEN PARK — Give credit to Matt Patricia for consistently preaching that on offense and defense, the personnel used each week in part depends on the opponent and the way the game unfolds.

It makes it tough to name a No. 1 wide receiver. And, seriously, there is no need to do that since the receiver with the most success has changed in each of the first three games including Sunday’s 27-24 win at Philadelphia.

“Whatever it takes that week, that play, that game, that particularly situation we’re going to do the best we can to go out and execute the play, go through the progressions and try to get the ball to the guy who is either open or hand off to a play we think is going to work in that situation,’’ coach Matt Patricia said on Monday. “Certainly give credit to Matt Stafford to be able to go through all that, find the right guy in those situations.’’

In that big win over the Eagles, it was Marvin Jones Jr., who topped the 100-yard mark with six catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.

“To be honest with you, (Jones has) had two really good weeks or practice it’s the stuff we’ve seen every day through the course of the last couple weeks —  that consistency in his play style,’’ Patricia said. “It’s great to see it show up in the game. When you put that amount of work into it and work that hard, you want the guy to be able to perform well on Sundays. That was a real positive.

In the Week 2 win over the L.A. Chargers, Kenny Golladay finished with eight catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. He had just two catches in Philadelphia (8 targets) but it didn’t matter because Jones found a way to get open.

In Week 1, both Danny Amendola (7 catches, 107 yards, 1 TD- and T.J. Hockenson (6 catches, 131 yards, 1 TD) surpassed the 100-yard mark.

It’s a wealth of riches on the offensive side of the ball but none of it would matter unless Matthew Stafford was playing as well as he has so far.

“Whatever it takes that week that play that game that particular situation we’re going to do the best we can to go out and execute the play, go through the progressions and try to get the ball to the guy who is either open or hand off to a play we think is going to work in that situation,’’ Patricia said. “Certainly give credit to Matt Stafford to be able to go through all that, find the right guy in those situations.’’

In three games Stafford has completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 831 yards, 6 touchdowns and two interceptions. With two touchdowns a game he’s on pace for 32 this season which is considerably more than the 21 he threw in 2018.

The last two games Stafford has been pressured, but has not been sacked thanks, in part, to the protection by offensive line and also because he has successfully thrown under pressure.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Lions Nick Bawden works to make fullbacks great again one leap at a time

ALLEN PARK — Nick Bawden has been waiting for the perfect time to show off his “Make Fullbacks Great Again” hat. Monday was that day.

In the third quarter of Sunday’s 27-24 win over the Eagles, the Detroit Lions fullback caught a short pass from Matthew Stafford and then leaped over safety Rodney McLeod who was trying to tackle him. It’s not like McLeod was down on the field. 

Hang time? Bawden is not sure.

It was impressive for a 6-2 and 245-pound fullback and a key play in the game and that drive. On the second-and-7 play from the Eagles’ 29, he gained 10 yards and a first down with his leap. Four plays later Stafford connected with Marvin Jones Jr., for a touchdown to nab a 27-17 lead over the Eagles.

“It was just, the line blocked that really well and (Matthew) Stafford gave me a good ball, I was trying to make something happen with it, luckily he wasn‘t a little bit higher,’’ Bawden said.

It was not planned. The decision was made at the last second.

“I was fired up, I got up and tried to do a little dance and Danny (Amendola) came over and gave me a high-five, just happy we got the first down to keep the ball moving,’’ Bawden said.

Coach Matt Patricia said the leap was not from the playbook.

 “That was a little bit of a surprise. I think it surprised a lot of the guys on the field when that happened, but everybody was excited,” Patricia said. “It was a good energy boost, I think for everybody.”

It was not a first for 2018 Lions’ seventh-round pick.

“In college (San Diego State) I did a couple times I think,’’ Bawden said. “In high school as well, in high school I got flagged for it, it came back 15 yards.’’

Certainly he earned some good-natured ribbing from his teammates about the move, but he wouldn’t be specific.

“They’re pretty happy I got the first down, trying to move the chains and score some touchdowns,’’ said Bawden trying to stick to business.

The hat was mailed to him just before the season started from Atlanta Falcons’ fullback Keith Smith.

 

 

Five things to know about Detroit Lions’ 27-24 win at Philadelphia Eagles

When the Eagles blocked a Matt Prater field goal attempt, with less than 2 minutes left it could have been really bad news for the Detroit Lions.

After a penalty, Philadelphia had the ball at midfield with 1:40 remaining. Plenty of time to score a touchdown to win or a field goal for the tie. But the Lions’ defense held on and Detroit left the City of Brotherly Love with a 27-24 win and a 2-0-1 record on the season.

NFL games are typically won due to a handful of plays. This was no different.

Perhaps Matthew Stafford’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones Jr. early in the fourth to grab a 27-17 lead was key.

Another key pass play was on third-and-11 when Stafford connected with Danny Amendola for 15 yards and a first down later in the fourth.

Then, of course, the defense in the fourth quarter came up big.

Five things to know about the win:

1. Matthew Stafford was kept clean. For the second straight week, the offensive line stepped up and he was not sacked. He brought cookies to the offensive line after last week’s performance, maybe it was just the ticket. Taylor Decker returned at left tackle. Stafford was pressured, but not sacked. His numbers were fine (18-of-32, 201 yards, 1 TD) not spectacular, but a win is a win. He missed a throw on third-and-8 with 3:45 remaining when he underthrew Jones. He had more time than he thought. He’ll be the first to admit that error.

2. Jamal Agnew, who was benched the previous week after a fumble on a return, lined up to return the kickoff on the Lions’ first possession. Then he ran down the left sideline 100 yards for a touchdown. The offense hadn’t taken the field and the Lions had a 7-3 lead. Special teams turned things around after a bad outing the week before. Other than one short punt by Sam Martin and allowing the late blocked field goal, they played well. 

3. Jarrad Davis returned and his presence was noticeable on defense. The linebacker rotated in and out early in his first game of the season. He went out once with a foot injury but before Twitter could explode with his absence, he was back on the field. No interceptions against Carson Wentz, but Darius Slay recovered a fumble and returned it 28 yards to the Eagles’ 22. Slay left the game and didn’t return with a hamstring after that play. It’s unknown how serious it is. The defense forced three fumbles. The Eagles had five drops which had something to do with the defensive pressure. The Lions’ defense also sacked Wentz three times — Chrtistian Jones, Damon “Snacks” Harrison and Trey Flowers came up big. Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, their biggest offensive threat, had six catches for 64 yards but no touchdowns.

4. Quietly wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., had a standout game with six catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. He was one of eight pass catchers found by Stafford. Kenny Golladay was targeted 8 times but only came up with 2 catches. Pedestrian numbers for the big guy but it wasn’t all on him, Stafford shared part of the blame there. 

5. The offense, under coordinator Darrell Bevell, stayed aggressive just like they did late in the win over the Chargers the previous week. It’s a good sign of things to come with this new offense. It’s a balanced attack with the run game coming around. Kerryon Johnson had 20 carries for 36 yards and a rushing touchdown, while J.D. McKissic had just one carry but it was for 44 yards.

UP NEXT: Next Sunday the Lions host Patrick Mahomes and the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) at Ford Field. The Chiefs beat the Ravens 33-28 Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Eagles in Philadelphia

ALLEN PARK — After two weeks, the Lions remain undefeated even though that first-week tie still seems kind of ugly.

Onward.

The Lions are 5-point underdogs on the road at Philadelphia at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford said he doesn’t think at all about being 1-0-1.

“It’s just a huge challenge for us this week. Going to Philadelphia is a tough place to play. They have a bunch of good players and have been a really good team for a long time, so it’s just a new challenge for us, something we have to attack on its own,’’ Stafford said.

Stafford and his teammates agree that Sunday’s comeback win against the Chargers doesn’t mean much this week.

I think just because you did it last week doesn’t mean you’re going to do it again the next week, but also if you didn’t do it the week before, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it the next week,’’ Stafford said. “No, we take every challenge head-on as a new one.”

Five things to know about the Lions at the Eagles (1-1):

1. In the win over the Chargers, Stafford was let loose. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell called an aggressive game even after Stafford had thrown two interceptions. Afterward Stafford was smiling and it wasn’t just because of the win. Bevell is known for depending on the run game and certainly a balance (not necessarily 50-50) is key to an offense putting up points in the NFL, but Stafford has to be allowed to throw the bombs, to throw on an important third down. Maybe this is the change the Lions have needed over the past few years. Now we’ll see if it continues.

2. Stafford must be kept clean again. It’s rare when he goes through a game without being sacked like he did on Sunday. In the last five seasons he’s been sacked 213 times with only 7 games with no sacks. “Keeping the quarterback safe and protected is No. 1. You know obviously you’ve seen us do different things with Matthew (and the first thing is always trying to take care of him and how we keep him upright, even if he gets an opportunity to run,’’ Bevell said. “That’s always in the forefront of our minds because those guys are really hard to find, and we have a good one and we want to protect that guy.”

3. After missing left tackle Taylor Decker for one game and linebacker Jarrad Davis for two, it looks like the Lions will be mostly healthy in Philadelphia. Both practiced all week and are officially listed as questionable. Tyrell Crosby did a commendable job filling in for Decker on Sunday, but having a healthy Decker return would be a positive facing Fletcher Cox and the Eagles’ defensive line. “They have a solid front with Fletcher and Brandon Graham on the same side. They can move those guys around with (Derek) Barnett. It’s an active front,’’ Bevell said. “They do a great job of getting penetration and really trying to work up the field and wreak havoc that way. Fletcher has been a good player for a long time and something that we’ll have to make sure that we have answers for. It’s a good combination of him and Brandon Graham working on the side together.”

4. Matt Patricia did not confirm that Jarrad Davis will play on Sunday, but seemed optimistic before Friday’s practice. Davis’ presence would be huge against the EAgles offense led by Carson Wentz and fueled by TE Zach Ertz. “I think J.D., just in general, obviously this is a kid that loves the game,’’ Patricia said. “He just loves to come in and prepare every week and he loves to learn and he’s just every single day – that intensity to get better, as a coach, is something you love to see. I think he obviously provides a layer of leadership, I’ll say comfort or calmness, to the middle of the defense when he’s out there because of his knowledge and his ability to control the middle part of what we do in the defensive scheme. I think those other guys have done a great job and really Devon Kennard I think has stepped in great as far as the communication on the field. I think he’s done a phenomenal job of that too.’’

5. Special teams have not gotten off to a good start this season. Would expect that Matt Prater’s missed 40-yard field goal and missed extra point are just anomalies. Patricia said punt returner Jamal Agnew was benched for that game after a fumble, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be back as the return guy. Patricia does have options in Danny Amendola and Ty Johnson. Special teams also had too many penalties which is something that should be easy to clean up.

PREDICTION: Eagles 27, Lions 24. (Philadelphia is banged up while Detroit is mostly healthy. Still, it’s a tough place to play and pulling out a win would be a tough task.)

Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford meets up again with Eagles DC Jim Schwartz

DETROIT — Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz possibly knows Matthew Stafford better than any NFL quarterback. That doesn’t necessarily give him an advantage when the Lions play at Philadelphia on Sunday.

“I think he just understands how he thinks and how Matt (Stafford) operates. You still have to go play. He’s been a great quarterback for many years and he’s got a big arm and Jim understands that,’’ Eagles coach Doug Pederson said on a conference call. “I can’t give you all of my secrets, or Jim’s secrets, but I’m sure he’ll have something for him. He understands him. This business, this is the way it works.

“We’re going to draft players and players are going to move on. Coaches are going to move on and you’re going to see them in the future. You just always keep things in the back of your mind for when you do play them,’’ Pederson added.

Schwartz got his first NFL head coaching job with the Lions and spent five seasons (2009-13) in Detroit. 

 “A lot of fond memories. Obviously, I got drafted here by him and he was part of that process, so I appreciate him a lot for giving me the chance. We went to playoffs for the first time in a long time in this franchise’s history and did a lot of good things in kind of getting us to where we are now, which I’m proud of, and I know he is too,’’ Stafford said this week.

“As far as going against him, I’ve played against him a couple of times since then. I’ve got a lot of respect for him as a defensive coach. His guys play extremely hard. They’re in the right spot. They play aggressive. Year-in and year-out they’re really good defenses. They’re top-echelon defenses and this one seems to be no different,’’ the quarterback added.

Schwartz had been the Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator before joining the Lions. The Lions defenses under him and coordinator Gunther Cunningham had successes and failures.

The Eagles’ defense likely won’t have much similarity due to different personnel.

 “He’s going to adapt to the guys that he has in his locker room and he has on that team and play to their style and put them in their strengths,’’ Stafford said. “He’s like a lot of coaches in this league that do that. Just generally speaking, they’re an aggressive defense. They play extremely hard and they’re good at what they do.”

The Lions’ offense scored just a pair of touchdowns last week but it was enough for the 13-10 win over the Chargers. Still, it’s looking for more consistency.

“You’d love to score points on every single drive, and touchdowns if you can. We just have to do a better job of staying on the field a little bit on third down and we had some opportunities in the last game to stay on the field and didn’t,’’ Stafford said. “I think it would’ve ended up in some points. We just have to do a little bit better job there and then make sure when we get our opportunities for big plays, we have to hit them.”

Detroit Lions’ Taylor Decker on right path with back injury sidelined him

Unclear whether injury affected his play in Week 1

ALLEN PARK — Taylor Decker was limited again in Wednesday’s practice, but the Detroit Lions left tackle has a chance to play on Sunday in Philadelphia.

Decker missed Sunday’s home win over the Los Angeles Chargers with a bad back after playing poorly in the regular season opener.

“It’s coming along day by day, anybody that’s had a back they can be finicky,’’ Decker said. “Working every single day with the athletic training staff and coaching staff to try to take steps to improve.’’

Decker was unclear whether he thought the back was a factor in his sub-par play in the opener, a tie at the Arizona Cardinals.

“I think when you’re out on the field you’re expected to perform and that’s all I’ll say about that,’’ Decker said.

Tyrell Crosby started in place of Decker against the Chargers. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was not sacked the entire game thanks (in part) to protection from the line.

“They did an awesome job, hats off to Crosby for stepping in there and battling all game. Obviously the had two really good edge guys, he did a great job, the offense did a great job and the coaches did a great job of executing the game plan to come out with a win,’’ Decker said. “That was awesome, obviously great to win our home opener. Now we’ll move on and try to get another one.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Lions players react to trade that sent Golden Tate to the Eagles

He was popular teammate, but they are moving on

ALLEN PARK — It was the first day post-Golden.

With wide receiver Golden Tate traded to the Eagles on Tuesday, the Lions went through their first practice and day of work without him on Wednesday preparing to play at the Vikings on Sunday.

Tate led the Lions in receiving yards (527) and catches (44) and also had three touchdowns.

“”There are a lot of difficult decisions that are made in the NFL multiple times during the course of the year. Yesterday was one of them,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “From our process, we try to evaluate everything the best we can and try to make the best decision we can as we move forward, not only for our immediate but also our long term.’’

Tate’s former teammates were obviously sad to see him go, but they can’t dwell on what could have been, they have to prepare for Sunday. They are not throwing in the tall. They have the same goal — to win the NFC North.

Player reaction to the trade:

— Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr.: “Obviously he’s a great friend, a great teammates, a great player here and, you know, it’s the NFL, he’s somewhere else and this is a week we have to prepare for a tough opponent, can’t really harp on it. He’s a great friend. We just have to do what we do, go out there everyday in practice, get on the details as much as we can and get out there and make plays for the team. We have TJ Jones and (Brandon) Powell obviously they’re going to get a little bit of playing time. Everybody has to stay the course, whatever is called. We’ll work hard during the week like we have been and it’s the next man up. I’m sure we’re going to do good. TJ has had some great minutes for us over the years, obviously he’s like our Swiss Army knife, he knows all the plays we just go out there and keep doing what we’re doing.’’

— Safety Glover Quin: “You play this game long enough you see all types of crazy stuff, you see things happen each and every day, it’s a part of the business. As players you learn to go out and play because at the end of the day that’s what you have to go out and do. Obviously Golden was great for us, great in the locker room, in the community, on the team, fun teammate, made a lot of big plays for us. But they made a move and, at the end of the day, like I always say I’m just a player, my job is to go out there and play so that’s what I try to focus on. I wish Golden good luck and I’m pretty sure he’s going to go out there and be Golden. That’s who he is. We can’t let that stop us from going out there and trying to achieve our ultimate goal which is win football games.’’

— Wide receiver TJ Jones: We hate to see him go, we love him. I’ve been with him for four and a half years, we definitely built up a rapport and friendship on and off the field just like a lot of the other guys have. We hate to see him go, wish him nothing but the best. But the reality of it is we had to come in and attack the new plan today. … I think we’re all going to step up. I think there’s a lot of responsibility to be spread out among everyone on the offense, it’s up to us to handle it I guess. Take your responsibility, your part, whatever your role and do it to the best of your ability. I learned a lot (from Tate), coming in as a rookie and he was in his fifth year in the NFL and having four or five years together — there wasn’t a time when I wasn’t asking him something whether it was on the field, off the field, recovery or day-to-day life of becoming a pro.’’

— Left tackle Taylor Decker: “It’s sad to see him go personally, he was a friend, obviously a great player, great teammate, great for this community. We’re going to wish him the best of luck moving forward we have a big divisional opponent so we can’t dwell on that. Wish him the best of luck and obviously not happy to see him go. He was absolutely a very good player for us but we have plenty of good players in this locker room.’’