Five things to know after Lions lose to Bears

DETROIT — The season isn’t over for the Lions after they imploded in a 27-23 loss to the Chicago Bears in their opener.

However, at 0-1 the immediate future looks at least partly cloudy. Next Sunday they’re at Green Bay, followed by a game at Arizona and then back home on Oct. 4 to host the New Orleans Saints. 

The fourth-quarter collapse was brutal. The Lions were ahead 23-6 when the quarter started and hanging their heads when it was over.

Last year the Lions led in 14 of their 16 games and held fourth-quarter leads in 10 games and yet they managed just 3 wins (3-12-1) all year. 

So the emphasis for this season was on finishing. It just didn’t happen in the opener. The debacle wasn’t shocking, we’d seen it before.

Five thoughts about the loss:

1. Adrian Peterson made his Lions’ debut with 14 carries for 93 yards (6.6 yards per carry) along with three catches for 21 yards. Good call on signing the 35-year-old free agent. “I thought he gave great effort, I thought he gave great energy. I think the guys, really, they like to be out there with him and they know he’s going to work hard and he’s going to go hard every single play. So that was good to see,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “I really thought he made some tough runs. I thought he brought a physical style to the run game and that was encouraging.”

2. Matthew Stafford was 24 of 42 for 297 yards, 1 touchdown and one interception. A clear indication that the Bears defense was working came in the Lions final possession when the quarterback scrambled for one yard on first-and-10 to kick off the drive, then two plays later ran for 7 yards, again on a first down. He did complete a 32-yard pass to Danny Amendola on that drive. And he put the winning touchdown in D’Andre Swift’s hands in the end zone but he dropped it. This loss wasn’t all on Stafford but he was a part of it.  “We just have to execute better. When you look at it that’s the name of the game in the fourth quarter. We didn’t do it enough last year and we didn’t do it obviously enough today,’’ Stafford said.

3. Linebacker Jamie Collins was ejected early in the second quarter. He was apparently trying to show referee Alex Kemp that one of the Bears was leading with his helmet. But he misplayed it and butted his head into Kemp who told the pool reporter he threw him out for the contact. The intent had nothing to do with the decision. When he was thrown out Collins already had 3 tackles and a pass defense. It was a bonehead play on his part and it was costly for the team.

4. Both teams were a little slow out of the gate which was to be expected since there were no preseason contests. The Lions held a 13-6 lead at the half after a touchdown dash by rookie running back D’Andre Swift with 19 seconds left.

5. Tight end T.J. Hockenson, who had a standout training camp, continued it with five catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. 

By the numbers: Matt Patricia is 9-23-1 as head coach with the Lions.. … Safety Tracy Walker led the defense with seven tackles. … Trey Flowers had the Lions’ only sack of Mitchell Trubisky. … Cornerbacks Justin Coleman and Desmond Trufant both left the game with hamstring injuries and did not return. … The Lions had 98 rushing yards in the second half after only 40 in the first half. … Danny Amendola led the wide receivers with five catches for 81 yards. … Rookie wide receiver Quintez Cephus had the most targets (10), but he caught just three of them for 43 yards.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Five reasons the Detroit Lions will draft cornerback Jeff Okudah at third overall

Lions GM Bob Quinn has pulled a few surprises in his first four drafts with the Detroit Lions.

He opted for tight end T.J. Hockenson a year ago who was not a popular mock draft pick for the eighth overall pick. In 2018 offensive tackle Frank Ragnow was his top pick at 20th overall. In 2017, he drafted Jarrad Davis at 21st overall and in his first-ever draft in Detroit Taylor Decker got the nod with the 16th pick.

So what does Quinn have planned for this draft which starts at 8 p.m. on Thursday?

Good question. He has never drafted this high — the Lions own the No. 3 overall pick, along with eight other picks.

Cornerback Jeff Okudah seems to be the popular pick for the Lions in the first round. That doesn’t mean Quinn will necessarily draft him, but he certainly looks like the top contender in that spot.

Here are five reasons the Lions will draft Okudah:

1. The cornerback has the ideal size — he’s 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds — and the Ohio State credentials. He is set to become the 14th Buckeyes’ cornerback to be drafted in the first round since 1991. He’s also got speed. Scouts say he’s exceptionally quick and can close in on the ball. Face it, the kid has it all.

2. Quinn wants an impact player with that third overall pick. “We have enough guidance in that range that we think we can do that. … Our goal is to get impactful players throughout the draft, whether they’re starters in the middle rounds or just backup and role players and special teams players later in the draft. Our goals haven’t changed, the circumstances have obviously,’’ Quinn said in his pre-draft press conference via Zoom.

3. With the trade of Darius Slay to the Eagles, the Lions have a big need at cornerback. They signed free agent corners Desmond Trufant and Tony McRae. Trufant is not a match for Slay one-on-one. 

4. It’s not common to draft a cornerback early. In the past 19 drafts only five cornerbacks have been drafted in the top five. Quinn said he had no problem with doing so (he wasn’t talking about a specific player) if the prospect was worth the pick. “If we go back to free agency a year ago, we signed Justin Coleman to play nickel and we paid him like a starter because we feel like you need three starting level corners to have a productive defense. So, why teams have shied away, I can’t really answer that. You have to ask the teams that have passed. I’ve never been this high in the draft to experience that,’’ Quinn said. 

5. Okudah is the top of the deep class at cornerback. CBSSports.com says, “(He’s) the best coverage CB in this class and it’s not even close.’’ If Quinn doesn’t grab him with the third overall pick, he’ll have a chance to draft corners later in the draft. But Okudah is a game-changer and could step in right away. Remember Slay only started four of 13 games he played in his rookie season. He wasn’t Big-Play Slay out of the gate, but turned into one of the best in the NFL. That’s exactly what could happen with Okudah.

 

Lions notes: Door remains open for Matthew Stafford to return this season

ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford has missed four straight games and coach Matt Patricia said on Monday that he is still week to week with his back injury. 

Even though the Lions have played their way out of the playoffs, that doesn’t mean the Stafford won’t be back. 

Out of respect for Matthew and his competitiveness and what he means to this team and what he brings every single week, we’re just going to kind of take it week-by-week and see what happens from that standpoint,’’ Patricia said.

Stafford loves the game of football, he says it often and it’s genuine. He works hard year-round for a chance to play the games. He told the media weeks ago he realizes every time he takes the field he risks injury. Doesn’t matter, it’s the game he loves. 

Even though he is not able to participate in practice or in games, Stafford remains a factor in helping prepare the young quarterbacks, Jeff Driskel (who has been placed on injured reserve) and David Blough (who started his first game on Thanksgiving).

“I think he’s done a great job go all the way back to when we first started in the spring and him being here with the offseason stuff he had going on, he was really committed to the team,’’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said on Monday. “Now that he’s had this injury and it’s pushed him back again — he’s been here all the time, he’s been in the quarterback room going through the same preparation as if he was playing then helping those younger guys. If you ask Jeff and Dave they’ll tell you how helpful he’s been, he’s in their ear on the sideline, he’s looking through the pictures with them giving them extra coaching points, he’s doing a good job staying engaged.’’

The Lions will likely respect his wishes and let him play again this season but only if he is cleared by the medical staff. At least for now, they’ve left that door open.

Stafford had been playing extremely well even if the team was not making the most of it and winning. In eight games he has thrown for 2,499 yards, 19 touchdowns with just five interceptions. 

FLOWERS SACKS: Trey Flowers has been red-hot with five sacks in the Lions’ last five games (all losses). He’s got six for the season, just 1.5 shy of his career high (7.5) last season with the Patriots. Flowers doesn’t necessarily grade himself by statistics. “I’m very critical of myself and as far as, first of all, if we don’t get the win really nothing else matters. So if I don’t do enough for us to win, then I didn’t do enough to win,’’ Flowers said.

He played the his first four NFL seasons for the Patriots who were 50-14 in the regular season in that stretch. So playing for the Lions (3-8-1) is quite a change.

“It has been frustrating to come in work hard, work hard on the game plan, a lot of guys are working hard in the locker room and to come up short on the weekends is definitely frustrating,’’ Flowers said. “That’s part of this game, you’ve got to find ways to out-execute and out-compete.’’

SEASON OVER: Tight end T.J. Hockenson was placed on injured reserve due to the ankle injury he suffered late in the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Bears. Hockenson, the Lions’ first-round pick, ended the season with 32 receptions for 367 yards and two touchdowns. His first game, the season opener, was his best. That day he had six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. Patricia said it’s not known if Hockenson will need surgery on his ankle.

ADJUSTMENTS: With high-tech notebooks on the sidelines during games, adjustments are made continuously, but halftime adjustments are still key at least to some coaches. ESPN’s Dianna Rossini tweeted about Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s adjustments in Pittsburgh’s win over the Browns.

She wrote: “Spoke to Steeler players about Mike Tomlin. Players on defense pointed to the adjustments made at half. They said he ‘straight up went high school football coach and drew up how they were going to defend Cleveland’ since they Browns showing a different look. ‘He saved the game.’’’

When Patricia was asked about making adjustments on Monday, he said, “I think the in-game adjustments are something that’s critical for us. I think there are games where those have been done at a high level and probably some games that we go back and we look at and say, ‘Of course we should have done this or maybe made this change.’’’

The Lions have led in all 12 of their games at some point, but have only held on for three wins.