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.)

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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)

Detroit Lions Taylor Decker, Jarrad Davis, Da’Shawn Hand out vs. Chargers

DETROIT — Starting left tackle Taylor Decker and linebacker Jarrad Davis are out in the Detroit Lions home opener against the Los Angeles Chargers today at Ford Field.

Decker, who injured his back in the tie at Arizona last Sunday, has practiced on a limited basis all week so this is no surprise. He was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report. Decker started in all 16 games in 2018.

Tyrell Crosby, who started one game at right tackle last season, could get the start in Decker’s place.

Davis (ankle), who missed the opener last week, was also limited in practice all week and was listed as questionable. Last week rookie Jahlani Tavai and Jalen Reeves-Maybin stepped in with Devon Kennard wearing the helmet with the microphone.

Defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand (elbow), who also sat out last week, is once again sidelined. He too had limited practice this week and was listed as questionable.

The Lions have lost three of their last five home openers including last year when the N.Y. Jets clobbered them 48-17 in the regular season opener at Ford Field.

Other inactives for the Lions: QB David Blough, WR Travis Fulgham, CB Amani Oruwariye and G Beau Benzschawel.

Chargers inactives: Easton Stick, Michael Badgley, Roderic Teamer, Michael Davis, Jatavis Brown, Hunter Henry and Cortez Broughton.

Five things to know as Detroit Lions open home season against L.A. Chargers

No such thing as a must-win game in the second week of the NFL season, but this is close.

The Lions open their home season against the Los Angeles Chargers at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Ford Field. Detroit is coming off a fourth-quarter collapse that led to a 27-27 tie with the lowly Arizona Cardinals to open the season.

Less than 13 percent of NFL teams that start 0-2 make the playoffs. Not sure about 0-1-1 starts but it can’t be good.

“I feel very confident right now that the team is in a good mental space as far as preparing for the Chargers,’’ Patricia said this week.

Much of the start-of-the-season optimism about this bunch of Lions disappeared with that tie. Patricia wasn’t hired to tie games.

Onward.

Five things to know about Sunday’s game:

1. Matthew Stafford seems unrattled about the whole trust issue that was apparent when a timeout was called from the sidelines while the game clock was ticking down. If Stafford felt a timeout was needed, he would have signalled for one. Stafford downplayed the incident this week as did Patricia. Stafford is a pro who has been through a myriad of bad situations in his 10-plus seasons in Detroit. This should not affect his play one bit. He said he was over it while the media had not let it go.

2. The defense must find answers for the fourth-quarter collapse against the Cardinals. While solid in first three quarters, they appeared to let up in the fourth even though that’s been denied. If Jarrad Davis returns after missing the opener, that certainly could help boost the whole defense but Davis didn’t do much at Friday’s practice and is listed as questionable for Sunday. It’s quite a different scenario going against veteran quarterback Philip Rivers compared to rookie Kyler Murray. “Last (week) we went into that thing kind of blind, not knowing what was going on. But Philip has seen everything, he’s seen every coverage, every defense, there’s not going to be anything you can do to fool him,’’ safety Quandre Diggs said. “We’ve just got to be on our Ps and Qs and be ready to go.’’

3. Phillip Rivers is still Phillip Rivers after passing for 333 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in the overtime win against the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday. He will be without tight end Hunter Henry who is out for the season after suffering a tibia plateau fracture to his left knee in the opener. Henry had four catches for 60 yards in that game. Rivers’ two biggest targets are wide receiver Keenan Allen and running back Austin Ekeler who had a pair of touchdown catches in the opener. Allen earns top praise from Patricia who calls him an unbelievable athlete with great route-running ability: “His ability to cut to release off the line of scrimmage to really kind of move the defenders at the line to get open, get into space. His top of the route quickness – he’s got some subtleties in there. His head-turns, his shoulder-leans, and some of the ways he skips off the line of scrimmage he has some unorthodox releases too that are just extremely difficult to defend against.’’ 

4. The offensive line, in particular Taylor Decker must play better. Patricia was asked about Decker’s game on Friday and replied, ““I think the team had a tough day.” Sunday the offensive line will be facing pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram who each had a sack in the opener. It will also help if the Lions can establish a run game early. Kerryon Johnson averaged just 3.1 yards per carry (16 for 49 yards) in the tie. Decker was limited in practice this week with a back injury and is questionable for Sunday. Not much depth at left tackle so would expect to possibly see Tyrell Crosby or Kenny Wiggins start on the left side if Decker is out.

5. Coaching is key once again. Patricia and his team have to do better. Be aggressive and attack for four quarters, not three. Make adjustments throughout the game. It’s Coaching 101, but sometimes it’s not so apparent to those not on the sidelines. Patricia said there is no extra pressure this week to see if his team can bounce back from a tie. “Nope. Every game – we’ve got 16 of them – they’re all high anxiety games,’’ the coach said.

PREDICTION: Lions 27, Chargers 24. (Wouldn’t bet the house on it, but Lions are at home, Chargers playing at 9 a.m. their time. Both sides of the ball and special teams have to prove they are better than their fourth-quarter showing last week.)

Lions LT Taylor Decker scores first touchdown in loss to Rams

Play designed by Jim Bob Cooter last week

DETROIT — You want a creative and imaginative offensive play? Jim Bob Cooter drew one up last week for the Lions.

On Sunday it resulted in 11-yard touchdown pass to left tackle Taylor Decker in the 30-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. With Decker’s score, the Lions were down just 16-13 late in the third quarter.

It was Decker’s first-ever NFL touchdown. And if you happened to catch the ball that he sailed into the stands afterward, he’d like it back. Thank you.

It was not a play that had been in the works for months. Decker said it all came about “pretty late in the week.”

“Walked into breakfast one morning and heard they were going to have a little wrinkle for me and I literally said, ‘I’m going to score a touchdown,’’’ Decker said.

It’s not like they had a lot of practice time to fine-tune it.

“I think we ran it once (in practice). It’s more of a scheme thing, it’s not like I”m beating man coverage,’’ Decker said.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Quarterback Matthew Stafford said it was a Cooter-designed play and that he and Decker got a couple throws in on the side at practice.

“That was Jim Bob this week. I thought it was a great add. Situation was perfect, to tell you the truth, to call it and it worked,’’ Stafford said. “I think our crowd got a little loud when he was telling everyone that 68 was reporting as eligible, which I thought was great. Our guys executed it well. It was a big play and obviously gave us a touchdown.”

Decker said he was a little hyped when he heard the play called. He was so tired afterward he got oxygen on the sideline.

“Obviously didn’t get the result we wanted, but it was a cool moment for me’’ Decker said.

“He’s a big target. So I was happy for him, happy for those guys,’’ Stafford said. “Always good to watch a big guy score, man, they enjoy it. I think he threw it in the stands, huh? Copycat.”

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.’’

Detroit Lions’ offensive line plays best game in win over Patriots

Run game exploded; Stafford sacked just once

ALLEN PARK — Without a smart and strong offensive line, the Lions run game was going nowhere this season.

The O-line played its best game early this season in the 26-10 win over the Patriots on Sunday night at Ford Field.

The Lions rushed for 159 yards and rookie Kerryon Johnson became the first Lions player to reach 100 yards in a game since Reggie Bush scampered for 117 yards on Nov. 28, 2013.

“That’s obviously a critical part of every football game, I think (the line) did a great job up front, definitely very difficult against that defense and the multiple looks they’ll give you,’’ coach Matt Patricia said on Monday. “They were spinning the dial pretty good last night with a couple different looks — four-man rushes, five-man looks, six-man looks and I think those guys did a great job up font of recognizing that stuff, getting on the same page, executing their blocks well. There were a couple plays they could have done better, but I thought we had good movement at the line of scrimmage which is most important.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Pro Football Focus’ analysis of the line: “(They) performed exceptionally well against New England. Not a single starting lineman graded below a 65 and three of them graded at 70 or better.’’

Ragnow, who allowed seven pressures the previous week to the 49ers, came back with a “dominant performance.” He didn’t allow a single pressure against the Patriots, per Pro Football Focus.

The Lions O-line features two first-round picks — Taylor Decker (2016) and Frank Ragnow, a rookie. Also center Graham Glasgow was a third-round pick in 2016.

Right guard T.J. Lang returned after missing the previous game with a back injury. Lang, who signed as a free agent in 2017, proved he’s still got something in the tank because the line was more effective with him than the previous week with Kenny Wiggins.

Right tackle Rick Wagner, who was also signed as a free agent in 2017,  quietly had a good game.

Not only did they open lanes for the running backs, they also gave Matthew Stafford plenty of time in the pocket. It’s possible more time than he’s ever had consistently for four quarters. He was sacked just once.

Immediately after the game, Stafford couldn’t say enough about the line’s play.

Stafford has been sacked on just 2.2 percent of pass attempts (3/138) this season which is the best in the NFL. The league average is 6.6 percent, per Josh Norris of Rotoworld.