Five things to know about Detroit Lions’ 31-26 win over N.Y. Giants

DETROIT — After three straight losses, the Detroit Lions absolutely needed to beat the N.Y. Giants to have a chance to turn the season around.

And so they did.

The Giants hung tough, but Detroit won 31-26 on Sunday at Ford Field. With the Bears’ loss to the Chargers, the Lions (3-3-1) moved up to third in the NFC North.

Detroit’s defense scored first when Devon Kennard returned a fumble for a touchdown. It turned out to be a good sign of things to come.

“It was a lot of fun. It was my first time scoring since high school, so touching the paint and getting in the end zone was a lot of fun for me,’’ Kennard said.

A flea-flicker play that resulted in a 41-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Kenny Golladay provided a little razzle-dazzle, but it was mostly grind-it-out football by both teams.

Five things to know about the win:

1. Stafford’s stellar season continues. He passed for 342 yards (25-32), three touchdowns and one interception. He has thrown for at least three touchdowns in three of the last four games. Stafford led the offense to convert 8-of-14 third-down chances and two of those were scores. Stafford, of course, shines the light on his teammates. “There’s a bunch of great players around me, just trying to get the ball to those guys, they make some great plays and we get in the end zone,’’ Stafford said. “It doesn’t matter to me if I’m throwing it in or we’re running it in I just want to score points, obviously left a few out there today but made enough plays to win the game.’’

2. Golladay’s half-dozen catches for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns were key. Just before the flea-flicker touchdown catch, he caught an 18-yard pass on second-and-9 with his arms totally outstretched and somehow on his way to the turf managed to hold on to the ball. The offense had practiced the flea-flicker —  the handoff to J.D. McKissic, who tossed it back to Stafford, who found Golladay — in the past two weeks. It worked in practice so coordinator Darrell Bevell found the perfect time to put it in play. Golladay’s first touchdown reception came on third-and-2 at the Giants’ 9-yard line. “The defender tried to undercut it, so I pretty much just had to do just hands it and not really let it get too close to him. I just snatched it away, quick turn, and made sure both feet were in,’’ Golladay said. 

3. Detroit’s defense had its hands full with running back Saquon Barkley who not only is a phenomenal runner but can also pick up yards after the catch. Barkley had 19 carries for 64 yards and eight catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. The Lions were able to contain the Giants enough for the win. It was tough late in the game when they lost safety Tracy Walker to a knee injury especially since Darius Slay (hamstring) was inactive and they traded Quandre Diggs earlier in the week. 

4. Defensive end Trey Flowers who had one sack in the first six games had back-to-back sacks in the fourth quarter. The first one came on the Giants’ first-and-10 on Detroit’s 43. Flowers knocked the ball out of quarterback Daniel Jones’ grip but Jones was able to recover for a loss of 10 yards. On the next play Flowers sacked him again for  a 6-yard loss. So Giants went from first and 10 to third-and-26 courtesy of Flowers. It was key because the Giants were down by 12 points but there were six-plus minutes left in the game. “(Credit) to the defense on those plays that allowed me to be able to get back there, and I just made the play when it came to me,’’ Flowers said. “There are a lot of guys on this defense that are capable of doing it, and we’re just going to continue to work.”

5. With Kerryon Johnson on injured reserve, running-back-by-committee looked to be the best option. And it was. But not many expected Tra Carson, who the Lions signed on Oct. 17, to be the starting back. He ran on three of the Lions first plays in their opening possession and gained 23 yards. He finished with a dozen carries for 34 yards. Ty Johnson (7 for 25), Paul Perkins (3 for 4 yards) and McKissic (one for minus-1) also got in on the action.

Detroit Lions Matt Patricia looks to youth to replace safety Quandre Diggs

ALLEN PARK — Coach Matt Patricia said despite the trade of starting safety Quandre Diggs the Lions’ goals remain the same for the final 10 games of the season.

That starts Sunday against the N.Y. Giants at Ford Field.

Certainly, those decisions are very difficult. They’re not taken lightly. There are certainly things that we try to do to help the team get better in the long run for us, and certainly in a situation where we think moving forward hopefully, we have some players that can still help us, even if we do make a move like we did yesterday’’ Patricia said at his Wednesday press conference.

Diggs, a former sixth-round draft pick, was shipped to the Seattle Seahawks along with a seventh-round pick for a fifth-round pick in 2020.

The Lions’ goals have not changed, Patricia said they want to win every week.

“I think those guys in the back end have all been working really hard and developing, and some of those guys have had to really play in the last couple of weeks, and in some of those bigger games that we’ve had so far this year,’’ Patricia said on Wednesday. “Will Harris is someone that’s has to step into some roles, Tracy Walker plays more for us in some of those roles, Tavon Wilson who has been a good solid player for us for a long time. 

“C.J. Moore, you’ll see him, he’s been mixed out there actually in some of these games, too in some other aspects. We have some depth too, with guys that have played for us in the past – (Miles) Killebrew would be another one. With those guys, they’ll continually push to get better, and they understand that maybe they have to take on maybe a little bit more work load or job responsibility. They’re good with that challenge, they’ll accept that challenge and kind of go forward from there.”

So far this season Tracy Walker has started all six games; Tavon Wilson who had started three games and played in all six.

The trade shows the Lions have faith in rookie Will Harris, a third-round pick, who has played in every game.

Killebrew who plays almost exclusively on special teams has played sporadically on defense in his four seasons with the Lions.

Moore, a rookie, has played just five snaps on defense in the first six games, contributing mostly on special teams.

Being a young NFL safety has its challenges. This is where the coaches need to step up.

“I would say that’s probably the biggest challenge for us. Especially as we go through the season and we’re starting to see different looks or multiple looks from teams, and especially good quarterbacks and good offensive schemes, just the experience part of it,’’ Patricia said. “Those guys are going to have to catch up on that stuff really quickly. The good thing for us is Tracy (Walker) played in a lot of critical situations last year. He played in those maybe situations that you don’t have an opportunity during the game to talk about, they happen, and you have to react to them. His ability to be able to communicate with the less experienced guys that are on the field at that time, and certainly Tavon is someone that has great experience playing this game and can see some those situations happen pretty quick.’’

Diggs had played in 65 regular season games and was very much a student of football growing up watching his brother Quentin Jammer, who played for the San Diego chargers. 

Replacing Diggs in midstream will certainly have its challenges.

Four bad calls helped doom Detroit; Packers edge Lions 23-22 at Lambeau

NFL official offers explanations via pool reports

In case you missed it, the Detroit Lions led the Packers on Monday night until Mason Crosby kicked a 23-yard field goal with no time left to win the game for Green Bay, 23-22.

Yes, the Lions settling for field goals instead of touchdowns definitely hurt their chances, but the officials were the talking point on ESPN and Twitter afterward. That is never a good sign. The Lions drop to 2-2-1 while the Packers are 5-1.

The Lions opened with a 66-yard flea-flicker from Matthew Stafford to Kenny Golladay,  but had to settle for a field goal, their first of five thanks to Matt Prater’s big leg.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

However, the officials made four second-half calls that were costly to the Lions. All four were at the very least questionable and likely just bad.

Lions coach Matt Patricia said they will take a look at the film to see what they could have done better. “We know how detrimental those penalties are,’’ Patricia said. It’s safe to say the Lions will communicate with the NFL asking for explanations. 

Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, who is admittedly biased, checked in on Twitter: “That is sickening… the @NFL needs to look at a way to prevent that from happening. Two phantom hands to the face calls really hurts us tonight. Yes, we could have scored TDs, but @Lions played too well to have the game end this way.”

The four calls:

— Tracy Walker was called for unnecessary roughness for helmet-to-helmet hit on Geronimo Allison early in the third. The Lions safety was clearly going for the ball, not to make the hit. The NFL is trying to cut down on head injuries — and that’s all good — but Walker was not going for the head. “The rules are pretty clear, it’s on the defense to make sure we don’t make contact there,’’ Patricia said. It was a good politically correct answer but it would have been very hard, maybe physically impossible, for Walker to put on the brakes on that play.

Here’s what NBC analyst Tony Dungy tweeted: “That’s incredible. The Lions DB is trying to make an interception. He is playing the ball all the way and gets an unnecessary roughness penalty. Hard to believe.”

A pool reporter asked the official Clete Blakeman if Walker had a right to go after the ball and does that offset any helmet-to-helmet hit? Blakeman: “That’s a good question but the reality is, it is strict liability for a defensive player. In this case, he may be going for the ball and not intending to hit the helmet but when there’s helmet contact it is a foul in that situation.” Blakeman also said if he had impacted the helmet and made the interception it still would have been a foul.

— Defensive lineman Trey Flowers was called with hands to the face twice in the fourth quarter and neither one looked like a good call. With less than 12 minutes left, on third-and-10, Rodgers was sacked and Flowers was called for illegal hands to the face, giving the Packers an automatic first down. Then on the Packers’ next possession, on third-and-4 from Detroit’s 16 with less than 2 minutes left, Rodgers’ pass to Jake Kumerow was incomplete but Flowers was whistled again for illegal use of hands even though his hands were clearly on the shoulder pads.

According to ESPN, Flowers had never been called for this penalty in his entire career and he was called twice in one quarter.

After the game Patricia sat next to Flowers at his locker and had a few words for his D-lineman before giving him a hug, per FOX 2’s Jennifer Hammond.

Flowers told reporters (via Brad Galli’s Twitter): “I was working a move and they saw something different than what actually happened and they called what they thought they saw. I actually changed the position of my hand. It was to the chest initially, I was doing it all game, I didn’t know it was a flag to the chest so I changed it. I didn’t think hands to the chest was a penalty, I thought hands to the face, but I had them right here on the chest then I changed it. It’s part of a move that I do.

A pool reporter asked Blakeman about the Flowers’ calls. The pool report says: “The umpire threw both of them. The last one was really the only one I’ve discussed with him. Basically, it’s for illegal use of the hands, hands-to-the-face foul. To be a foul, we basically need some forceful contact that’s prolonged to the head and neck area of the defender. So, in his mind, he had pinned him back, it was prolonged and that’s what created the foul.” The pool reporter asked for clarification: “Head or neck area?” Official replied: “Head or neck area, yes.”

—  In the fourth quarter, on a second-and-6, Green Bay cornerback Will Redmond had his arm across wide receiver Marvin Jones’s chest before the ball arrived. It was clearly pass interference, but there was no call. Jones was looking for the flag, but it never came. While NFL coaches can ask for a review on pass interference, it’s been made clear early in the season it’s unlikely a call or non-call will be overturned.

Dungy again checked in on Twitter: “That was clearly DPI on the Packers. Coaches are afraid to challenge now though because these plays have not been overturned recently.”

Former Lions and Packers offensive guard T.J. Lang tweeted: “In my 11 years involved with the NFL, I’ve never seen worse officiating than this year and it’s not even close.”

Dan Orlovsky, an ESPN analyst and former Lions quarterback, tweeted: “Enough is enough is enough is enough @NFLOfficiating. I choose my words wisely, and I love the #NFL You’re ruining football for fans.”