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.

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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.”

 

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

After three weeks, the undefeated Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are one of the best stories in the NFL.

Mahomes, 2018’s NFL MVP, picked up where he left off in January. Expectations are high in Kansas City (trust me, I have family there), actually they are sky-high.

While the Detroit Lions are also undefeated (2-0-1) and in first place in the NFC North, many still just don’t know what to make of this bunch that finished last season 6-10.

On paper, all looks good for the Lions, but because of their blemished history (I’m being nice) they don’t get the benefit of the doubt. That will be earned when they win consistently.

Can they beat the 3-0 Chiefs? Absolutely. It’s the NFL where anything can happen. In most games it’s a handful of plays that are the difference between winning and losing. It would be one of the biggest wins in recent Lions’ history.

Will they beat the Chiefs? Kansas City is a 6.5-point favorite. The Lions would need to play a nearly perfect game.

This could be a big statement game even if coach Matt Patricia says he doesn’t look at it that way.

“Every week is important. There’s nothing more to that. Just our biggest game is this game because it’s our next game. We’ll always just kind of try to keep it that perspective so that – we just want to go out and perform well. That’s the bottom line,’’ Patricia said. “Everybody is good in the NFL. Each team presents different challenges, each team has different strengths and weakness, and the challenge is to try to rise to the occasion of handling all of it every single week and whatever presents itself. That’s really it. It’s September, still early. We’re just trying to get better.”

Five things to watch against the Chiefs:

1. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is dangerous wherever his on the field. When Patricia is asked whether he would prefer Mahomes in or out of the pocket, he said: “Probably neither. I think right now what you’re seeing on tape is you’re seeing him extremely efficient – on the sideline is probably where I’d like to see him the most. He’s just really good, he’s a really good young player. This guy is – every single play it is extremely dangerous. He can get that thing down field. He does a great job too with just controlling – there is an element to this offense that is definitely a ball control passing game, going back to kind of the West Coast system which Andy (Reid) has obviously, his background, but he’s incorporated a lot of the vertical stretch too and then mixed in the spread offense that you see a lot in college. He’s kind of adapted all that for his guys. He does great with the controlled passing game, just kind of taking those yardages that you’ll give him and then being real patient and all of a sudden he’s going to launch one down field.’’In other words, the Lions’ defense will have its hands full.

2. Matthew Stafford (hip) was listed on Friday’s injury report as questionable. Took everyone by surprise but he is expected to start. He’s off to a solid start this season with six touchdowns, two interceptions and a 62.6 completion percentage. He’s gotten some help with four receivers who have each had more than 100 yards in a game. But perhaps the key is that he has not been sacked in two straight games which is the first time that’s happened since the first two games of the 2011 season. “I mean obviously the guys up front are doing a great job. I think (Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell) is doing a great job of moving me around, getting the ball out quick, then I get a chance to hold the ball. It’s a little bit of everything, keeping the defense guessing. It’s a team effort when you have no sacks,’’ Stafford said. “You’re not going to have a perfect pocket every time. Guys are going to do some outstanding things, whether it’s a chip or a running back picking up a blitzer. I’m trying to get the ball out in a timely fashion, our guys are doing a great job of getting open. It all kind of plays together.”

3. Last week Tracy Walker and the secondary held Eagles tight end Zach Ertz to 4 catches for 64 yards — with only one of those receptions in the second half. On this week’s agenda is tight end Travis Kelce. “Tracy did a good job last week. He really did. He played well. Technique – fundamentally he played well. Every week in this league is a new week and there’s no way of predicting exactly how things will go,’’ defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. He also wouldn’t be specific if Walker will draw the coverage on Kelce. Patricia said there’s a bunch of good tight ends in the NFL and the Lions will face several of them. 

4. The Lions run game is still a work in progress, averaging about 99 yards per game. Kerryon Johnson is carrying the load but his per carry average is just 2.6 yards (48 carries, 116 yards). “We’ve actually had some really nice blocked plays. What I really feel like is that we’re just one guy away. I feel like there has been a lot of instances where we’ve had 10 out of 11 doing the thing that we need them to do, so if we can just get that one last little piece fit in there, then it’s going to start going,’’ Bevell said. “We’ve had a really good opportunity to just consistently work on it, and I think we’re improving each and every week. I like the direction that it’s headed. I think you can even see it last week. There were some decent sized gains to be had out there, but we still have to clean up some of the little details.”

5. Not a done deal, but cornerback Darius Slay could get the nod on Sunday after injuring his hamstring at Philadelphia. The Pro Bowl cornerback been limited at practice and is officially questionable this week but appears to be moving well. Wide receiver Danny Amendola (chest) is also questionable. After sitting Wednesday and Thursday he was limited in practice on Friday. Defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand (elbow) also questionable. Defensive tackle Mike Daniels is out 

PREDICTION: Lions 27, Chiefs 24 (This was a tough pick. Ultimately believe home-field advantage could tilt it Detroit’s way.)

 

 

Justin Coleman reunites with high school buddies Darius Slay, Tracy Walker

Slot corner signed 4-year, $36 million deal with Lions

 

ALLEN PARK — Justin Coleman has cleared up the biggest mystery since he was rumored earlier this week to be signing as a free agent with the Detroit Lions.

Detroit cornerback Darius Slay claims he and Coleman are cousins.

Slay, Coleman and Lions safety Tracy Walker are all from Brunswick, Ga., and all went to the same high school there, but Coleman said they are not blood relatives.

“Man, the city where we’re from everybody are cousins. We’re not blood-related but we definitely are close, we grew up together,’’ Coleman said at his introductory press conference on Thursday at the Lions headquarters.

Slay and Coleman played for a few years together in high school. At age 24, Walker is younger and is indeed blood relatives with Slay.

“It was great playing with (Slay), we never knew that we were both going to get to this point. In high school he was one of the best players on the field, he kind of motivated me to get on the field and play a lot more,’’ Coleman said. “He kind of helped me along the way being the leader that he is. I tried to compete with him so I could get better myself and it helped me to get further along the way.’’

Slay, 28, was drafted by the Lions in the second round in 2013, while Coleman was undrafted but played in 10 games with two starts for the Patriots as a rookie in 2015. He also played for Matt Patricia in New England in 2016 before moving to the Seahawks for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

“It was definitely a dream that we would come together at some point. I definitely looked up to (Slay) as a young kid to get to where he was going because I knew he was going to do something big with his life. Step by step, he led the way and we just grew up real close together, that allowed us to compete and get to this point,’’ said Coleman who turns 26 on March 27.

Coleman said he didn’t talk to Slay before he signed his four-year, $36 million ($19 million guaranteed) contract with the Lions.

But he’s heard from him since then. Slay told him, “Man, I’m so happy man, I told them they need to pay you.’’

Coleman ranks as the highest paid slot corner in the NFL, but that doesn’t seem to mean much to him.

“I kind of consider myself just another player coming to help the team. The money doesn’t matter. Of course it matters off the field — it helps my family out and helps the people close to me — but I just came here to help the team win and get to where we need to be,’’ Coleman said.

He would not be specific about how Patricia used him in New England’s defense instead saying he’s just happy to have the opportunity in Detroit.

His best traits?

“I feel like I give a lot of effort when it comes to finishing plays and just getting involved. That’s pretty much how I got here — a lot of effort, a lot of hard work,’’ Coleman said. “I’m not the biggest or the strongest or the fastest, but I can put myself in position to make it seem that way.’’

Detroit Lions’ 2018 draft class was impressive in its first season

Frank Ragnow leads impressive class

The old rule of thumb is that a draft class can’t truly be judged for five years.

Maybe so. But after a rookie season, much has been learned about the Detroit Lions 2018 draftees.

Basically, General Manager Bob Quinn did a great job by filling needs and looking toward the future. If everyone stays healthy, it appears that all six will be on the roster in the 2019 season.

Here’s a quick look:

FRANK RAGNOW, first round, 20th overall — The left guard started all 16 games and showed flashes of what is yet to be. He proved to be a solid first-round pick and filled a need. To his benefit he was lined up between two guys with NFL experience in left tackle Taylor Decker and center Graham Glasgow. The offensive line has work to do but Ragnow proved he deserved a starting role.

“I think Frank has a bright future,” veteran right guard T.J. Lang said. “It’s not easy to come in as a young lineman and be thrown into a starting role. The way he approaches the game, sitting in meetings and asking questions, I think I really bonded with him this year because he was so ready to learn new techniques and everything he can about defenses. He wants to be great, and as an older guy to have an opportunity to teach him a little bit, take him under my wing, was an honor. He’s a strong kid, a smart kid, a great athlete. He’s only going to get better.”

KERRYON JOHNSON, second round, 43d overall — The running back, who had two games of more than 100 rushing yards, played a huge role in getting the once-weak run game in gear. It had been an issue which is why he was drafted in the second round. He was limited to 10 games following a knee injury on Nov. 18. The good news is that it’s not a lingering issue. He said if the Lions had made the playoffs he would be ready to go. He feels bad he couldn’t play the whole season. He finished with 118 carries for 641 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

“Running back is a tough spot, but when you’re able to finish 17 (weeks), give it your all for 17, I feel like that puts your team in the best position to win,” Johnson said. “That’s what I like to do. I like to win and I like to be accountable. One way you do that is by finishing.

“I’ve just got to train harder. Obviously, what I did this past offseason wasn’t enough, so I’ve got to do more. I have more time to do more without having to prepare for the combine and all that stuff,’’ Johnson added.

TRACY WALKER, third round, 82nd overall — Defensive back is a tough position to play as a rookie in the NFL, but Walker got his feet wet on defense and was a factor on special teams. He made some highlight plays and was burned too which is all a part of the learning curve for rookie defensive backs. He played in all 16 games and grabbed his first interception in the win over Carolina.

DA’SHAWN HAND, fourth round, 114th overall —  The 6-foot-3, 297-pound rookie was the top-graded rookie interior defensive lineman in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. He said he’s just getting started and now knows where he needs to improve. “I want to be fast, like blazing speed,’’ Hand said. “I’m trying to be like one of the fastest D-linemen in the league.” His season was ended when he sprained his knee in Week 14 in the win at Arizona. In 13 games he had three sacks and 27 tackles.

His teammate, Damon “Snacks” Harrison, sees a bright future for Hand. Harrison tweeted about Hand this week: “This kid is going to be a problem for a long time for offenses. No cap.”

TYRELL CROSBY, fifth round, 153rd overall — The offensive lineman saw action at right tackle in Week 14 when Rick Wagner was injured and could not finish the game. Crosby started at the same position for Wagner the next week. He served as a backup tackle this season but could move inside to guard also. Overall he played in 10 games and did not disappoint.

NICK BAWDEN, seventh round, 237rd overall — The fullback tore his ACL in June’s minicamp and missed the entire season.