Setting the Stage
Cards surprised the world with its win over Green Bay and are said to have cost Mike McCarthy his job. As for the Lions, a rosy preseason outlook has faded,with the Lions going 4 & 8. Lions have had their moments and have beaten New England and Green Bay but they've also lost to the Jets and Niners.
Injury-ridden Cardinal roster is dotted with "guys you never heard of." Especially scary is an O-line consisting of Holden, Aboushi, Cole, Gossett and Cunningham (backed by the "law firm" of: Golditch, Odhiambo, Munyer & Barksdale).
Lions' Last Game
Rams opened up a 10-pt lead at halftime, maintained a slight lead and then pulled away in the 4Q:
First quarter Scoring
Rams - 24 yd FG (Zuerlein) Rams 3 - Lions 0
Second Quarter Scoring
Lions - 28 yd FG (Prater) Rams 3 -Lions 3
Rams - 8 yd TD pass (Goff to Woods) Rams 10 - Lions 3
Rams - 47 yd FG (Zuerlein) Rams 13 - Lions 3
Lions - 29 yd FG (Prater) Rams 13 - Lions 6
Rams - 48 yd FG (Zuerlein) Rams 16 - Lions 6
Lions - 11 yd TD pass (Stafford to Decker) Rams 16 - Lions 13
Rams - 13 yd TD run (Gurley) Rams 23 - Lions 13
Lions - 35 yd FG (Prater) Rams 23 - Lions 16
Rams 2 yd TD run (Gurley) Rams 30 - Lions 16
Final ScoreL Rams 30 - Lions 16
Last Week's Game Notes:
Both the Lions and NFL official sites have made access to play by pay logs nearly impossible (Kudos for the Cardinal webmeisters for making the Cardinal website functional). Here are some edited random notes by Lion beat writers Tim Twentyman & Mike OHara:
Matthew Stafford took the blame for a fourth-quarter fumble that shortened the field for the Rams and led to a touchdown that pushed the lead to 10 points. (But also credit Aaron Donald for forcing that fumble. Donald harassed Stafford all night, sacking him twice and hitting him four times)...Stafford was hit a total of 11 times....Lion DT Damon Harrison makes his presence known in every game , adding another sack against the Rams - giving him a personal high of 3.5 for the season. All have come in his six games as a Lion.
Sunday’s loss dropped the Lions to 4-8 on the season and officially eliminated them from clinching the division title.
Safety Quandre Diggs covered a lot of ground on his second-quarter interception - Counting the yards from hash to the sideline, Diggs covered at least 50 yards to get to the ball.
Detroit’s defense played much better than a team that yielded 30 points. . The 344 yards they allowed were the second fewest for the Rams all season. The Lions allowed only two sustained scoring drives of more than 50 yards. Rams quarterback Jared Goff’s 68.6 passer rating was his second lowest of the season.
Credit Lions head coach Matt Patricia for emptying the playbook and firing everything he had at the Rams. An onside kick, a wide receiver double pass and a tackle eligible play (resulting in a touchdown). Credit Patricia and Co. for realizing the talent mismatch between the 2 teams and trying to throw in everything but the kitchen sink.
There’s still hope in the NFC’s cluttered field of playoff contenders. In 1999, the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions both were wild cards with 8-8 won-loss records. (However, both lost in the first round).
Matt Prater made all three of his field goal attempts Sunday (Prater hasn’t missed a field goal since Week 5, is 23-for-26 in FG attempts and 23-for-23 on extra points).
Stafford had at least two touchdown passes and a passer rating of plus-90.0 in six of the first seven games of the season with go-to receiver Golden Tate in the lineup. Since Tate was traded to Philadelphia, Stafford has reached two touchdowns just once iand hasn’t reached a 90.0 passer rating in any contests since the trade.
Season Player Stats
(Stafford) - 292for 439 (66.5%), 7.0 YPA,18 TDs, 11 Ints, Sacked 36 times Rating 90.03
(K Johnson) - 118 carries for 641 yds (5.4 YPC), 3 TDs
(Blount) - 113 carries for 332 yrd (5.9 YPC) 5 TD''s
(Golliday) 55 for 854 yds,15.6 YPC
(Riddick) 51 for 338 yds, 6,6 YPC
(M Jones) 35 for 508 yds, 14.5 YPC
K Johnson and B Ellington have 32 and 27 catches apiece.
(J Davis) - 71 Tackles
(Q Diggs) - 58Tackles
(Quinn) - 59 Tackles
(D Harrison) - 64 Tackles
(Diggs and Slay lead with 2 interceptions apeice
Kennard leads with 6.0. Okwara has 5.5.Harrison is credited with 3.5. Ansah and Harold have 4.0.
Prater - 19 for 19 20 - 39 yds. 4 for 7 - 40+ yds
Net Punting Yards
Martin - 38.4
Team Season Stats
First Downs - Lions 253 - Opp 248
Rushing 1st Downs - Lions 67 - Opp 70
3rd Down Conversions: Lions 55/153 - Opp 51/129
4th Down Conversions: Lions 9/14 Opp 7/10
OffensiveYards - Lions 4080, /Opp 4254
Off YPP -Lions 6.3/Opp 6.1
Rushing YPP Lions 4.3/Opp 4.7
Sacks By - Lions 34 /Opp 36
Time of Poss - Lions 31:24, Opp /28:36
Lions in a Nutshell
Talented team within a competitive division (with GB, Minn, Bears). Seem to be a solid team transitioning to life under new HC Patricia. Lacks dominating players at skill positions (but, then again, but then again, not having explosive players never seemed to fluster Patricia's mentor Bill Belicheck). Stafford can beat you with his feet. Lions have a good pass rush but give up a lot of sacks too. Lions give their FB's (Riddick and K Johnson) plenty of touches.
QB ..09 Stafford...08 Cassel
RB....29 Blount...34 Zenner...43 Bellore
FB.....25 Riddick...33 K Johnson
WR....19 Golladay...12 Ellington...10 Powell
WR ...13 TJ Jones...17 A Jones
TE......82 L Wilson...87 Tollolo...80 Roberts
LT......68 T Decker...78 Donnal
LG .77 Ragnow...66 Dahl
OC 60 Glagsow
RT ..71 Wagner...65 Crosby
Defensive Interior Line
DE - 44 Golden, 91 Mayowa, 94 Malveaux
DT - 98 Peters, 90 Nkemdiche
DT - 95 Gunter,
DE- 55 C Jones, 59 Zach Moore, xx Dora
SAM - 43 Reddick, 92 Gardeck, 58 Armbrister
MLB - 51 Hodges, 47 Zeke Turner
WILL - 20 Bucannon, , 59 J Walker
LCB - 21 Peterson, 26 B Williams, 28 D Johnson
RCB - 38 Amerson, 27 L Johnson...23 Rollins
SS - 36 Baker, 30 Ford
FS - 41 Bethea, 38 Boston, 40 Tillman*
Matchup: Lion Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Stafford had two more fourth-quarter turnovers Sunday - neither turnover was completely Stafford’s fault — his late interception was just a lob to the end zone. But Stafford has to be more secure with the ball. Completed just 20 of 33 passes for 245 yards Sunday, and nearly threw another pick on the opening drive of the 3Q. ...clearly ailing; (got shredded on a sack early in the game....Lions can’t win if he doesn't play better.
The Lions don’t have enough weapons at wide receiver with Marvin Jones injured and Golden Tate gone & went to a two-tight-end set Sunday. Levine Toilolo had 90 yards receiving...Kenny Golladay had just three catches on eight targets...TJ Jones had a costly offensive pass interference penalty that nullified a touchdown.
Lion pass blockers had a rough day of it up front against the best defensive tackle tandem in the NFL - allowed four sacks and 11 quarterback hits... Starting five offensive linemen committed six penalties. Graham Glasgow opened a big hole on Blount’s opening 9-yard run, but he committed two penalties.
Ram DL Aaron Donald was a one-man wreking crew - he split a double-team by Glasgow and Kenny Wiggins to force Stafford’s fumble, blew past Frank Ragnow to throw Blount for a 1-yard loss early, and did the same to Wiggins to stop Riddick for a 3-yard loss. He beat Wiggins for his first sack...On a brighter note - the pass protection at the tackle spots was solid.
Complete late-season makeover in the Cardinal secondary appears to have stopped the leakage in the Cardinal defense...Cardinal pass rush figures to make Stafford's day "interesting." In terms of ability to make plays, Stafford reminds us of a younger and friskier (but more erratic) Aaron Rodgers. (Except that Stafford lacks the wide receivers who can bail him out of trouble). Aaron Donald's dominant outing may signal a big day for Robert Nkemdiche...Expect Chandler Jones and Markus Golden to give Detroit pass blockers all they can handle.
Key Matchuups - Stafford vs. Peterson...Tollolo vs. Bethea, Ragnow, Glagsow and Wiggins vs. Nkemdiche, Jones and Golden...Tollolo vs. Reddick.
Matchup: Lion Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Blount ran for 61 yards on 16 carries, but he had just 11 yards in a sluggish first half. He showed good vision on his 24-yard run...Zach Zenner had a nice 7-yard scamper in the high red zone. Riddick had a mixed day. He and Stafford botched a handoff play in the first half and missed a blitz pickup on one of the Rams’ four sacks. He broke a John Johnson tackle after catching a third-quarter slant to get a first down and had 32 yards rushing, a season-high.
TE Luke Willson made a great block on Riddick’s 11-yard run and was out front on Zenner’s lone carry, but he got beat by Dante Fowler on a first-and-goal 5-yd loss...
Cards loss of Pierre thins out the DL..Blount, when he was with NE was a Cardinal killer - forte is keeping his pad-level lower than would-be tacklers to achieve after-contact leverage...Cardinal run defense is up and down - certainly capable of containing Blount, Zenner, Riddick etc. - but will they?
Cardinals are banged up at LB and Boston is not rock-solid as a tackler...Expect the Lions to compensate for receiver-depth difficulties by going more to the run-game and 2-TE offensive schemes.
Key Matchup: Blount vs. Hodges or Boston
03 Rosen, 07 Glennon
23 D Johnson, 29 Edmonds, 22 Logan, 32 Coleman
WR - 11 Fitzgerald, 16 Sherfield, Tolliver
WR - 16 C Williams, 14 Nelson
TE1 - 86 Seals-Jones, 84 Gresham, 82 J Phillips, XX Daniels
LT- 69 Holden, 75 Golditch
LG - 78 Gossett,
OC- 64 Cole, 62 Munyer
RG- 70 Aboushi , Odhiambo
RT - 79 Cunningham, xx Barksdale,
DE.....95 Okwara...61 Hyder Jr
DT.....97 Francois...91 A Robinson
DT.....98 D Harrison
DE....94 Ansah....93 Hand
OLB.....42 Kennard...57 Harold... 50 Grigsby
MLB....40 J Davis...53 Bates
OLB....52 C Jones...44 Maybin...51Sheppard
CB....23 Slay...26 Shead...38Ford
CB....24 Lawson....31 Tabor...21 Cooper
SS.....28 Diggs...32 T Wilson...47 T walker
FS......27 Quin...35 Killebrew...45 C Washington
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Lion Pass Defense
.Lions held Goff to just 207 yards (17 of 33).... Ziggy Ansah and Devon Kennard did a nice job pushing the pocket early before Kennard left with a hip injury in the 2Q...Ansah was called for a personal foul for a low hit on Goff...Romeo Okwara dropped a would-be interception inside the Rams’ 15/buthad a nice pressure on a third-and-10 screen before halftime. A’Shawn Robinson and Damon Harrison made some big run stops early - Robinson shed two blockers to stuff Gurley in the red zone. But Harrison (who led the team with seven tackles) got knocked over on Gurley’s game-clinching TD run and Hand drew a costly illegal hands-to-the face penalty...Gurley finished with 132 yards rushing.
Diggs had six tackles, two pass breakups an interception and a pair of big hits...Slay gave up Goff’s lone touchdown pass to Robert Woods in the second quarter and was called for a pass-interference. He got stiff-armed on Gurley’s 21-yard run. Lawson was flagged for defensive holding...Quin missed a tackle on Gurley's 36 yard game-icing run.
It's not thaat we've seen dramatic progress from Rosen as the season progressed; but then too, he hasn't regressed all that much either - he just seems to improve by inches play by play. His passing numbers are far from gaudy but he seems always good for a couple of TD passes. In terms of TD's and big gainers vs. sacks and turnovers, he continues to bat somewhere around .500.
If late reports are accurate, Rosen's "security blanket" (Christian Kirk) may be gone for the season. WIth Larry Fitzgerald holding down one WR position, that means that younger receivers like Sherfield will have to step up and get the job done. It may also mean that more will be expected from Cardinal TE's (Gresham and Seals-Jones) and RB (D Johnson and Edmonds).
Cardinal OL continues to be more shredded - At OG are two newbies (Gossett and Aboushi). Cunningham has been forced to leapfrog into the RT spot (He's good for 2 or 3 false-start penalties a game, but is making progress). The only experienced linemen on this unit - Humphries - is listed as starting LT, but has been injured most of the year - if he can't go, the Cards will have rely on Will Holden. Cardinal centers (Cole and Munyer) though young in years, are relatively unscathed.
Ansah vs Humphries or Holden. Kennard or Harold vs. Cunningham. Fitz vs. Slay. Gresham or Seals-Jones vs. Diggs
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Lion Run Defense
LB's share in the blame for Gurley’s big rushing day...Christian Jones (six tackles) couldn’t get off a block on Gurley’s first TD run but blanketed Cooks on a sideline route. Jarrad Davis took a bad angle on Gurley’s 15-yard jaunt in the 1Q...he and Slay missed tackles on a 7-yard run by M Brown. Kennard’s replacement, Eli Harold, had a sack in the fourth quarter...Okwara dropped a potential interception for touchdown.
Last week, the Cards saw the "coming out" of Chase Edmonds who, despite not being the bulkiest of RB's, showed he can move the pile and is becoming a dangerous receiving outlet. With the Cards thin at WR, look for them to hand the rock more to D Johnson and also give Edmonds more touches via Jet Sweeps and wheel routes.
Last week, the beleagured Cardinal OL as a group, showed dominating after-contact pile-pushing in run situations (most notably the red zone).
D Johnson and Edmonds vs Lion LB's...Cardinal OL vs Robinson and Harrison
Lion Special Teams
K 05 Prater
P/KO 06 Martin
H 06 Martin
LS 48 Muhlbach
KR 13 TJ Jones
PR 13 TJ Jones
Cardinals Special Teams
P - ...02 Lee
K- ....05 Gonzalez
H - ...02 Lee
LS - .46 Brewer
KR - 22 Logan
PR - 14 Nelson
Matchup: Lions Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Matt Prater made three more field goals, running his streak to 14...Lions got good punt rush out of Ansah,...Sam Martin didn’t send his first onside kick far enough, but he netted 44.7 yards on six punts ...The Lions appeared to have just 10 men on the field on one Greg Zuerlein FG.
Cards have lost Kirk for the season. Home-run hitter Logan has been waiting in the wings, and this game should offer his best shot.
Prater gets the edge over youngster, Gonzalez as a FG kicker...Martin has less of an edge on KO's. We'd be happier with Lee as a punter. This should mark the debut of speedster Logan as full time returner.
Coaching / Intangibles
Last week was not the most exciting of game-plans...Lions did what they could to give themselves a chance to win it in the fourth quarter for the second straight week, only to, once again, succumb to turnovers...The short-handed Lions kept their offensive gameplan mostly conservative (albeit with two trick plays mixed in)....used Joe Dahl (at fullback) and Tyrell Crosby as extra offensive linemen freely...Defensively, the Lions stifled the Rams’ high-powered passing attack and kept Gurley relatively in check until late in the game....Lions probably should have kicked deep on their second onside attempt, though the only thing it impacted was the betting line.
Disappointing season may place an Exit sign over the door to the Cardinal coaching room. Upset win over Green Bay may have bought Coach Wilks more time. Question of the Hour: Under Wilks' watchful eye, are various underperforming roster units showing satisfactory improvement? Or will Michael B simply throw up his hands and wield a wide broom.
How to Beat the Lions
Two teams are similar (i.e. out of the playoff hunt, shredded roster, 1st year HC's). But biggest difference figures to be at QB, where Stafford reminds us of a more athletic (albeit erratic) version of Aaron Rodgers. I view this as a pretty even game, with both teams battling it out and a few breaks determining the outcome. One wild card: Effort. (Will the Lions suffer a case of the blahs after their killer-loss to the Rams? Will the Cardinals ride the momentum from their win in Green Bay?