Lions at Chiefs preview

Posted Oct 31, 2015

Tim Twentyman previews the Lions at Chiefs matchup.


The Lions and Chiefs meet for the 13th time in team history, this time as participants in the NFL’s International Series in London. The Last time the Lions and Chiefs met was back in 2011 when he Lions claimed a 48-3 victory at Ford Field. Kansas City leads the all-time series, 7-5.


0-3: The Chiefs haven’t won a game this year when trailing after the first quarter.

4: The Lions rank just 21st in the NFL with four interceptions through seven games. They finished the 2014 season with 20 interceptions.

21.5: Career sacks for Ziggy Ansah, which leaves him one sack short of Ndamukong Suh’s (22) franchise record for a player in his first three seasons with the team.


Keep it simple

It’s become clear since Joe Lombardi was let go Monday that players thought his scheme was too complicated and didn't always play to players' strengths.

New offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and offensive line coach Ron Prince have had a short turnaround because of the trip to London. They’ve simplified some of their running and protection schemes upfront in an attempt to maximize talent and get them playing better and thinking less. The Lions have been plagued by execution issues across their offensive line and backfield throughout the year and have been their own worst enemy at times.

Running back Ameer Abdullah said he thinks the subtle changes will help the league’s worst rushing offense through the first seven games jump-start. The Chiefs come into Wembley with the NFL’s 10th ranked rushing defense, so we should get a true test whether or not the shift in scheme is working.

“Simplification is only good if it works, and for us, we’re trying to just make certain our guys can do what they do well,” head coach Jim Caldwell said Thursday.

Limit the big plays

This has been a key heading into a game before and will continue to be one until the defense fixes the problem.

“We’ve played well in spurts and then we give up a big play,” defensive coordinator Teryl Austin admitted Friday. “We can’t do that, that’s the thing that’s killing our defensive performance.

“We’ll play well in spurts and we’ll play outstanding defense and then all of a sudden, the ball will go over our head or we’ll miss a tackle, there will be a breakout run. Whatever it is, it happens, so we have to figure out a way to stop that.”

Last week’s loss in Minnesota was terrific example. The defense bottled up Vikings running back Adrian Peterson for most of the game, but then he busted out for a 75-yard run in the third quarter that set up a score.

The same goes for the double move Lions cornerback Rashean Mathis missed that let to a Stefon Diggs touchdown catch.

The Lions have allowed seven pass plays of 40-plus yards this season. They allowed six all of last season. They’ve allowed three runs of 40-plus yards, which is second most on the season to only Cleveland (4).

Protect the quarterback

It just goes to show how tough a quarterback Matthew Stafford really is to have survived last week’s game vs. Minnesota when he was sacked seven times and hit another 13. Over his last 20 drop backs, Stafford’s been hit 13 times.

Kansas City has two terrific edge rushers in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, but they can also generate some pressure on the inside from Allen Bailey (4.5 sacks) and Co.

The Lions have allowed just 16 sacks all season, which ranks around the middle of the pack, but it seems like when they come they come in bunches and have a huge impact on the game.

Adjust on the fly

What really cost Lombardi, Jeremiah Washburn and Terry Heffernan their jobs earlier this week was an inability to adjust in-game.

Too many times this season the Lions’ offense would either take a quick lead and then go cold once the defense adjusted to what they were doing, or just get off to a terrible start and not be able to adjust the game plan to get back in the game early enough.

Expect the unexpected in this league and the good coaches either have a terrific game plan from the start or can adjust to what they see and toss the game plan in the trash and coach on the fly if needed.

We get our first look at Jim Bob Cooter’s offense and its ability to adjust and produce on Sunday.

Play with some urgency

The Lions aren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet, but they’re on failing life support and need lady luck to shine on them.

A loss to the Chiefs on Sunday and it’s all but over with a trip to play the undefeated Packers in Green Bay next up after the bye week. The Lions haven’t won at Lambeau Field since I was in the sixth grade.

It should be very clear from this week’s staff changes that losing will not be tolerated without consequence moving forward.

“Welcome to the NFL,” Mathis said this week. “This is a business, it’s a business. You’re not playing in high school or college anymore. Things happen very quickly when things don’t go the way they should, the way the staff and the organization think they should be going. When you don’t win, things like that can happen.”

Sunday is a winnable game against a 2-5 opponent with issues of their own. The Lions need to play with some urgency or things could get a whole lot worse around Allen Park.



2015 regular season stats
Record 1-6 2-5
Points per game 19.9 (29) 21.4 (19)
Total yards per game 346.6 (20) 346.1 (19)
Rushing yards 68.0 (32) 106.3 (19)
Passing yards 278.6 (7) 239.9 (19)
3rd down offense % 37.0 (17t) 33.0 (27)
Points allowed 28.6 (29) 24.6 (18)
Total yards allowed 392.3 (27) 368.0 (20)
Rushing yards allowed 123.4 (24) 103.4 (10)
Passing yards allowed 268.9 (24) 264.6 (23)
3rd down defense % 41.2 (24) 35.9 (11)
Turnover ratio -7 (29) +1 (15)


Matthew Stafford, QB

Last year at Wembley Stadium in Detroit’s 22-21 come-from-behind win over Atlanta, Stafford threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns.

Ziggy Ansah, DE

Ansah’s been on a nice stretch of play over the last month. He has four sacks, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery over his last four contests.

Calvin Johnson, WR

Over his past 17 games vs. AFC opponents, Johnson has 105 catches for 1,808 yards (106.4 per game) and 12 touchdowns. Since 2011, he leads the NFL with 6,788 yards (102.8 per game).


Travis Kelce, TE

One of the most versatile tight ends in the league, Kelce is second among NFL tight ends with 473 receiving yards on the season.

Justin Houston, OLB

Over his last 17 games, Houston has notched 19 sacks and four forced fumbles. Since 2012, he ranks second in the NFL with 47 sacks (J.J. Watt).

Jeremy Maclin, WR

Maclin is averaging 105.4 receiving yards per game (30 rec., 422 yards) over his past four games played. He’s had at least eight catches 85 yards in three of those past four games.