LIONS INSIDER

NOTEBOOK: Play like a first-place team; the other Matt Flynn; O-line play and Thanksgiving pride

Posted Nov 26, 2013

The Lions have played bad football the last two weeks, but still remain in first place in the NFC North

The Detroit Lions haven’t played well the last two weeks in losses to Pittsburgh and Green Bay. Okay, they’ve played pretty bad.

The Lions have seen their 6-3 record turn into 6-5 and their opportunity to put a stranglehold on the division fly out the window.

But one thing that shouldn’t be lost in the disappointment of the last two weeks is the Lions still lead the NFC North and still control their playoff destiny. If the playoffs were to start tomorrow, the Lions would still be the No. 3 seed in NFC.

That doesn’t make up for how bad they’ve played of late, and doesn’t give fans a fuzzy feeling about the next five games after watching the last two, but it does offer some perspective.

It certainly hasn’t been lost on the players or coaches.

"We are in first place," Ndamukong Suh said. "The point is we have to go and take care of the next game and that’s just really what we need to do."

The Lions have committed eight turnovers the last two games without getting any turnovers of their own. They’ve been their own worst enemy. That has some thinking a quick turnaround could be in the cards.

"The mistakes we had were physical errors," receiver Nate Burleson said. "The good thing about physical errors is that you can fix it."

It’s a short turnaround this week to get those things fixed, however, and Thursday’s game has greater importance than just being the next game on the schedule or a nationally televised game.

"We always talk about division opponents and NFC North and how you can count two games like that," head coach Jim Schwartz said. "It’s a team that’s right there in contention. We need to play our best and we need to come out with a win. We have lost two in a row and we need to right that. There’s no better opportunity than Thanksgiving Day at Ford Field."

With a win Thursday the Lions remain in first place and in the drivers seat to the playoffs.

THE OTHER SIDE OF FLYNN

When most people think about Matt Flynn vs. the Detroit Lions they instantly think back to the Week 17 performance during the 2011 season when he threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns in a Packers win.

But Flynn faced the Lions one other time, in 2010, with much different results.

He came into the game for an injured Aaron Rodgers in the second half and was 15-of-26 passing for 177 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. His passer rating was 62.5 and the Lions won the game 7-3.

With Flynn expected to start on Thursday, it begs the questions, which Flynn shows up to Ford Field on Thanksgiving?

OFFENSIVE KEY

Most NFL games come down to two things: turnover and trench play.

The first matchup between Detroit and Green Bay in Week 5, the turnover battle evened out (0-0), but Green Bay won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

The Packers defensive line, in particular, harassed Matthew Stafford for most of the game and tallied five sacks, the most the Lions have given up in a single game this year.

"They kind of had us playing sideways a little but," guard Rob Sims said after watching film of the first matchup. "That kind of sticks out. There was just a breakdown in technique by us and they made some plays."

The Lions are No. 1 in the NFL in sacks allowed per play and the Packers are No. 2 in sacks per play.

That’s what you call a key matchup on Thursday.

SLAY TO START?

Chris Houston didn’t finish last week’s game against Tampa Bay with what the Lions are calling a foot injury.

He didn’t participate in Monday’s walkthrough or Tuesday’s practice, either.

If Houston isn’t ready to play Thursday, the Lions are likely to start rookie Darius Slay, whose made two starts this year and has played in a relief role throughout the year.

"I think the biggest thing is just overall knowledge of not just our scheme, because he had a pretty good handle of our scheme, but just offenses," Schwartz said of Slay. "Any young player, that’s a step that they all need to take. They all work on technique and they all work on knowing what our defense is, but you also need to understand what offenses are trying to do and I think he’s done a really good job.

Darius SlayCB Darius Slay (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

Like any young player, though, Slay has been inconsistent.

He said he’s been working with assistant defensive backs coach Steven Jackson on defensive concepts vs. different offenses and Slay says that’s helped slow the game down some.

We could potentially see how much of a difference its made come Thursday.

THANKSGIVING PRIDE

The Lions have a long a storied history on Thanksgiving Day dating back to 1934.

The Lions haven’t won on Thanksgiving since 2003, however, and that’s left a bad taste in the mouth of a number of players.

"It would be huge for me," receiver Calvin Johnson said about winning on Thanksgiving. "I want to be able to go home on a good note, have a good Thanksgiving dinner with the family after a ‘W’ – haven’t had one since I’ve been here. Want to get the bad taste out of your mouth and enjoy Thanksgiving with your family that much more."

The last time the Lions won on Thanksgiving was against the same Green Bay Packers they’ll face Thursday.

"More than anything, I want to get a win on Thanksgiving," Burleson said. "One of the memories I want to cherish is that I won on a special day like (Thanksgiving). I’m not going to keep it quiet. I want a victory and I think everyone in this locker room shares that."