FOUR DOWNS: Focus on takeaways pays off for Lions

FIRST DOWN: TWO TAKEAWAYS

Detroit generated just 14 takeaways all of last season, the second fewest in the NFL to San Francisco (7).

Creating more of those game-changing plays on defense has been a big focus this offseason with both the personnel Detroit’s brought in on defense and with more time and focus in practice they put on knocking balls out of the hands of ball carriers or getting hands on the football.

Detroit’s first touchdown of the preseason came Saturday night in Houston when rookie safety Will Harris picked up a fumble forced by defensive end Romeo Okwara and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Later in the same quarter, veteran safety Andrew Adams intercepted a Joe Webb pass at the Lions' 7-yard line, taking an opportunity for points away from the Texans.

“I think that is definitely a positive,” Patricia said after the game of the turnovers. “I think we’ve been trying to work really hard at that stuff and some of the techniques with the turnovers today were actually executed the way we practice. That was good from that standpoint. You like to try and build on that.

“I think it’s one of those things where you put such an emphasis on it that when it finally happens hopefully it catches fire and goes that way going forward. We just have to do it every week.”

The two takeaways were certainly one of the positives from Saturday’s 30-23 loss to the Texans.

SECOND DOWN: STAFFORD DECISION

Quarterback Matthew Stafford sat out a second consecutive preseason game because the Lions felt that he got enough good work this week in the joint practices with the Texans on Wednesday and Thursday that a vanilla series or two Saturday night wasn’t warranted.

“As far as Stafford is concerned, I think for us, we rolled down here for practice and I think we had a lot of snaps on the practice field that we felt were really good for us offensively and felt we had the work that we needed to get in,” Patricia said of his decision to hold out Stafford.

The reps Stafford gets in the joint practice setting are better reps anyway, because they involve scheme. The Lions don’t want to put anything on tape Arizona or any other regular-season opponent might be able to learn from and help their defense, so the preseason truly is basic when it comes to running scheme on offense. The joint practices are different. Detroit can work through their offensive scheme in those settings.

Patricia said he liked what he saw from Stafford this week at practice, and wanted to get a further look at Josh Johnson and David Fales Saturday night.

THIRD DOWN: LINEBACKER DEPTH

Linebackers Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Miles Killebrew were a couple of the bright spots last week in a rather unforgettable 31-3 loss to New England in the preseason opener.

Both Reeves-Maybin and Killebrew were good again this week against the Texans, and that’s turning into very good news for the depth the Lions have at the linebacker position.

“I think with Jalen and Miles you like to see them doing that on defense,” Patricia said. “I think it’s encouraging for us to have those guys step into roles and have opportunity to go out there and make plays and be in situations where they are consistent and that’s really important for us as we look at it and evaluate it.”

Rookie Jahlani Tavai also played well Saturday. Add those three to returning starters Jarrad Davis, Christian Jones and Devon Kennard, and the linebacker spot is looking like one of the deeper position groups for the Lions.

Reeves-Maybin had five tackles, one tackle for loss and a defended pass vs. the Texans. Killebrew had five tackles and a tackle for loss. Tavai recorded four tackles in a little more than a quarter of work.

"It's definitely great just to have that experience and that knowledge and feeling like you've been in some of those situations before,” Reeves-Maybin said. “I think it's a valuable thing."

View photos from the Detroit Lions at Houston Texans Preseason Week 2 game at NRG Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019 in Houston, Texas.

FOURTH DOWN: BACKUP QB COMPETITION

Give quarterback David Fales credit. After a rough preseason debut last week, where he was just 5-of-14 passing for 62 yards, Fales came out Saturday much more poised and consistent. He led two Lions touchdown drives in the second half.

The offensive line protected him much better this week, and Fales took advantage to the tune of 12-of-19 passing for 226 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions for a passer rating of 121.8.

“It’s a long season, so everyone has got to be ready,” Fales said after the game. “Coach always says you’re only as good as your weakest link. There’s injuries throughout the year, so all these young guys have to be ready, and you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Quarterback Josh Johnson, in his first game action since signing with Detroit late last week, completed nine of his 18 attempts for 85 yards with an interception.

Johnson had appeared to be outperforming Fales in practice over the last week, but credit Fales with coming out Saturday, playing well, and making this a tighter competition again.

“I thought Fales did a great job coming in with good composure the second half,” Patricia said. “I thought Josh did a good job, too. You know he’s just getting here and he’s trying to do everything he can to learn.

“I thought it was great competition for those guys and that’s really what we needed. We need to see the competition for those two players.”

Quarterback Tom Savage is still out with a concussion, and there’s been no update on his status. If it continues to be Fales and Johnson vying to be Stafford’s backup, Fales did himself a favor with the way he played against the Texans.

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