The Lions are in an interesting position this week having had a mini bye of sorts over the weekend due to their annual Thanksgiving Day Game played last Thursday. With Minnesota (Sunday's opponent) traveling to Seattle to play on Monday Night Football tonight, it gives head coach Matt Patricia and Co. an opportunity for some extra prep time and a chance to scout the Vikings on Monday night.
Patricia and the Lions were back in Allen Park going to work to prepare for Sunday's matchup in Minnesota. Patricia spoke to the media as he does every week. Here are the key questions to come out of that media session:
Is there an update on quarterback Matthew Stafford's status?
Nothing as of Monday. Patricia still called him "week to week" with the back injury suffered Week 9 that's kept Stafford out of the last four games.
"Still kind of working in a week-by-week manner with him from that standpoint in conjunction with our medical staff to monitor that situation," Patricia said. "(We're) always trying to give every opportunity we can to just kind of see how it goes with him, understanding his continual competitiveness and wanting to be out there to play football. So that's just kind of where we are right now with that situation, too."
Why play Stafford at all the last month of the season?
At 3-8-1, the Lions are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Still, Stafford has expressed an interest to play again this season, if given the medical clearance.
"Out of respect for Matthew and his competitiveness and what he means to this team and what he brings every single week, we're just going to kind of take it week-by-week and see what happens from that standpoint," Patricia said.
What is the injury update of tight end T.J. Hockenson?
Not good. An ankle injury suffered late on Thanksgiving will in fact end Hockenson's rookie season. The team placed him on IR Monday.
He finishes the year with 32 catches for 367 yards and two touchdowns.
Is consistently playing in close games discouraging or encouraging?
The Lions join Kansas City and San Francisco as the only teams in the NFL that can say they've led in every game so far this season. The biggest difference, obviously, is the 49ers are 10-2, the Chiefs are 8-4 and the Lions are 3-8-1.
"Obviously, you can go glass half-full, half-empty, however you want – I think for us there are positives in all of it and negatives in all of it," Patricia said. "We try to make sure we understand all of those and explain them and teach it and learn from it from that standpoint.
"You'd certainly rather be in close games than not close games, that's for sure. Obviously, playing in every single game where you have a chance to win, that's obviously important from that standpoint. You just want to go out there and win. I think you can look at it from both ways."
Is there a fundamental issue preventing Detroit from winning close games?
Maybe one of the frustrating parts for these coaches and players is that there isn't one thing they can point to. If there was, it would be easier to fix. They've had issues in all three phases that have prevented them from winning close games. It's been the inconsistency of different things throughout the course of the season.
Patricia did point to one area that he views as consistently problematic, however.
"We're close, but we're not there, so we have to fix all of it, no matter what the situation is," he said. "Again, like I said, I don't think it's been one specific thing in every game. It's been different in different games.
"I certainly do think the one thing that we talk a lot about as a team that doesn't help us is the penalty situation. I think that's the one thing for us right now that we have to improve on, and we have to get it better. Otherwise it just puts us in such a hard situation to try to overcome those sorts of mistakes that happen in the game. That'll be a big focus for us."
The Lions' 96 penalties called against them this season are the sixth most in the league.
How did quarterback David Blough's debut performance look on tape?
The undrafted rookie free agent threw for 280 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and gave the Lions a chance to win the game late. His 280 passing yards were the most by a player making their NFL debut in franchise history.
"I think the team, like I said, tried to rally around him, and I think he tried to do everything he could to help the team win from that aspect too," Patricia said. "I thought all that was really positive. I thought his energy, and I thought his desire to try to do the best he could to help this team is really the most important part for us. I think we could all see that."