Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia changed things up this week with his team's practice schedule.
The Lions went through a lighter walkthrough Wednesday instead of their normal practice. With this being a tough part of the schedule in which the Lions play three games in 12 days, this was a stretch Patricia had always earmarked as a time to potentially give his team a physical break.
"Good thing is I kind of get to change that stuff when I want to, when I feel it's necessary for us as a team," Patricia said. "I may have actually addressed this going back to the San Francisco week. I think I've told everybody that kind of somewhere around Thanksgiving, having three games in 12 days, or whatever it is, we'll probably have some walkthrough practices in there to try and conserve ourself physically."
The Lions are currently on a three-game losing streak in which they've been outscored by double digits in each loss. That hasn't happened to a Detroit team since 2009.
The expectation of Sunday's game vs. Carolina being an especially physical game for his club also played into Patricia's decision to give his players a bit of a rest Wednesday.
"A Carolina group that's obviously a physical football team coming in here and coming off a stretch where we've been on the road playing some physical games," Patricia said. "Just the right thing to do for the day."
LANG TO IR
The Lions placed Pro Bowl guard T.J. Lang on injured reserve Wednesday with a neck injury. Lang, 31, has been the Lions' best offensive lineman when healthy over the course of the last two seasons, but he's battled several injuries along the way. He missed three games last year, and will be out now a total of 10 this season. He has one year remaining on his contract.
"T.J. is a good guy and was a good friend of mine and a great player," center Graham Glasgow said in the locker room Wednesday. "He was a good veteran leader and that's somebody all of us will need to pick up the slack."
Most responsible for that will be veteran Kenny Wiggins, who has filled in for Lang when he's missed time with head, back and neck injuries this season.
"He's a great teammate, great in our room, a bunch of experience. Right now we just have to stick together and keep playing," Wiggins said. "(This week) is same way I always approach it. I'm preparing all year like I'm a starter and now it's just going to be (that way) from now on."
SPECIAL TEAMS CHANGE
Punter Sam Martin and Detroit's special teams units played their first game last week without former coordinator Joe Marciano, who was relieved of his duties following the loss to Minnesota two weeks ago.
The Lions allowed an 18-yard punt return to Tarik Cohen and committed a penalty on special teams, but overall it wasn't a bad day. It didn't cost them the game.
Assistant special teams coach Devin Fitzsimmons took on a majority of Marciano's responsibilities, which means there was some familiarity there for the players.
"Fitz worked under Marciano for a while," Martin said this week. "It's just X's and O's. Just trying to do what we do at a higher level and execute better. We have all the right tools. We have all the right players. We have the right game plans. We just have to put it together."
Detroit's return units rank 24th (punt) and sixth (kickoff) in the NFL. Their coverage units rank 32nd (punt) and 24th (kickoff).
Martin ranks 16th in punting average (44.6) and 30th in net punting average (36.6).
Kicker Matt Prater's field goals made percentage of 85 percent (17-for-20) is tied for the ninth best in the NFL.
It's been a tough three weeks for the Lions. After fighting to get back to .500 with a win in Miami Week 7 after starting 0-2, three straight losses has been a bit of a gut punch.
It hasn't been just one area that's let them down, either, which has probably been the most frustrating part of it.
Left tackle Taylor Decker said this week the easy answer to getting back on track is just simply playing better, but that's easier said than done.
It's important when teams are going through the kind of stretch the Lions are right now for the locker room to stay together and not fracture, according to Decker.
"The thing that can be a killer would be a fractured locker room," he said. "We don't have that. We don't want to get to that point. So, I think there's been a pretty solid message throughout just the guys on the team to just stay together."
HEADING IN A GOOD DIRECTION
Defensive end Ziggy Ansah recorded a tackle and three quarterback pressures in Chicago, That after recording a sack in his first game back two weeks ago in Minnesota from the shoulder injury that kept him out Weeks 2-8.
"He's been very explosive coming off the ball," Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said of Ansah when asked about him Tuesday. "I think he's starting to get back into feeling good and feeling like he wants to feel, and that's a work in progress.
"He's making progress each day, each week. So, as I said last week, we're giving him as many reps as we can at practice and we're evaluating it on a daily basis as we work through the week. I would say that Ziggy's headed in a good direction."
Ansah played 12 snaps in Minnesota and 15 last week in Chicago.
"I think we're trying to do what's best overall for the Detroit Lions and our team, No. 1," Pasqualoni said of Ansah's limited reps the last couple weeks. "And that's the way that has to be. And No. 2, we're trying to do what's best for Ziggy or whoever player that might be in our program. So, it's the team first, but there's always consideration for what we do based on the individuals involved."