It had to be a pretty helpless feeling for Lions All-Pro cornerback Darius Slay last week watching Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears' offense burn Detroit's secondary to the tune of 355 yards and three touchdowns.
Slay sat out the game due to a knee injury he suffered during the week of the Minnesota game. Slay played through the injury in Minnesota, but couldn't last week in Chicago.
Instead, he was an observer, watching Chicago complete eight passes of 20-plus yards. Trubisky finished with a passer rating of 148.6.
"It was awful," Slay said of having to sit out last week. "I could have possibly made the situation better.
"Individually it helped me, but not as a team cause I know I could have helped. But like I said, at end of the day, it's my body out there, going out to war for these guys and I have to make sure I take care of myself first."
Slay sat out practice all of last week leading up to the Bears game. He returned to practice this week, albeit in limited fashion, but said Thursday he feels "pretty good" after a week off.
"That's just how it is," Slay said of sitting out a week. "It's a business. And at the end of the day, it's your body, your life. So ... do what's best for yourself sometimes."
Detroit is certainly hoping to get the services of their best cover corner back on the field Sunday vs. Carolina. Quarterback Cam Newton, running back Christian McCaffrey, tight end Greg Olsen and wide receiver Devin Funchess are a formidable set of weapons in the passing game for the Panthers.
"I think he gives us some multiplicity in the backend, which is great," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said of Slay. "(He's) a guy that really, through the course of the season, I've had the pleasure to kind of work with and be around and kind of use some of his different talents and attributes in different ways through the course of the game. He's certainly been a great player for us and we'll be relying on him if he's out there this weekend."
Quarterback Matthew Stafford's yards per attempt and yards per completions numbers are down from last year. Asked about it Thursday, the 10-year veteran said a lack of big plays in the passing game this year is a contributing factor to those declines.
"I think early in the season, I missed a couple throws," he said. "We just haven't come down with some of the big ones that really boost those numbers."
Stafford is right. Detroit's 27 completions of 20-plus yards on the year ranks 24th in the NFL. Detroit has just three passing plays of 40-plus yards, which ranks 23rd.
It order to hit big plays, those shots have to be taken. Stafford's attempted 31 passes on the year that have traveled more than 21 yards in the air. That's tied for the 21st most in the NFL. He's completed 10 of them.
Stafford completed 29 of those passes last year, the second-most in the league. He attempted 61 of them.
Maybe taking a few more shots, and hitting on a few more, could be just the spark the Lions' offense needs.
SALUTE TO SERVICE
It's Salute To Service week for the Lions, and it's a recognition of particular importance to Patricia.
"Obviously real important to us, real important to the organization," Patricia said of this week's salute to the military. "On a personal note, I'd just like to make sure that I take this opportunity to thank and show appreciation to all the service branches, their support groups, along with the families and members of our military service that have and continue to sacrifice everything for us."
Detroit's players organized a ticket drive this week, where they were able to invite hundreds of military members and their families as guests of the players to Sunday's game. The Lions hosted a number of events for current and former military members and their families throughout the week.
"Over the weekend, we'll also be honoring several Michigan families who have lost loved ones while serving our country in a show of appreciation for their ultimate sacrifice," Patricia said. "And I hope these quick mentions are a reminder for us to focus on what's really important here as we work through the weekend. So, just want to make sure that we start off the right way."
The Lions signed wide receiver Bruce Ellington last week, but he was inactive for the game in Chicago last Sunday.
Ellington could be pressed into a role Sunday with the status of Marvin Jones Jr. (knee) being uncertain. Jones has missed all three days of practice this week.
Ellington appeared in three games (one start) with Houston this season, and he recorded eight catches, 92 receiving yards and one touchdown. He has 56 career receptions for 637 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 40 career games (seven starts).
"I think he's done a really good job here in the last couple weeks just learning our offense, learning our system, learning our verbiage," Patricia said of Ellington. "From a route running standpoint, yesterday was a great example to see his ability to be able to cut and move in difficult situations. You could really see his low center of gravity. He's got some really good quickness and really good feet. So, that was good."
"We have kind of been building here as we have been going through the process and trying to give him a little bit more in both special teams and offensive phases, and see how much he can handle from that aspect of it. But just another good, young player that we're trying to work with and see if he can contribute and help us."