The last time we’ll see the Detroit Lions play for real at Ford Field this season looked a lot like the first time we saw them play for real in 2018.
The scores were different, but the results were the same – a 41-17 loss to the Jets on opening night, and 27-9 to the Vikings on Sunday. And the way the Lions were steamrollered, without putting up much resistance, was the same.
The bottom-line takeaway for this week’s Monday Countdown is that with one game left on the schedule – next Sunday at Green Bay -- not a lot has changed for the Lions for the better in terms of results.
There’s also a look at an area where the Lions failed again, a Hail Mary flashback, takeaways on offense, defense and special teams with some stats – one of them involving Matthew Stafford that’s hard to fathom happening.
There’s also a comment from middle linebacker Jarrad Davis, whose mood reflects how losing has impacted the team.
We start with the similarity of the start and finish of the season at Ford Field:
1. Flash points: On the first play of opening night against the Jets, Quandre Diggs returned an interception for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. It was 20 seconds into Matt Patricia’s tenure as head coach of the Detroit Lions, and the future was never brighter.
The lights dimmed abruptly.
The score was 17-17 when the Jets broke away with 31 straight points for a 48-17 win. Reality knocked and slammed the door on the Lions.
It was a long grind Sunday. Matt Prater’s three field goals had given the Lions a 9-0 lead, and they were still in control in the last two minutes. And that’s when the bottom fell out, like the vegetables through the bottom of a wet grocery sack.
The Vikings strung together 27 straight points, starting with two touchdowns in the last two minutes of the first half and 13 answered points in the second.
The first 28 minutes belonged to the Lions. The last 32 belonged to the Vikings, and so did the game.
The lasting image of this season is the team that exited Ford Field for another year Sunday afternoon. It’s been good enough to carry the action for a while, but not good enough to sustain it.
I would imagine Patricia has fixes in mind.
2. Jarrad Davis: The second-year middle linebacker spoke Sunday about a heart to heart session he’d had with Patricia after the game, and how the coach had emphasized that family is the priority and to go home and enjoy the holiday.
Davis took the message to heart, but his heart was hurting over the loss and the team’s skid.
He was asked what went wrong when the Vikings took over the game, starting with the two touchdown catches at the end of the half.
“They hurt,” he said. “But you’ve got to continue to battle. You can’t let those affect you and affect your game. It’s hard to live with those ... just points piling up. At the end of the day, you’ve got to hang that on us.”
What was he feeling at the moment?
“I hate losing,” he said. “I don’t go to work every single day to come out here and lose. It’s not something I’m very fond of – something I like to do.”
3. Nightmare Hail Mary II:
We saw that in 2015 against the Green Bay Packers, when Aaron Rogers launched a 61-yard pass on the last play of the game that Richard Rodgers caught in the end zone to give the Packers a 27-23 win.
The big question after that catch was why Calvin Johnson was not on the field to play deep safety and go after the ball.
On Sunday, it was a 44-yard catch by Kyle Rudolph in the end zone as time ran out in the second half.
Kenny Golladay, the 6-foot-4 wide receiver, was playing deep safety. Rudolph was able to make a clean catch, with no Lion defender in front of him. It wasn’t all anyone’s fault, including Golladay’s, but the big question was why Golladay wasn’t in position to go after the ball.
4. Lions-Vikings 1995 flashback: The Lions won their last seven games in 1995 to make the playoffs as a wild card. One of their most important wins was 44-38 over the Vikings on Thanksgiving Day.
On Minnesota’s last possession, All-Pro wide receiver Herman Moore played deep safety and batted the ball away from Vikings receiver Cris Carter in the end zone. It was a good football play by a great football player.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions Week 16 game against the Minnesota Vikings.
5. Takeaways, offense:
Matthew Stafford stat: One I never thought I’d see – and never should have, in my opinion – is his average of 3.6 yards per attempt Sunday on 18 completions in 32 attempts for 116 yards. Those stats make that golden arm look like something on the Tin Man – creaking along after a week in the rain.
Run stats: The Lions averaged 3.7 yards per carry – 5.6 on eight carries by Zach Zenner, and 2.6 on 11 carries by LeGarrette Blount. It wasn’t a great day for the running game, but it actually averaged a tenth of a yard more per carry than Stafford did per pass.
Protection: Stafford was hit eight times and sacked twice compared to 11 sacks and 17 hits in the first game against the Vikings. However, the Lions had nine plays, not counting sacks, that resulted in negative yardage.
6. Defensive takeaways:
Kirk Cousins half and half: The Vikings’ quarterback was held to 45 yards passing in the first 28 minutes. In the final 32, he passed for 208 and three touchdowns.
Comp time: Cousins’ total includes 120 yards in the last two minutes of the first half. That’s four more yards than Stafford had for his entire game. He was replaced late in the fourth quarter by Matt Cassel.
Dalvin Cook, half and half: Like Cousins, he was held in check in the first half, gaining 15 yards on six carries. He had 10 carries for 58 yards in the second half.
7. Takeaways, special teams:
Matt Prater: He has scored 25 of the Lions’ last 31 points in their last three games against the Vikings. The breakdown: Three field goals Sunday; three in the 24-9 road loss earlier this season; two field goals and an extra point after Marvin Jones Jr.’s TD catch in the Thanksgiving Day loss last season.
Jamal Agnew: He looked rusty, which would be expected in his first game since going out with a knee injury in Week 5. He averaged 3.6 yards on five punt returns and 24.5 on two kickoffs returns. He also muffed his first punt return but fell on the ball.
Sam Martin: Four or his six punts were downed inside the 20, and the Vikings managed one punt return for eight yards.
8. Home Field, no advantage: For the second straight year the Lions have not had a winning record at Ford Field. They were 4-4 at home last year, and 3-5 this year. It’s surprising, given that they play in front of loud, supportive fans – who clearly deserve more.