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O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: Lions still looking for consistency

Head coach Matt Patricia's postgame press conferences are starting to sound the same, and that should not be a surprise given the Detroit Lions' results in the first half of the season.

The scores might be different, but there isn't a significant difference between Sunday's 34-20 road loss to the Minnesota Vikings and the 42-21 road loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week 2.

"We talk about consistency, and that's something that's not been good enough," Patricia said.

A lot of things haven't been good enough for the Lions in the first half of the season. That's why they have a 3-5 won-loss record.

This week's Monday Countdown looks at three key areas that hurt the Lions the first half of the season. There's also a break in the upcoming schedule that should benefit the Lions.

There are also takeaways from Sunday's game on offense, defense and special teams, and what's trending – up, down and the same.

We start with the schedule:

1. The next three games are as winnable as it gets, in order:

Sunday: Home vs. Washington (2-6).

Nov. 22: at Carolina (3-6) and four-game losing streak.

Thanksgiving Day: vs. Houston (2-6).

That's three teams, with a combined record of 8-18.

Sweep those three, and the Lions will get to 6-5.

In this strange season, with only seven NFC teams above .500 after Week 9, the battle for a wild card berth in the NFC is wide open with the playoff field expanded to seven teams in both conferences.

I'm not predicting they'll do it, but that's the schedule that can get them in position to make a run.

2. Home field/division: The Lions are 0-3 in both. They haven't won a game at Ford Field this year, and they've lost all three of their games to NFC North teams.

Five of their last eight games are at home, and they have rematches with all three division teams – the Bears at Soldier Field in Week 13, the Packers at Ford Field in Week 14 and the Vikings at Ford Field in Week 17.

3. Pass rush: The Lions have 11 sacks in eight games. At that rate, they'll finish with 22 for the season – one fewer than Bubba Baker had as a rookie for the Lions in 1978. Sacks were not recognized as an official stat by the NFL until 1982, but trust me: The quarterbacks Baker flattened knew they were the real thing.

The Lions' only sack Sunday was on a cornerback blitz by Desmond Trufant.

4. Run game: The Lions have lost the battle in the trenches, which is the area most coaches deem vital to controlling the game.

The Lions have 808 yards rushing and 47 first downs.

Opponents have 1,185 yards rushing and 66 first downs.

5. Takeaways, offense:

  • The good: Quarterback Matthew Stafford completed 16 straight passes after his first pass of the game was incomplete. He was on his game after not practicing all week while adhering to rules in the COVID-19 protocol.
  • The bad: Stafford had two passes intercepted on consecutive possessions in the third quarter when the Lions were in the red zone and in possession to score while it was still a game.
  • The run game was better – 129 yards and 4.8 yards per carry – but there was a questionable play call on third and goal at the one midway through the third quarter with the Vikings holding a 13-0 lead. Running back Adrian Peterson tried to go outside and was thrown for a three-yard loss. That forced settling for a field goal. A better choice would have been a run that didn't risk losing yards, and still make going for the touchdown on fourth down a stronger option.

6. Takeaways, defense:

  • No excuse for having 10 men on the field on Dalvin Cook's 70-yard TD run in the fourth quarter that extended the Vikings' lead to 34-13 with 10:42 left. That happened twice in the previous week's loss to the Colts. Three times is not the charm.
  • The way Cook ran, breaking tackles and dodging tacklers to gain 206 yards, 12 men might not have been enough to stop him.
  • Pick your poison: The defense gave up 275 yards rushing and 220 passing. Kirk Cousins was seldom rushed or hurried in completing 13 of 20 passes for 220 yards, three TDs, no interceptions and no sacks.

7. Takeaways, special teams:

  • Blocking two punts – by Austin Bryant and Romeo Okwara – is an amazing accomplishment, win or lose. That's three in two weeks for first-year special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs. Miles Killebrew blocked one the previous week against the Colts.
  • Another missed field goal by Matt Prater – this one wide left from 46 yards. It was similar to last week's miss from 48 yards, also wide left and not close.

8. Trending:

  • Up: Special teams. Blocked punts speak for themselves.
  • Down: Situation management – 10 men on the field three times in two games is a bad sign.
  • Even: Tight end T.J. Hockenson. He produced in a bad game – five catches, 39 yards and a TD, his fifth of the season.

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