O’HARA’S WEEK 11 CHECKLIST: Lions vs. Cowboys

Jeff Driskel felt good about not feeling completely well physically when he woke up Monday morning.

It was Driskel’s reward – combined with the price he paid – for the stress his body endured in his first start at quarterback for the Detroit Lions in last week’s 20-13 road loss to the Chicago Bears.

It was Driskel’s first playing time of the season in a regular-season game and his sixth start as a pro. He started five games for the Bengals last season.

The muscle soreness and bumps and bruises he absorbed were the badges Driskel earned from athletic combat.

“It’s real out there,” Driskel told a circle of media members at his locker this week.

“It’s a shock to the body, but it’s a good sore to get back out there and compete. I have to turn back around and get things going again this week.

“Not much time to think about last week, so we’re all moving forward.”

As the Lions prepare for Sunday’s home game against the Dallas Cowboys, Driskel is looking to build on a creditable performance against the Bears. He is likely to start, with Matthew Stafford not participating in practice Wednesday and Thursday.

Driskel’s stats line against the Bears was decent – 27 of 46 passing for 269 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

There were things he could have done better, as he said when asked how he critiqued his performance against the Bears. He could have been more accurate on some throws, and there were a few instances when he could have done a better job in the mechanics of operating the offense.

“There are some things to build on, and there are some things where you’d like to have it back,” he said. “Every time you get out there, it’s valuable experience, and you try to get better and move forward. A couple of procedure penalties I think could definitely, easily be cleaned up.”

Driskel’s mobility was an asset against the Bears. He ran five times for 37 yards, with a long run of 11 yards. That wasn’t a surprise. He was timed in 4.56 seconds in the 40-yard dash in the 2016 Combine.

Stats are one indicator of performance, but so are command, leadership and presence. Offensive tackle Taylor Decker said Driskel had no trouble running the huddle and communicating with teammates.

“If he was nervous, you couldn’t tell,” Decker said. “He’s getting a lot more on his plate in practice (this week) – taking the full reps. That will be beneficial for him.

“As far as the huddle, play-calling, it seemed like he knew what was going on. The only thing that’s a change for us is the cadence and how they sound different. When you’re in there with Stafford, you’re so used to that. Other guys have different inflections.”

Series history: The Cowboys have a 14-11 lead in the regular season with a two-game winning streak. The teams have met three times in the playoffs – a 38-6 win for the Lions in the 1991 season and Cowboys wins of 5-0 in 1970 and 24-20 in 2014.

2018 Game rewind: The Lions took a 24-23 lead with 2:17 left on wide receiver Golden Tate’s 38-yard catch and run, but the Cowboys drove to the game-winning field goal as time ran out.

Stafford perfection: Stafford completed all nine of his passes for 151 yards and one TD in the second half.

Cowboys focus – run game: Wide receiver Amari Cooper could stand on his performance this season as evidence that the passing game is the most important element of the Cowboys’ offense.

He didn’t – not even after catching 11 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown in last week’s loss to the Vikings.

The running game, Cooper told reporters after the game, drives the Cowboys’ offense. And the lack of one causes it to stall out. Quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 397 yards and three TDs against the Vikings, but running back Ezekiel Elliott was limited to 47 yards on 20 carries, with a long gain of six yards.

“Very frustrating,” Cooper said when asked his feelings on the lack of run production.

“We love to run the ball here. That’s part of our identity. When teams take that away, we’re limited. We have the best running back in the league.

“We have to be better.”

It’s been an up and down season for Elliott, who won his second rushing title in three seasons last year with 1,434 yards. He has 788 in the first nine games, but his averages are down from last year in yards per game (95.6 to 87.6) and per carry (4.7 to 4.4).

Meet this week's opponents, the Dallas Cowboys.

Elliott, ups and downs: They’re 4-1 this year when he rushes for more than 100 yards and 1-3 when he doesn’t, as follows in the first nine games:

  1. Cowboys 35, Giants 17 – Elliott 13-53.
  2. Cowboys 31, Redskins 21: Elliott 23-111.
  3. Cowboys 31, Dolphins 6: Elliott 19-125.
  4. Saints 12, Cowboys 10: Elliott 18-35.
  5. Packers 34, Cowboys 24: Elliott 12-62.
  6. Jets 24, Cowboys 22: Elliott 28-105.
  7. Cowboys 37, Eagles 10: Elliott 22-111.
  8. Cowboys 37, Giants 18: Elliott 23-139.
  9. Vikings 28, Cowboys 24: Elliott 20-47.

Prediction: The Cowboys have had trouble scoring early in games. If the Lions can jump on them early, they might pull an upset. But this is a game where it looks like the Cowboys have too much firepower on offense for that to happen.

Pick: Cowboys 27, Lions 23.

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