As forcefully as the Detroit Lions stomped on the accelerator to be unbeaten after their first three games, they have to jam on the brakes to stop a three-game losing streak.
From a 2-0-1 record that put them in first place in the NFC North to 2-3-1 that has them last in the division has been a stunning decline.
The New York Giants should be a fitting opponent for the Lions to get back on the winning track in Sunday’s game at Ford Field. The Giants have a 2-5 won-loss record, with a three-game losing streak and a rookie quarterback in Daniel Jones, who has struggled in that streak with turnovers and inefficiency.
The opponent doesn’t matter as much as how the Lions play does. They need to win as desperately as they have at any time in recent seasons at this stage of the year.
With the Packers leading the North at 6-1 and the Vikings a game back at 5-2, the Lions are at a critical stage for so early in the season. It’s possible to get too far behind to make a legitimate run at a playoff berth, and the Lions are perilously close to that stage.
“We’ve lost enough games already,” said linebacker Jarrad Davis. “We can’t continue to lose games. At the end of the day, it’s all about winning here. We have to make sure we do that.
“We need to get back to it.”
The Lions have to do that without lead running back Kerryon Johnson, who went on injured reserve earlier in the week with a knee injury sustained in last week’s loss to the Vikings. They’re also dealing with the surprising midweek trade of starting safety Quandre Diggs.
“The biggest thing is, you just have to pick up and go,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford. “It’s the only thing you can do. If you sit there and think about what happened three weeks ago, two weeks ago, last week or yesterday, its not doing you much good.
“Not to say we don’t appreciate those guys or learn from those games, but you’ve got to move on to the next one.”
Stafford isn’t underselling what Johnson and Diggs contributed to the team – and he’s not underselling the importance of Sunday’s game.
“We don’t go out there just to play well or get close,” Stafford said. “We want to win the game. As the deeper the season gets, the more important they become. But they all count.”
Series history: The Lions have a 22-21 lead with one tie in the regular season, and they’ve won the only playoff game. The Lions won the last meeting at Ford Field, 35-14, in the regular-season opener in 2014. The Lions also won the last meeting, 24-10, on the road in 2017.
2017 game recap: In a Monday night game Week 2, Stafford threw two TD Passes, and the Lions sacked Eli Manning five times. Jamal Agnew closed out the scoring with an 88-yard punt return for the clinching touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Sack time: There should be an opportunity for the Lions to get the pass rush out of neutral. The Lions have 10 sacks and rank 30th in the league in sacks per pass play. Jones was sacked eight times in last week’s loss to the Cardinals. The Cardinals rank sixth in the league in sacks per play.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019.
Giants focus, Golden Tate: Like he was for Stafford in Detroit, Tate has been a primary target for Jones in the last three games in his return from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs.
Tate has 15 catches in three games, and his role has grown steadily since being limited to three catches by the Vikings in his first game back from the suspension.
In the last two losses, Tate had six catches for 102 yards against the Patriots and six catches for 80 yards against the Cardinals. Tate has been the primary target for Jones, with nine targets against the Patriots and 11 against the Cardinals.
Tate, who had 416 catches with the Lions after signing as a free agent in 2014, was traded to the Eagles after seven games last season and signed with the Giants as a free agent this year.
He told reporters covering the Giants this week that he isn’t looking at Sunday’s game as a revenge game.
“I’m going to try to keep my emotions where they’ve always been,” he said. “I don’t want to be too high. I don’t want to be too low. It’s going to be good to see those guys, but I’m there to do a job.
“I don’t want to make this about me. I just want to go back there and win any way possible.”
Prediction: The Lions’ six games have all been close. Until it changes, expect another one. The Lions have given up 100 yards rushing in all six games, but an individual has the 100-yard mark in the last two games. If Saquon Barkley makes it three straight, it will be another tight game.
Pick: Lions 24, Giants 23.