Defensive end Trey Flowers’ message that he had to keep working hard never changed when sacks were hard to come by in the first six games of the Detroit Lions’ season.
Flowers walked (and worked) his talk. He kept working hard, and he broke through with two keys sacks in last week’s victory over the Giants.
Whether sacks come in bunches remains to be seen, but stepping up the pass rush will help the Lions’ chances to make a legitimate playoff run in the last nine games.
That will be a tough chore in Sunday’s road game against the Oakland Raiders. Quarterback Derek Carr has been sacked only eight times in the first seven games.
“They have good linemen who protect him,” Flowers said. “He’s a very good quarterback, as far as pocket awareness. He’s able to move around in the pocket and understand that if guys are around him, he can move up in the pocket ... or step around them.”
The Lions opened the season by sacking rookie Kyler Murray five times in a tie with the Cardinals. They had five sacks in the next five games. They had three that were critical in the win over the Giants.
Flowers stepped up to sack Jones on back to back plays when the Lions were holding a 31-19 lead with less than seven minutes left in the game. The Giants had first down at the Lions’ 43, when Flowers sacked Jones and forced a fumble that the Giants recovered for a 10-yard loss. The second sack made it third and 26.
“It’s all big as far as the time and things like that,” Flowers said. “You prepare and work hard for moments like that.”
Before Sunday’s game he had played steadily, if not spectacularly. He had a sack and eight tackles in the road win over the Eagles in Week 3, and a forced fumble in the loss to the Chiefs the next week.
Flowers has never let frustration over not getting to the quarterback affect his play.
“It comes with the game,” he said. “You’ve got to flip the coin as many times as you can so you have a better chance of being successful.”
Series history: The series is tied 6-6, but the Lions have a four-game winning streak. The Lions won home games in 2003 and 2015 and on the road in 2007 and 2011.
2015 game rewind: The Lions rallied in the fourth quarter to erase a 23-9 deficit with a five-yard TD run by Matthew Stafford and a safety for an 18-13 win. Stafford was the Lions’ second leading runner in that game with 31 yards.
Lions focus, Raiders’ runner: Another week, and another challenge for the Lions’ run defense. They won the matchup last week, holding Giants star Saquon Barkley to 64 yards on 19 carries and a 3.4-yard average per carry.
Raiders rookie Josh Jacobs has rushed for 620 yards and a 5.0-yard average per carry in the first seven games. He has an attacking style.
“He’s a tough, strong, explosive runner,” said Lions head coach Matt Patricia. “It’s another really good run game. Every week we see this stuff. A little different of a run game maybe than what we saw last week from a scheme standpoint, but as far as production, very productive
“He’s going to bring it to the tackler. He’s not going to wait to be tackled.”
Road Raiders: No team has had a more grueling road schedule in the first half of the season than the Raiders.
They played their last five games away from their home stadium after opening the season with two home games – a 24-16 win over the Broncos and a 28-10 loss to the Chiefs.
One of the five games was a Week 5 win over the Bears in London that was officially designated a Raiders home game.
The Raiders had a bye after the London game, then two road games against Green Bay and Houston.
“Tiring ... those miles add up,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr told reporters after last week’s loss in Houston. “I’m glad I’m done with it, that’s for sure. There are no excuses come game time. I felt great. I felt fine. After a while, it was another trip, another Friday we leave.
“I kind of want to take my wife on a date. Being honest, being able to be at home, sleep in our beds for an extra night or two is going to be good for our team.”
Prediction: Don’t expect a defensive battle. The Lions give up 26.6 points per game. The Raiders give up 27.4. The Lions score 25.7 per game. The Raiders score 21.6. That’s a little less than a point a game on defense in the Lions’ favor, and a little more than four on offense. That’s close to a five-point difference, in the Lions’ favor. And the Lions have a better quarterback. Stafford is on top of his game. That beats any number.
Pick: Lions 34, Raiders 20.