ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions are already without one of their starting offensive lineman for the foreseeable future in right guard Larry Warford.

 Now, Detroit coach Jim Caldwell couldn’t give a concrete update on another starter, left tackle Riley Reiff, for Thursday against Chicago. Reiff hurt his left knee on the first play of Detroit’s 34-9 loss to New England on Sunday and didn’t return.

He was replaced by rookie undrafted free agent Cornelius Lucas.

“Not quite certain yet,” Caldwell said. “We’ll kind of see how it goes here in the next couple of days.”

Caldwell said the Lions have options if Reiff is unable to play, especially since signing a veteran on a short week to fill in would be an unlikely scenario. Reiff, the No. 23 overall pick in 2012, has played in 43 straight games for the Lions.

One of the options could be leaving Lucas in at left tackle, giving the Lions a starting tackle duo of Lucas and LaAdrian Waddle at right tackle. The team could also flip Lucas and Waddle, although Waddle is a mainstay at right tackle.

Caldwell didn’t dismiss the possibility of flipping them out of necessity.

“One of the things that’s unique about that grouping is that they are pretty flexible,” Caldwell said. “They can play both sides. I think you’ve seen from Lucas go both ways. [Waddle] is a bit more of a veteran player so guys work inside-outside.

“So they work in unison together quite often so the change is not as drastic as you might think.”

Garrett Reynolds has started games at tackle this year as well and could be another option for Detroit, if necessary. The Lions also have one tackle on the team’s practice squad -- Michael Williams, who was converted from tight end during the offseason.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell said the NFL is looking into Dominic Raiola's cut block on New England Patriots defensive lineman Zach Moore.

Caldwell said he spoke with Raiola, but he kept the nature of their conversation private. The coach said the team is not considering punishment for Raiola but would not answer whether Raiola could miss Detroit's game Thursday against Chicago.

Caldwell said he had not heard anything in regard to that type of discipline from the league.

"Game to game it's always different," Caldwell said. "There's always issues and things that you've got to manage and handle. If that does arise, we'll find a way to get around it."

The issue with Raiola started when he tried to cut-block Moore on the game's final play, when Detroit was lined up in a kneel-down formation to end a 34-9 New England win over the Lions. After the game, Raiola said he was trying to cut-block Moore and took umbrage with New England scoring a late touchdown.

The Patriots scored the late touchdown because a C.J. Mosley personal foul penalty -- where he bowled over New England's long-snapper -- nullified a Patriots field goal to give New England a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Caldwell said Mosley was flagged appropriately on the play.

(Read full post)

Fantasy Now: Lions Offense

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24


After back-to-back subpar games, are Matthew Stafford and his weapons worth starting this week?
Each week from here to the end of the season, we’ll assess Detroit’s standing in the NFC North and NFC wild card races.

And as of now, the Lions are right in the middle of the hunt in both situations.


Record: 7-4

Remaining opponents record: 24-31

Seed as of now: Out of playoffs due to tiebreaker with Seattle (common opponents)

Games left: Chicago, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, at Chicago, at Green Bay.

NFC North:

Green Bay

Record: 8-3

Remaining opponents record: 27-27

Games left: New England, Atlanta, at Buffalo, at Tampa Bay, Detroit

Seed as of now: No. 2

Lions interests: Detroit still has a shot here, but it is tough to see the Packers losing to Atlanta or at Tampa Bay. New England is a possibility this weekend, but Green Bay has not lost at Lambeau Field this season. At Buffalo could be tricky as well and then there’s the season finale against the Lions. For that game to matter for divisional purposes, Detroit needs to either gain a game back on the Packers or at least keep pace at one game behind. Another Detroit loss combined with a Green Bay win would make any sort of NFC North crown very dicey.


Top seed/NFC bye:


Record: 9-2

Seed as of now: No. 1

Who they have left: at Atlanta, vs. Kansas City, at St. Louis, vs. Seattle, at San Francisco

What needs to happen for the Lions to get the No. 1 seed: Highly unlikely at this point. They are two games back of Arizona, and the Cardinals hold the tie-breaker as of now, too. Arizona’s schedule is tough down the stretch, but even so, the Lions do not look like a team capable of making up that ground right now.


Wild-card race:


Record: 8-3

Remaining opponents record: 29-26

Games left: at Dallas, Seattle, Dallas, at Washington, at New York Giants

Seed as of now: No. 3

Lions interests: There will be a lot more known about what the Lions need from Philadelphia and Dallas after the teams play each other Thursday. But right now, the Lions likely could still use a split from these games. Both the Eagles and Cowboys have similar schedules down the stretch -- each other twice, one difficult non-division opponent at home and a game against Washington. The only difference is Dallas plays at Chicago while the Eagles play the Giants. If one team sweeps the other in those Dallas-Philadelphia games, though, the Lions would actually be better off with Dallas winning the division and Philadelphia in a wild-card spot because Detroit holds the No. 2 tiebreaker over the Eagles (conference record, where the Lions are 5-2 and the Eagles are 4-3).


Record: 8-3

Remaining opponents record: 29-26

Games left: Philadelphia, at Chicago, at Philadelphia, Indianapolis, at Washington

Seed as of now: No. 5

Lions interests: As mentioned above, the Lions would be in a better position as of today if the Cowboys won the division and sent the Eagles into any potential wild card tie. That could easily change, though, considering the No. 2 tiebreaker is conference record and wins/losses between the teams would play a role. From a competitive standpoint, though, Detroit might want Dallas to win the division over Philadelphia because if they ended up in a No. 3 vs. No. 6 matchup, the Cowboys might be the more beatable team.

San Francisco

Record: 7-4

Remaining opponents record: 31-24

Games left: Seattle, at Oakland, at Seattle, San Diego, Arizona

Seed as of now: Out of playoffs

Lions interests: Right now, the 49ers are tied with the Lions and Seahawks for the final playoff spot. Those San Francisco-Seattle games will be extremely important to Detroit. If one of the two sweeps the other, the chances of a two-way wild card tie instead of a three-way one increase dramatically. If there’s a split, it could come to a three-way tie. Right now, Detroit is out of the playoffs, and if they were in a two-way tie with the 49ers, they would lose out due to conference record.


Record: 7-4

Remaining opponents record: 35-20

Games left: at San Francisco, at Philadelphia, San Francisco, at Arizona, St. Louis

Seed as of now: No. 6 seed

Lions interests: Right now the Lions are in a two-way tiebreaker with Seattle -- the Seahawks eliminate the 49ers in a first tiebreak scenario -- and would be in the playoffs due to the third tiebreaker: common opponents if there are four or more. Right now, the Seahawks are 4-0 against common opponents (Arizona, Green Bay, Carolina and the New York Giants) while the Lions are 2-2. The Seahawks can be no worse than 4-1 there while the Lions can be no better than 3-2 so if the overall and conference records are the same, Detroit will lose out on a seed or playoff berth if it reaches the third tiebreaker. For that reason, the Lions need San Francisco to beat Seattle.

Bill Belichick tweaks Dominic Raiola

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork called out Lions center Dominic Raiola after Sunday's game for what he said was an "uncalled for" block while Detroit was kneeling on the ball at the end of the game.

On Monday, Bill Belichick was asked his opinion of the play and he provided his own zinger.

“I’m sure there was a lot of frustration there from Raiola. That was obvious," he said. "He’s never beaten us. He had a tough day in there dealing with [Vince] Wilfork and [Dont’a] Hightower and those guys.

"I’d say that was probably frustration. We saw a lot of that at the end of the game -- [Tahir] Whitehead on [LeGarrette] Blount’s touchdown, [C.J.] Mosley on the personal foul on the field goal.”
Each week, we'll take a look at how the Detroit Lions' rookies fared the week before. This series will typically run the mornings after games.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- They are playing more now, finally healthy and needed in the lineup. That hasn’t, though, led to necessarily good things.

This has been a tough year for Detroit’s rookies, especially after the strength of last season’s class that brought five starters and multiple other contributors to a team still in the playoff picture with six games left to go in the season.

Right now, the 2014 group isn’t having the immediate pop. There are no players in the 2014 class who have had the immediate impact of 2013 picks Larry Warford (right guard), Ezekiel Ansah (defensive end) or Sam Martin (punter). After 11 games this season, that is a certainty considering where those players were at this point.

But there are still guys who are making contributions in their first year, even in a 34-9 crushing by New England.

Here is how the rookies fared Sunday:

TE Eric Ebron (first round, North Carolina): Playing in his second straight game after a hamstring injury, Ebron saw more snaps than any other Detroit tight end, grabbing 44 of a possible 80 offensive plays. He was targeted seven times -- more than any other player except for Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson -- but only caught two passes for 23 yards. He also had one drop -- on a perfectly thrown ball from Matthew Stafford that could have gone for a long gain if caught.

LB Kyle Van Noy (second round, BYU): Van Noy saw the most extensive action of his career because of a head injury suffered by Ashlee Palmer in the first quarter. He played 12 of 78 defensive snaps -- not terrible considering the Lions were in nickel for most of the game and he is the third linebacker -- and made one tackle. He also had 19 special teams snaps.

OL Travis Swanson (third round, Arkansas): Swanson played every snap for the Lions on Sunday against a good New England defense. Pro Football Focus charged him with one sack allowed and gave him pretty poor grades overall. They listed him with a minus-1.7 run blocking grade and a -2.2 overall grade. Among offensive players, only Dominic Raiola and Cornelius Lucas were worse.

DE Larry Webster (fourth round, Bloomsburg): Webster was inactive Sunday against the Dolphins.

CB Nevin Lawson (fourth round, Utah State): Lawson is on injured reserve with dislocated toes. His season is over.

DT Caraun Reid (fifth round, Princeton): He played 10 snaps -- the fewest of any defensive lineman -- and was credited with one pass defended after he batted a ball at the line of scrimmage. He continues to be a distant fourth in the defensive tackle rotation.

WR TJ Jones (sixth round, Notre Dame): Jones practiced for the first time last week.

K Nate Freese (seventh round, Boston College): Freese was released in favor of Alex Henery.

OL Cornelius Lucas (undrafted, Kansas State): He was forced into action after left tackle Riley Reiff injured his left knee on the first play of the game, and Lucas spent the entire time at left tackle. He graded out terribly according to Pro Football Focus with a minus-3.5 grade, including a minus-1.2 in run blocking. He allowed one of the sacks of Stafford and two other hurries of the quarterback.

CB Mohammed Seisay (undrafted, Nebraska): He didn’t do a ton Sunday, just playing on nine special teams snaps and not recording a statistic.

Cheap Shot By Dominic Raiola

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24


Mike Golic and Cris Carter talk about Lions center Dominic Raiola's cut block of Patriots defensive lineman Zach Moore while lined up in a kneel-down formation.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There were things that were his fault and things he had no control over Sunday against New England, but the result was still the gory same in New England: Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had a very bad day against the Patriots.

Some of those issues -- such as the six drops his receivers had, or the offensive line issues that crept up again when left tackle Riley Reiff was injured on the game's first play -- were things he had nothing to do with. But some of the bad throws? Some of the poor reads? Sliding a yard short of a potential first down on fourth down?

Those were all his fault.

"I thought we had some chances to make some plays," Stafford said. "Obviously, that's a good defense we played, good secondary. They had a good plan. [Brandon] Browner on Calvin [Johnson] with safety help over the top the entire game, and then [Darrelle] Revis on [Golden Tate].

"So, we get some shots, we miss some shots. You play a team that plays that much man coverage, bump and run, and it's probably going to be a lower completion percentage game with some big plays."

That still doesn't fully explain how bad it was. So how rough was it?

Stafford's 39.1 completion percentage (18 of 46) is the lowest of his career. He was 4-of-10 for 97 yards to Tate and 4-of-10 for 58 yards to Johnson, season-lows in completion percentage to each guy.

His QBR of 19.1 ties his season-low against Minnesota in Week 6. The last time he was that low was in Week 14 last season, when he had a 12.3 QBR in the snowstorm game in Philadelphia. Beyond that was an 18.4 QBR in Week 11 of 2012 against Green Bay.

"There could have been a couple miscues," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "I know there were a couple miscues there. But, you know, I think everyone wants to focus on the quarterback and it's not all his issues."

Nobody who has watched Detroit for more than a game has been saying that, as the blame for the Lions' offensive ineptitude is because of everything else mentioned above. But Stafford is partly to blame with his play as well -- and that's something Detroit needs to get corrected.

And now, a look around the Interwebs in search of Lions and other news:
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – They had miscommunications that led to open receivers. Against a Hall of Fame quarterback, that was a crippling blow to the Detroit Lions' chances of beating the New England Patriots.

The Lions had the top-ranked scoring and overall defense entering Sunday’s game. New England and Tom Brady dissected what the Lions have been able to do and exploited Detroit like no team has this season.

Typically, no matter how much Detroit has struggled on offense or in special teams, Lions coach Jim Caldwell has been able to point to his defense as a bright spot. Not Sunday, after 34 points allowed and a second straight game without a sack.

“They were able to move the ball, score touchdowns on us and we got a little settled down there for a while right after the half,” Caldwell said. “But they still were able to handle us pretty well.”

New England essentially abandoned the run until late in the game, rushing only six times in the first half and 20 times overall. They instead trusted their Hall of Fame quarterback, who completed 38 of 53 passes for 349 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

On those touchdowns, the Lions lost tight end New England tight end Tim Wright, who was incredibly wide open on both plays. Communication breakdowns, safety James Ihedigbo said, led to some of the issues.

“They run a fast-paced offense. They schemed us up pretty good,” linebacker Tahir Whitehead said. “We didn’t execute our defense.”

It has been an all-around stingy defense all season, ranked in the top 10 in essentially every major defensive category entering Sunday. And even after they were beaten handily for the first time this season, the Lions’ defense remained among the best in the league in all of those categories – including points allowed (17.3 per game) and run defense (70.73 yards a game and 3.15 yards per play).

“They just executed at a high level,” Ihedigbo said. “You have to give hats off to New England. They came out. They went up-tempo. They did what they did well and just, they executed.”

Jim Basquil and Eric Allen break down two key plays that helped the Patriots defeat the Lions, including two scores by tight end Tim Wright.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford wanted to make one more play, extend one more drive to try for another improbable comeback.

Stafford was pressured on fourth-and-10 from the New England Patriots' 25-yard line with 11:36 left. He kept looking downfield. With nothing available, Stafford scrambled. He headed toward the sideline and had enough room to get the first down.

Instead he slid, starting a yard short. Instead of extending the drive, his decision to slide ended it, giving the ball back to the Patriots again in a 34-9 loss Sunday.

It was another poorly performed play in a litany of them Sunday against New England, a day so bad that Detroit's perpetually level-headed coach Jim Caldwell couldn't even find a bright spot when he addressed the media after the game.

"This is one of the few times that we've kind of stood here in front of you and didn't have at least some bright spots to talk about," Caldwell said. "We didn't have many in this game."

On offense, that has been the problem for a series of games now -- almost every one this season. This -- against Miami, Arizona and New England -- was a stretch of games where Detroit could have established itself as a contender in the NFC.

What this game -- along with the lackluster offensive showing against Arizona -- showed is the Lions are still far from being one of the league's elite teams. Instead, they went 1-2 and have scored only field goals the past two games. They were picked apart on defense for the first time this season by a future Hall of Famer in Tom Brady.

Touchdowns have also disappeared from Detroit. The Lions haven't scored a touchdown in eight quarters and counting. They haven't had a rushing touchdown in four games.

"It's one of those games, we just ... it's embarrassing," receiver Golden Tate said. "We've got to chalk it up and have a short-term memory. That's the most important thing, not to lose our swagger, not to lose our confidence.

"Just come out with a mission, come out on a mission to really take it out on our next opponent, which happens to be Chicago, who is also another good team regardless of what their schedule says."

Detroit could easily be a playoff team, even though Sunday's loss combined with Green Bay's win over Minnesota pushes the Lions a game behind the Packers in the NFC North. And for now, it throws Detroit into a murky wild-card mix with Philadelphia, Dallas, Seattle and San Francisco -- essentially four teams fighting for two spots.

Reaching that goal starts with rehabilitating an offense that has not looked consistently sharp since the opening week of the season. While Detroit may have put up more yards and points than a week ago in Arizona, larger issues once again showed up.

Dropped passes, which had not been an issue this season, hurt the Lions. At least six of Stafford's passes were dropped -- three of which would have been touchdowns.

"Everybody has one of them games," receiver Jeremy Ross said. "We just weren't executing, weren't playing Detroit Lion football, the football that we know we are capable of playing. Whenever there's dropped passes, there's just lack of focus on our part."

That lack of focus crushed drives Sunday -- or at least kept the Lions from finishing them with touchdowns. The lack of offensive cohesion sums up where the Lions are right now as their true identity slowly comes into focus: a good defense with an offense still struggling to find itself with five games left.

"We were scoring three," center Dominic Raiola said. "They were scoring seven. Can't do it. We got to score six, you know."

Whether Detroit starts to score with more consistency the remainder of the season will be the difference between the Lions being a playoff team or watching at home again in January.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Lions were lined up in a kneel-down formation on the last play of Sunday's 34-9 loss to the Patriots when Detroit center Dominic Raiola snapped the ball, then dove at the legs of New England defensive lineman Zach Moore.

After the game, at least one Patriots player took issue with Raiola's play.

"I didn't see anything. I just heard what happened, but that was stupid," Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "I didn't see it, but from what I heard ... you're taking a knee. They'd get mad if we were just to blow up one of their players, so I mean, it's just uncalled for.

"But at the same time, you always have to protect yourself, so you always have to play with your neck on a swivel and being alert for 60 minutes, and it came down to it today on a boneheaded play like that. Luckily no one got hurt and we can move on."

Raiola offered no apologies after the game and said he was just continuing to play football -- much like New England was doing by scoring after the two-minute warning with the Patriots comfortably ahead 27-9.

New England had been given a first down at the 1-yard line after a personal foul penalty on Detroit defensive lineman C.J. Mosley wiped away Stephen Gostkowski's field goal. So instead of kneeling, the Patriots continued running plays.

(Read full post)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observed and heard in the locker room following the Detroit Lions' 34-9 loss to the New England Patriots.
  • During the week, Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he would not consider taking play-calling duties away from first-year offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. After another game without a touchdown -- the first time the team has gone two straight games without an offensive touchdown since 2000 -- Caldwell said they would be looking at things to change in the offense, although nothing drastic. When asked if he would consider taking play-calling duties away from Lombardi, Caldwell offered a one-word answer: "No."
  • Reiff
    The Lions lost another offensive lineman for the majority of the game Sunday after left tackle Riley Reiff injured his left knee on the game's first play. Reiff, who was walking in the locker room after the game, said to ask the coaches about his knee, and Caldwell had no update on the severity of his injury. Caldwell said he felt rookie Cornelius Lucas "held his own" replacing Reiff, but Lucas gave up at least one sack.
  • Lions safety Glover Quin lined up in the slot more often than normal as Detroit used its three-safety nickel package with Quin, James Ihedigbo and Isa Abdul-Quddus. Detroit did that to try to keep New England from finding mismatches all day. "That was the thinking behind that," Quin said. "To try to hold up [passes] and the run game."