Detroit Lions: Matt Flynn


If you’re the Detroit Lions, tempting the world of fate must not really bother you because, well, you know your history. So sure, look at all of the quarterbacks left in the NFL, all of the quarterbacks available in the draft and there’s only one guy out there where if you brought him back to Detroit, you’d wonder what the heck the Lions were doing.

Dan Orlovsky.

Why wouldn’t the Lions want to bring back one of the few players left in the NFL who can conjure memories of the team’s 0-16 season in 2008 -- when he was the team’s starting quarterback for seven games. Why wouldn’t their new head coach, Jim Caldwell, want to bring in a guy who helped quarterback Indianapolis to a 2-14 record in 2011 -- the season that cost Caldwell his job.

And why not bring in a guy whose last job was in Tampa Bay -- a franchise that spent the first half of last season unable to get out of its own way.

Sure, Orlovsky was only the backup in Tampa and he didn’t have much to do with it, but if you’re the Lions and you’re talking about winning and winning now and how important this is, do you really mess with the karma -- even if you think it is hogwash.

Other than in 2009, when Houston went 9-7, Orlovsky has never been part of a winning team. But he has been a part of some historically bad ones. This is what Detroit will get in its backup quarterback.

Yes, the thought is he’ll never play at all, that Matthew Stafford has been healthy for the past three seasons and that perhaps Kellen Moore ends up beating Orlovsky out for the job anyway. And Orlovsky isn’t a terrible quarterback -- he has completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his career -- but it’s not about that with Detroit.

It’s about karma and fate, and why if you’re Detroit would you even want to go tempting any of that? Seriously, man? Seriously. This is a guy who during his last stint in Detroit managed to be chased out of the end zone by Jared Allen for a safety -- and he didn’t even realize it.

Orlovsky likely came as a cheap option, and the team wasn’t going to find a veteran with the experience or skill of the departed Shaun Hill, but there were other options out there. Matt Flynn is still available, although likely nowhere as cheap as Orlovsky will end up being. So is Brady Quinn, if any sort of experience is what you’re looking for.

But to bring in Orlovsky shows an immense amount of confidence in three things for Detroit: In Stafford’s health. In Orlovsky’s ability. And in the ability of the new staff to make history and bad memories a thing of the past.
This is perhaps the biggest loss for the Detroit Lions this free agency period and it has nothing to do with a starter.

Hill
Shaun Hill has decided to sign a one-year deal with St. Louis, meaning after four years with Detroit the team will have a new backup quarterback this year. If it wants a veteran, though, the team might have waited too long to get a viable one.

Luke McCown, the player who would have been the best fit had Hill gone elsewhere, re-signed Wednesday with New Orleans. Ryan Fitzpatrick is signed up in Houston. Jason Campbell went to Cincinnati. Kellen Clemens is unavailable, now in San Diego.

And while Detroit appears fine with drafting a quarterback as a backup and the team still has Kellen Moore on the roster, it would be somewhat surprising to see Jim Caldwell enter his first season as the Lions' coach without an experienced backup.

Especially since the lack of a competent backup quarterback helped get him fired in Indianapolis after the 2011 season.

So where could Detroit go from here? Let's look at some options.

Kellen Moore: He has yet to take an NFL snap but is already in the locker room and under contract. This could be the opportunity he needs to prove he is a capable NFL player, but so far there is little evidence to support that. If the team doesn't feel like he can be the No. 2 quarterback, it might be time to see him leave the roster altogether. This is their big question with him.

Matt Flynn: Of the quarterbacks left, he might be the most cost-efficient considering the experience. Flynn is a former starter and the Lions know him well from his time in Green Bay. He isn't as strong of an option as Hill or, say, a Brandon Weeden, but he has proven he can win games for teams if necessary and that's what Detroit is seeking.

Mark Sanchez: Likely too expensive and still in the hunt to be a starting quarterback somewhere, he would seem unlikely because he'll have less than zero chance to replace Matthew Stafford. It would appear Sanchez would want to be somewhere he could at least compete to be a starter.

Josh Freeman: He would be an intriguing option for Detroit because he has the talent to be a starter but needs a place to resurrect his career after fiascos in Tampa Bay and Minnesota in 2013. He could be a one-year stopgap option, especially if the Lions drafted a rookie to be a third quarterback and eventual developmental replacement.

Brady Quinn: He is a step below Flynn and Sanchez, but Quinn has a strong arm and has started 12 games in his career. His 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in his career are not good numbers, but considering the Lions are hoping to never have to use this player, he could be a good short-term option.

Kevin Kolb: He has started at least one game in four of the past five seasons between Philadelphia and Arizona. He has thrown 28 touchdowns and 25 interceptions in his career, which isn't bad for a backup. If he is willing to take a completely backup role, he could be a strong option.

A rookie: The Lions have draft picks and could use a mid-round selection on a quarterback now if they are committed to developing one. Considering Moore is under contract for one more year, they could use him as the immediate backup for a season while they bring along a rookie. Among the potential candidates there could be Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech); Zach Mettenberger (LSU) and Aaron Murray (Georgia). Tom Savage (Pittsburgh); Stephen Morris (Miami, Fla.) and Connor Shaw (South Carolina) would also be intriguing developmental options.
Ezekiel AnsahTim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsDetroit's defensive line stuck to its team approach Thursday, getting after Green Bay QB Matt Flynn.
DETROIT -- In some ways, the Detroit Lions' defensive line was sleeping most of the season. It had been inconsistent. It was a group in the middle of the NFL in sacks, a group long on talent and short on statistics.

They would see stacked protections -- to the point that defensive end Willie Young would joke with opponents they were on the wrong side just to try to find an opening. They would pressure the quarterback but never actually reach him.

Then Green Bay offensive lineman Josh Sitton spoke. Called the Detroit defensive linemen dirtbags. Scumbags. Insulted Lions coach Jim Schwartz. It might have been all the poking Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley needed.

"It's waking up sleeping dogs," cornerback Rashean Mathis said. "But that's how he felt. He expressed it.

"We responded."

By the time the Lions' 40-10 thrashing of the Packers ended, the Lions' once-hibernating defensive front was wide awake. And there could be another easy word to describe them.

Dominant. Utterly and completely dominant.

"It's just the performance we always believe we can have," defensive tackle C.J. Mosley said.

When the Detroit defensive line plays like it did Thursday -- with 16 tackles, seven quarterback hits, five sacks, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and a safety -- the Lions can be one of the top teams in the NFL.

The pressure Detroit's front four can place on an opposing quarterback -- and it appeared the Lions blitzed linebackers and safeties Thursday more often than they usually do -- changes the entire game.

When Detroit can combine that with taking away a quarterback's first read, which the Lions did to Matt Flynn, it'll give the Lions enough time to reach the passer.

This was, by far, the best the Lions defense played this season and, by far, the best the Lions have played overall. The way the defense played eliminated pressure on Matthew Stafford and the offense because they knew they might get extra opportunities and wouldn't have to score on every possession to win.

It begins with the defensive line, a group that insisted it approached things the same way every week, always rushing the quarterback, but due to quick-twitch passers or protections featuring linemen, tight ends and running backs, it was unable to actually sack the quarterback.

"Every game, we go out and do the same thing over and over," rookie defensive end Devin Taylor said. "Every time, something happens. We get closer and closer.

"Finally, today, we were actually able to get back to the quarterback."

It all started before the game. Instead of coming out individually during introductions, the defensive line -- and safety and the soul of the defense, Louis Delmas -- ignored that. When Young was announced, the entirety of the line came out.

Together.

After the game, the Lions' defensive linemen said it had nothing to do with being called scumbags and dirtbags by Sitton. It was an idea, Suh said, that came from Andre Fluellen to show solidarity.

How they played backed that up. With perhaps a little bit extra because of Sitton.

"Unreal," center Dominic Raiola said. "They looked unblockable today. Seriously."

They pretty much were. It wasn't just the line, either. The defense held Green Bay to 24 rushing yards and sacked Flynn almost as often as he completed passes (seven sacks, 10 completions).

Ndamukong Suh reached the end zone for a safety. That's more than the Packers' offense did all day long.

"It's embarrassing," Sitton said. "We got our a-- beat. Plain and simple. They smacked us today."

Of course, Sitton influenced that. While Detroit's defensive line -- those guys Sitton thought were scumbags and dirtbags a couple of days ago -- tried to downplay what he said, the line played differently Sunday.

The linemen played as if they were trying to prove something. To themselves. To Sitton. To the rest of the NFL.

From the veterans such as Young, who had five tackles and a fumble recovery, and Suh, who had the safety sack, to the rookies such as Taylor and Ziggy Ansah, who each had three tackles and two sacks, the entire group appeared both present and almost possessed by a singular goal of flattening Flynn.

"I know it motivated some guys, especially the D-line," offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle said. "I feel like it did motivate them.

"[Green Bay] kind of hurt themselves by saying that, I feel like. Just because it was another thing to add into the pot of extra motivation for those guys."

It was something already percolating, too. Detroit had heard a lot about the dirtiness of its defensive line over the past month, from Chicago's Brandon Marshall to Sitton. Combine that with a two-game losing streak to teams with losing records. And giving up two leads in the fourth quarter the past two weeks.

Motivation wasn't going to be an issue. Add Sitton's words and it turned combustible.

It blew up on Sitton. The Packers are now under .500 and well behind Detroit in the NFC North race.

It blew up for Detroit. The Lions once again gained tenuous control of the division, with a 1½-game lead on Chicago because of the tiebreaker they have over the Bears.

It all started with the defensive line, a group that can now be called whatever they want.

"It was, you can say it was a dominating performance. It's just something we've got to string together, man," Mosley said. "I think that'll kind of take us to the next level where we want to be as far as the postseason.

"We've got to string performances like this together."

If they do, the Detroit Lions, up one week, down the next, might just end up making the playoffs after all.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

November, 28, 2013
11/28/13
3:44
PM ET

DETROIT -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 40-10 win against the Green Bay Packers.

What it means: After two losses in which the Lions gave up fourth-quarter leads and a week during which their future seemed tenuous, Detroit played its best, most complete game of the season Thursday against Green Bay. The offense put up 38 points. The defense didn't let Green Bay do anything at all, holding the Packers to 126 total yards and completely pummeling Green Bay quarterback Matt Flynn.

It was simply a game the Lions had to have for multiple reasons. First, the win stopped a two-game losing streak. Second, the win essentially eliminated Green Bay from the NFC North race, giving Detroit a two-game lead on the Packers in the win column. It also puts pressure on Chicago on Sunday to keep pace with Detroit. That's huge for the Lions' playoff hopes. Oh, and it is the first Thanksgiving win for the Lions since 2003.

Stock Watch: Rising: Jeremy Ross. The Lions' returner for the second straight game, Ross also saw some offensive action against his old team. He caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in the first half and established himself as Detroit's returner. His best return of the day didn’t even count, as it was called back by a penalty. Darius Slay. In his first start since Week 2, the Lions cornerback did a good job against the Packers. Falling: David Akers. The kicker missed a chip shot at the end of the first half.

Dominant defense: Josh Sitton called Detroit’s defense dirtbags and scumbags on Tuesday. On Thursday, the Lions' defensive line put together their most dominating performance in a long time. The Lions' line had 16 tackles, seven quarterback hits, five sacks, two fumble recoveries and one defining statement that they have the ability to change an entire game.

Rushing attack: Before the season, Detroit had Joique Bell and brought in Reggie Bush. Together, the two time-shared their way to 211 rushing yards and two touchdowns on Thursday. Despite his fumble in the first quarter, Bush had a particularly good day, carrying the ball 20 times for 117 yards. Bell had 19 carries for 94 yards.

What’s next: The Lions enter the final month of the season by heading to Philadelphia next Sunday for a game with the Eagles, followed by two home games.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions have not won on this day since 2003, nine long games and 10 long years -- indicative of so many other things within the organization.

While this season began as one of breaking streaks for the Lions -- ones against the Bears and Redskins are the most prominent -- the Lions have struggled of late.

Levy
They have lost two in a row. They took a divisional race that looked to be completely there for them to grasp easily and continue to make it interesting to the point where Thursday is an elimination game of sorts in the NFC North.

While a loss won’t completely knock Detroit out of contention for a divisional title and a playoff berth, it will give Green Bay the edge over the Lions, much like the Lions have the edge over the Bears.

And it will also knock Detroit from first place overall. With a month left in the season at that point and having to head to Philadelphia next week, the Lions would be in a precarious position.

“It’s definitely an important game,” linebacker DeAndre Levy said. “It’s a conference game. It gets us an opportunity to get them a little farther behind us, and [the] last four or five weeks of the season are going to be big for us.”

How does Detroit do this? Here are your four keys.

Get to Flynn: Yes, this is the same deal every week, but at this point, with the Detroit secondary being as inconsistent as it is and with Chris Houston likely not playing Thursday, the Lions need to pressure Matt Flynn. More than that, they need to hit him early and often to try and rattle him, and force him into bad decisions.

Yes, the Lions probably have some bad memories of Flynn -- after all, it was against the Lions that Flynn had the best game of his career -- but other than that game he has been completely inconsistent. Taking him out of his comfort area on a short week could lead to mistakes early.

Force a turnover or two: This has been one of the major issues for the Lions over the past month of the season. Detroit had started the season doing this successfully, and in five of their six wins have forced at least one turnover. In four of those games, they have forced at least two. And considering the current rate Detroit is turning the ball over -- three or more in three of the past four games -- the Lions would be wise to start finding ways to recreate what they were doing early in the season, when they forced 11 turnovers in the first month of the season.

Contain Nelson: Going back to the cornerback issue for the Lions, they need to find a way to deal with Jordy Nelson. The Lions have struggled with good receivers all season long, from A.J. Green to Dez Bryant to Antonio Brown. While Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley are on injured reserve and won’t play, the Lions will still have to match up with Nelson and James Jones. Rashean Mathis is likely to get the matchup on Jones, so it will be up to Slay or nickel cornerback Bill Bentley to handle Nelson, depending on if Nelson is out wide or in the slot. While Jones could be a problem, Nelson is the guy who could wreck the entire game for Detroit.

Don’t overly force to Calvin Johnson: This has been an issue for Matthew Stafford his entire career. Too often, if nothing else is available -- and sometimes when other options are -- he’ll still go to the best receiver in the game. In theory, there is nothing wrong with that, but Stafford threw two interceptions going to Johnson on Sunday against Tampa Bay.

It’s a tough line with Johnson, because he is so talented and can make plays so few others can, but teams are going to bracket him and try to force Stafford to force the ball to Johnson. That can cause turnovers. So get the ball to him, but be smart when you toss it over there.

Things seemed focused completely on football this week -- at least for a day.

Then Packers offensive lineman Josh Sitton changed all of that Tuesday evening when he went on WSSP Radio in Milwaukee and gave his opinion of the Detroit defense, particularly the defensive line.

It wasn't a pretty assessment.

“They go after quarterbacks. Their entire defense takes cheap shots all the time. That's what they do. That's who they are,” Sitton said. “They're a bunch of a dirtbags or scumbags. That's how they play, and that's how they're coached. It starts with their frickin' coach. It starts with the head coach, [Jim] Schwartz. He's a d---, too. I wouldn't want to play for him. It starts with him, and their D-coordinator and their D-line coach. They're all just scumbags and so are the D-line.”

Well then.

In a game with the feel of an elimination contest, Sitton added another layer of fun and intrigue -- at least in the pregame. ESPN.com Lions reporter Michael Rothstein and Packers reporter Rob Demovsky break down the Thanksgiving Day matchup.

Rothstein: There is a long history with these two teams -- even on Thanksgiving going back to the Ndamukong Suh stomp of Evan Dietrich-Smith -- so were you surprised at all that Sitton decided to rip into the Detroit defense and Lions coach Jim Schwartz?

Demovsky: If anyone on the Packers was going to pop off, Sitton would be the first guess followed by his offensive linemate T.J. Lang. They’re the two most outspoken guys on the team. Let’s face it: Sitton probably said what a lot of people around the league have been thinking about the Lions. That said, it probably wasn’t the smartest move to make before a game that you’re going into with your backup quarterback. It was already going to be an uphill battle. As entertaining and refreshing as it was, I don’t see how this helped the Packers’ cause.

Rothstein: I see your point there, but I also wonder how much it really matters. I've never been a believer that this type of talk -- especially on the professional level -- really matters a whole bunch in an actual game. It's fun for fans and gives us something to chat about, for sure, but when you're dealing with grown men, I just don't know how much it really changes a game.

Moving on, Rob, what happens at the quarterback position this week with Green Bay? Does Matt Flynn's history with Detroit play a role here?

Demovsky: When Mike McCarthy said Aaron Rodgers' chances of playing on Thursday were “slim to none,” it seemed obvious that Flynn would be the starter even though McCarthy wouldn't commit to anything. He was much more effective than Scott Tolzien because he can do more in the offense. He's much better versed in running the Packers' version of the no-huddle, which has become a staple of their offense in recent years. Flynn actually has played two games against Detroit. Everyone remembers that 2011 game -- the one that made him about $15 million with his 480-yard, six-touchdown performance -- but don't forget he also struggled in relief of Rodgers in the 2010 game at Ford Field after Rodgers left with a concussion.

How are the Lions approaching the Packers' quarterback situation?

Rothstein: Seemingly by preparing as if Rodgers was going to play. Detroit doesn't see much of a change in the offense from Rodgers to Flynn, so they are going to prepare for the same offense the Packers usually run. Of course, the Lions could be in better shape if Green Bay chooses to run the ball more since the Lions haven't given up a rushing touchdown since Week 4. So if the Packers roll with a heavy dose of Eddie Lacy, that could be a benefit for the Lions.

This obviously leads into the next question: How does Green Bay's offense change with Flynn in the lineup, or is Detroit accurate in how it says it is going to prepare? And how much different is this offense from what the Lions saw in October?

Demovsky: Of all the backup quarterbacks the Packers have played this season, Flynn is probably most like Rodgers, although none has the arm strength Rodgers possesses. But in terms of knowing the system, being able to read defenses and having the freedom to make checks at the line of scrimmage, Flynn is probably the next best option. Still, without Rodgers, there are major differences. Flynn doesn't throw the deep ball as well, and he doesn't have the touch. That was evident on the third-and-goal play in overtime when Flynn badly overthrew Jordy Nelson on a fade.

Speaking of different offenses, the Packers got a break by not having to face Calvin Johnson in the first meeting. Now, the Lions not only have Johnson but also have Nate Burleson back. What's the dynamic with those two?

Rothstein: The dynamic is pretty good and should give the Lions another playmaker the rest of the season. The biggest issue for Detroit's offense Sunday was Matthew Stafford's inaccuracy, but when he was on, the offense was able to move well with Burleson, Johnson and Reggie Bush out there. If teams focus on those three guys, Brandon Pettigrew and Kris Durham have shown, in spurts, to be effective. That's the entire plan with this offense.

Of course, it still only resulted in 21 points last Sunday, but that is at least Detroit's plan.

Both of these teams remain in the playoff picture despite fairly average seasons thus far. What do you think this says about the Packers -- and the NFC North?

Demovsky: It's amazing that the Packers haven't won since Rodgers got hurt yet they're only a half-game out of first place. Certainly, Rodgers gave them a nice cushion with a 5-2 record, but the Lions and Bears certainly missed opportunities to bury Green Bay over the last month. There's probably only two or three elite teams in the NFC, and none of them resides in the North. Can you see any of these teams going on the road in the playoffs and beating a team like the Saints or Seahawks? I can't.

The Packers might not admit it, but I think this is an elimination game for them. Do you think it would have the same consequences for the Lions if they lose?

Rothstein: Tough to say for the Lions, but it would certainly put them in a bad position having lost three straight games. I think it all depends on what Chicago does. If the Bears were to lose, then it's still a race. Otherwise, the Lions would be chasing two teams and that won't bode well for a team that hasn't won a division title this century. If Detroit loses, it becomes a very difficult path to the playoffs. It would still be possible, but there would certainly be a lot of doubt for a franchise that just doesn't make the playoffs all too often.

Each day this week, we’ll look at one of the closer calls the Lions had during their 22-game losing streak in Wisconsin.

Date: Jan. 1, 2012
Score: Packers 45, Lions 41
Records: Packers (15-1), Lions (10-6)

What happened: Green Bay sat most of its key players, having already wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, giving the Lions a chance to clinch their own playoff fortunes as well.

And Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford tried to bring the Lions a No. 5 seed instead of a No. 6 seed by throwing for 520 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions -- one of the better passing games in Detroit history.

Here was the problem.

Then-Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn matched him. Flynn threw for 480 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. Flynn played because Green Bay sat starters Aaron Rodgers, James Starks, Randall Cobb, Bryan Bulaga and Greg Jennings on offense and Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson on defense.

Both quarterbacks had passer ratings over 100 and QBRs over 84.

The Lions did a lot right in that game. They forced a safety, held Green Bay under 4 yards a carry and outgained the Packers. They even scored a touchdown to take the lead -- a 12-yard pass from Stafford to tight end Tony Scheffler -- with 2:39 left to take a 41-38 lead.

But for Detroit there is something about winning in Green Bay that has been impossible since 1991 and the Packers went 80 yards in eight plays over 1 minute, 29 seconds to score what turned into the game-winning touchdown from Flynn to Jermichael Finley.

In perhaps one of the closer calls of the last 22 tries for Detroit, the Lions actually had the ball on the Green Bay 37-yard line when Stafford threw an interception on a pass intended for Nate Burleson with 25 seconds left to seal the Packers win and the streak.

If you’re curious, Detroit will have nine starters from that game on the field Sunday -- Stafford, Scheffler, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, offensive linemen Dominic Raiola and Rob Sims, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and linebackers Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy.

How did their seasons finish: Instead of facing the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants, the Lions traveled to New Orleans and were blown out, 45-28. Green Bay didn’t win another game that season, either, being beaten by the Giants at Lambeau Field in the divisional round of the playoffs, 37-20.

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