Detroit Lions: Rapid reaction

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21

CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions’ 20-14 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field.

What it means: The Lions are in the playoffs, but right now they don’t look like a team that might have a long stay. The Lions again struggled on offense and special teams, but they won their 11th game of the season -- tying the second-best total in franchise history.

There has to be concern with the way Detroit is winning games right now. Against teams in the bottom half of the league such as Minnesota and Chicago, the Lions can get away with not playing well and winning. They won’t be able to do that from now on -- a matchup with Green Bay looms next Sunday, followed by playoff opponents.

Stock watch: Rising -- Calvin Johnson. He gained more than 100 yards in a game for the 44th time in his career, eclipsed 1,000 yards in a season for the fifth straight season and continued to make big plays in the second half of the season for Detroit. He had six catches for 103 yards against the Bears.

Rising -- Glover Quin. The safety effectively ended the game Sunday with an interception. His seventh pick of the year leads the NFL, and he has an interception in his last four games. He has been playing well enough in the second half of the season that he should be considered for the Pro Bowl.

Falling -- Jeremy Ross. The Detroit punt returner hasn’t broken through on much this season and he had a disastrous first half, muffing a punt inside the Detroit 20. It was recovered by the Bears and set up Chicago’s first touchdown.

Dominic Raiola’s questionable play: The longtime Lions center was caught on film committing what looked like an extremely dirty play, stepping on Chicago defensive lineman Ego Ferguson’s ankle in the third quarter. Ferguson had to be helped off the field after the play. This isn’t the first time Raiola has done something questionable this season, as he was fined for his antics on the final drive of the game against New England last month.

Game ball: Joique Bell was held out in the first quarter, but when he returned Sunday, he again gave Detroit a potent running game. Yes, he got help from Reggie Bush for the majority of the game against the Bears, but Bell’s juking, spinning 17-yard game-winning touchdown run gave the Lions yet another fourth-quarter comeback victory. Bell had 13 carries for 74 yards.

What’s next: The Lions go to Green Bay for next Sunday's regular-season finale with the NFC North title on the line.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

December, 14, 2014
Dec 14

DETROIT -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions’ 16-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Ford Field:

What it means: Detroit again returned to its ways of the first half of the season -- sputtering on offense and needing its defense to come up with the plays that would end up earning a victory. Two interceptions in the first half -- one by Glover Quin and one by Darius Slay -- set up 10 points for the Lions and were some of the best offense the team had all day.

In a game the Lions had to win to keep their NFC North hopes alive and to keep their wild-card chances in good shape, the Detroit defense again came through, just as it has all season long. The Lions' defense was even more stout in the second half, when it didn’t allow a point and snuffed out two late Minnesota drives. If the Lions are going to make the playoffs and have any chance to make a run in them, it will be behind Detroit’s defense.

Stock watch: Rising -- Quin. The safety had an interception for the third straight game Sunday, this one a pass Teddy Bridgewater essentially threw right to him. His 56-yard return was even more impressive for the Lions, as it set up Detroit’s first touchdown and gave the Lions their first sign of life all day.

Rising -- DeAndre Levy. Another strong week for him with 11 tackles. He also snuffed out a potential Minnesota first down when he expertly spied Bridgewater on a third down to keep him from being able to turn upfield. It led to a Bridgewater incompletion.

Falling -- Lions' offense. Detroit’s offense took a dip Sunday after consecutive good weeks. Matthew Stafford was a bit less accurate (17-of-28 for 153 yards), and the Lions struggled to do much on offense in the first half. They gained 89 yards in the first half and didn’t gain a first down until the second quarter. Detroit gained only 233 yards of offense all game, more than 100 yards fewer than the Vikings.

Matt Prater comes through: Detroit had a kicking problem through the first five games of the season. That’s settled down now, as the signing of Prater before the first Minnesota game in Week 6 was a good one. Prater made all three of his field goal attempts and was a big reason the Lions were in the game.

Game ball: Jason Jones. The defensive end came up with maybe the biggest play of the game for Detroit. He blocked a Blair Walsh field goal to get the Lions the ball back and keep it a one-point deficit. It led to a rare sustained Detroit drive Sunday and a Prater field goal. Jones had four tackles and a sack of Bridgewater -- one of four by the Lions on Sunday.

What’s next: The Lions hit the road for their final two games of the regular season, at Chicago next Sunday and then at Green Bay in the regular-season finale.

DETROIT -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 34-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Ford Field.

What it means: This is a different area for the Lions now. By beating Tampa Bay on Sunday, the Lions clinched only their third winning season since the start of 2000: they went 9-7 in 2000 and 10-6 in 2011, making the playoffs in the process. The important thing here is how Detroit managed to do this. Yes, the Buccaneers are one of the worst teams in the league, but the Lions were in control from the start of the game to the end of it and never really seemed in doubt of winning.

That’s a big deal for the Lions, who in years past would have lost games like this -- with the playoffs and other accolades in reach. This is the earliest Detroit has clinched a winning season since 1991, when the Lions went 12-4 and won their only playoff game of the Super Bowl era. This team still has a chance to equal that success.

Stock Watch: Rising -- Calvin Johnson. After having two pedestrian games coming off an injury, Johnson has gone two straight weeks with over 100 yards, this time an eight-catch, 158-yard performance with another touchdown catch. It is his 14th career 150-yard game, tied for fifth all time. After returning from injury, Johnson said he felt a 1,000-yard season was still possible. With 882 yards in 10 games and three games to go, that once again seems like a strong possibility.

Rising -- Matthew Stafford. The quarterback put together another strong performance Sunday, completing 26 of 34 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns. It was his 27th 300-yard game -- ranking third all time through six seasons -- and he again showed command and control in Joe Lombardi’s offense.

Falling -- Theo Riddick. One of Detroit’s most explosive players earlier this season, Riddick did not play a snap Sunday for the Lions with Reggie Bush back in the lineup along with Joique Bell. It is unclear exactly why Riddick didn’t play, but that's not a good sign for him.

Another big day for Bell: Bush may have returned to the offense, but Bell continued his ascent as the Lions’ running back. Bell once again had two touchdowns -- one rushing, one receiving -- and again turned into Detroit’s closer when necessary. Bell had 18 carries for 83 yards and added five catches for 50 yards.

Game ball: It would be easy to go with the entire Lions front seven or even DeAndre Levy here, but this week’s game ball goes to Ndamukong Suh. Once again commanding a ton of attention from an opposing offense, Suh had six tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack of Josh McCown. His presence also opened up holes for Levy to have a career-high two sacks and for Detroit to hold the Bucs to 26 yards rushing.

What’s next: The Lions finish off the home portion of their schedule next Sunday at 4:25 p.m. -- a flexed-out game -- against Minnesota. Then Detroit heads on the road for the final two games of the season against Chicago and Green Bay.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

November, 27, 2014
Nov 27
DETROIT -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 34-17 win over the Chicago Bears at Ford Field on Thursday:

What it means: After back-to-back losses to Arizona and New England saw the Lions tumble from the NFC North lead, they desperately needed a game like this: one in which both the Detroit offense and defense played well and could put together a game that signified they were still contenders for a playoff spot.

Detroit put up its most points since the season opener against the New York Giants. The Lions also held Chicago to a point total that was closer to their defense's season average. And they looked confident once again. That, more than anything else, might be the most important thing Detroit will get out of beating Chicago -- other than the much-needed win.

Stock watch: Rising -- Calvin Johnson. The receiver had struggled a bit the past two games and didn't quite look like himself against Arizona and New England. Facing the 28th-ranked pass defense in the NFL would help. Johnson surpassed 10,000 receiving yards in his career -- the fastest ever to do so -- and had two first-half touchdowns. Johnson had 11 catches for 146 yards.

Rising -- Joe Lombardi. The Lions' offensive coordinator had been under fire for an inconsistent offense and going two straight games without an offensive touchdown for the first time since 2000. No longer. Detroit's offense had a lot more pop to it against Chicago, including a good mix of short passes and deep shots along with a healthy amount of play-action. Good calls by Lombardi.

Falling -- Reggie Bush. The running back missed his third straight game with an ankle injury and has not been healthy for a full game since the end of September. Meanwhile, Theo Riddick continues to perform in his place, with six catches for 54 yards.

Bell again takes over: The Lions' run game still isn't great and isn't the force it was a season ago, when Bush had a 1,000-yard season and Joique Bell was over 500 yards himself. But Bell continues to run the best of any Detroit back, evidenced by his 23-carry, 91-yard day against Chicago. He also scored Detroit's first rushing touchdown since Week 7 and put together his first multi-touchdown game since the first week of the 2013 season.

Game ball: Quarterback Matthew Stafford had one of the best halves in his career Thursday against the Bears, completing 22 of 26 passes for 275 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. More impressive was his calmness throughout. It was the first time since Week 8 against Atlanta that Stafford went over 300 yards in a game, and his 390 yards passing were a season high. It was the eighth-highest passing yardage total of his career.

What's next: The Lions continue their homestand against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Dec. 7, the second of three straight at home.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 14-6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.

What it means: The Lions continued to have a strong defense, and once again, the Lions’ offense failed them. Detroit only reached the red zone once Sunday and failed to score a touchdown for the first time this season.

This came about because of some rough throws by Matthew Stafford, some bad protection of Stafford by the Lions' offensive line and a lack of creative play-calling on movement downs. Detroit was 5-of-15 on third downs but should have been much better, considering at least two of the Lions’ failed third downs were third-and-short.

The biggest issue for the defense now is the lack of sacks on Drew Stanton. The former Lions’ quarterback wasn't sacked once but was picked off twice.

Stock watch: Rising -- Joique Bell. The running back once again had an inspired game -- even when the rest of his offense couldn’t do much. Bell hurdled defenders, was rarely brought down by the first tackler and again gave evidence he should be the team’s lead running back.

Falling -- Joe Lombardi. The Lions' offensive coordinator had a fairly predictable game plan, including running the ball with fullback Jed Collins on third-and-short. His offense has struggled most of the season, but against a strong Arizona defense, he left them at a loss. It was so bad, the Lions’ offense failed to score a touchdown.

Falling -- LaAdrian Waddle. The right tackle just can’t stay healthy this season. A week after hurting his knee, the second-year pro went down with an ankle injury in the second half and did not return. He was replaced by Cornelius Lucas. It’s a rough time for the right side of the Lions’ offensive line right now.

Back to their old selves: Jim Caldwell has often stressed to his team the importance of limiting penalties -- it’s one of the things he was brought in to help correct. On Sunday, though, that all began to fall apart. Detroit was flagged nine times for 80 yards, including a 15-yard taunting penalty on Julian Stanford late in the game.

Game ball: Joique Bell. The running back did everything he could Sunday; he gained 85 yards on 14 carries against one of the top rushing defenses in the NFL. He also caught three passes for 30 yards and ran hard when the rest of the Detroit offense looked fairly lifeless. Bell looked more and more like the running back he was a season ago, when he ran for 3.9 yards a carry as the complement to Reggie Bush.

What’s next: The Lions continue their two-game road trip by heading to New England on Sunday for a game against Tom Brady and the Patriots.

DETROIT – A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions’ 20-16 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Ford Field.

What it means: If it happens once, it might be luck. Twice? Curious. But three straight come-from-behind wins in the final two minutes for the Lions? Well, that happened Sunday against the Dolphins, pushing the Lions to 7-2 for the first time since 1993, during the revered Barry Sanders years.

This gives Detroit four straight wins and an immense amount of confidence heading into the toughest three-game stretch of the season for the Lions: games at Arizona and New England followed by a short week to prepare for one of their biggest rivals, the Chicago Bears.

This is a Lions team clearly playing with confidence and the belief that they can win any game in any situation right now after comeback wins over New Orleans, Atlanta and now Miami.

Stock watch: Rising: Calvin Johnson. Detroit’s top option looked much more like himself Sunday, burning Brent Grimes for a 49-yard touchdown and making seven catches for 113 yards overall.

Rising: Travis Swanson. Forced into action because of an injury to right guard Larry Warford, Swanson played fairly well at first glance, not making too many mistakes. Considering this was the rookie’s first extensive action, that’s a bonus.

Falling: Reggie Bush. He might have aggravated an injury, and he is clearly losing ground to Joique Bell as the Lions’ lead rusher. Bush will have a role in the Lions’ offense, but it seems to be becoming smaller by the week.

Bell the lead back: The Lions will never hand their running back workload over to one back as long as they have both Bush and Theo Riddick in the offense, but Bell looked the part of a No. 1 back in the offense Sunday. He made smart decisions, decisive cuts and hit the magical 4-yards-per-carry mark Jim Caldwell likes. He had 10 carries for 44 yards and also caught two passes for 37 yards for the Lions, some of his best work of the season. He was also the running back in for the entire last drive of the game.

Game ball: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. He received his primary weapon back in Johnson and again led a come-from-behind win in the final two minutes. His game-winning 11-yard touchdown pass to Riddick was all Stafford. He created time with his feet after being pressured, rolling to the left side of the field and threading a perfect throw to Riddick, hitting him in stride. Stafford completed 25 of 40 passes for 280 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. That's four straight wins for the quarterback.

What’s next: The Lions are on the road for two straight weeks, first at NFC West-leading Arizona and then at New England.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12

MINNEAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 17-3 win Sunday over the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium:

What it means: The Lions offense was down two of its top playmakers. The kicking portion of special teams is still striving to reach ordinary. But in 2014, the Lions defense has been continuously dominant.

This, after all, is a team that spent the majority of its money and its first-round draft pick on offensive upgrades during the offseason. But the reason Detroit is 4-2 and could be better than that if it had a capable kicker (more on that later) is the defense and its highly rated line.

It's a defense with multiple packages -- even varying nickel personnel groupings -- to actually employ every defender's strengths. On Sunday, it was perhaps more dominant than any game this season, holding the Vikings to 212 yards, their lowest output of the season.

Stock watch: Rising -- The Lions in Minnesota. This was Detroit's second win in Minneapolis in the past 17 years. ... Theo Riddick. Before leaving with a hamstring injury, Riddick had five catches for 75 yards and a touchdown along with three rushes for six yards. Not bad production in place of Reggie Bush. Falling -- The Detroit offensive line. Four more sacks allowed for the Lions offensive line brings it to 21 this season. All last year, this group gave up 23 sacks.

Kicking circus continues: Matt Prater was signed to be the beacon of consistency for a dreadful Lions kicking game. Then he went out and missed two field goals in three quarters -- more than he did all of the regular season in 2013. The Lions are now 5-of-15 on field goals and have more missed field goals through six games than any NFL team did in its entire 2013 season. While it would seem unlikely the team would part ways with Prater after one game, there should be concern for Detroit right now.

Game ball: The Detroit defense. All of it. The defensive unit continued its dominance of quarterbacks, flustering Minnesota's Teddy Bridgewater and pressuring him all day long. They intercepted him three times, sacked him eight times, defended six of his pass attempts, hit him 12 times and pressured him a number clearly in double-digits. The eight sacks are the most for the Lions in a game since at least 2001.

What's next: The Lions play their final home game of the first half of the season Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.

DETROIT -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 17-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field.

What it means: When two phases fail, a team is not going to win a game, and the Lions learned that lesson Sunday. Special teams was atrocious with three missed field goals from Alex Henery, including a potential game winner from 50 yards. The offense, beaten up by injuries, wasn't much better, struggling to move the ball.

It all rolled into the toughest loss of the season for Detroit, which had 263 yards offense -- and only 95 yards of it in the first half. Matthew Stafford looked inaccurate. Calvin Johnson was barely able to play and the running game was ineffective. It looked an awful lot like the Lions of last season, except Detroit's defense played well and shut down the Bills' running game with 49 yards.

Stock Watch: Rising -- George Winn. In his first NFL game, the suburban Detroit native did pretty well. He ran just like he did in the preseason -- hard and with purpose. Winn had 11 carries for 48 yards and became the primary running back when Reggie Bush left with an ankle injury. Falling -- Calvin Johnson. Things aren't looking great for the Lions' star. A week after he was limited with an ankle injury, he appeared to reinjure it on his one catch of the day, a 7-yard slant from Stafford. He went to the locker room and wasn't seen again. Falling -- the Lions' offense. A wicked day of injuries for them. Besides Johnson, the Lions were without Joique Bell for the entire game and Bush in the fourth quarter.

The kicking circus continues: The Lions signed Henery, a veteran, two weeks ago in the hopes he would stabilize the kicking issues from rookie Nate Freese, who the team released. That hasn't happened. Henery missed three field goals -- from 50 yards to win the game, 44 yards off the upright and way off from 47 yards -- and once again left calls for the Lions to seek their third kicker of the season. Don't be surprised if the Lions hold tryouts again, especially since Matt Prater is available.

Game ball: Linebacker DeAndre Levy was everywhere again. He made 13 tackles, had a tackle for loss and generally snuffed out the Bills' running game. Right now, he may be Detroit's best defender. He was the biggest bright spot on a defense that played pretty well but couldn't overcome the rest of Detroit's issues everywhere else.

What's next: The Lions head to Minnesota for their first division road game of the season, facing the Vikings on Sunday.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 24-7 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.

What it means: Before Sunday's game started, this looked like a good opportunity for the Lions to take advantage of a team minus some big players with Greg Hardy and DeAngelo Williams out for Carolina. It didn't matter for Detroit anyway. The Lions had costly turnovers (two lost fumbles and a Matthew Stafford interception while forcing the ball to Calvin Johnson) and special teams issues with missed field goals. It turned into a massive opportunity lost for the Lions, who all too often reverted to the 2013 form that saw them struggle in big games and be wholly ineffective on offense against good defenses.

Stock watch: Rising -- Eric Ebron. The rookie tight end had his first career catch in the first half and caught three of his five targets for 38 yards. Rising -- Stephen Tulloch. The linebacker was everywhere Sunday with 10 tackles, including three for loss and a sack in which he had a wide-open shot at Cam Newton and wrapped him up athletically. Falling -- Nate Freese. I'll expand on this more below, but the rookie kicker is having some big problems so far this season. He missed two more field goals Sunday, bringing his misses on the year to three. Falling -- Nevin Lawson. The rookie corner suffered a foot injury that knocked him out of the game, but even before that, the Lions were at least experimenting with other players as Cassius Vaughn played some nickel in the first half.

Kicking issues: When the Lions decided to keep Freese as their kicker despite the fact Giorgio Tavecchio had the better training camp, one of the questions asked was how comfortable they felt with a rookie this season. Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he was good at the time, but he shouldn't be any more. Freese missed two 49-yard field goal attempts against Carolina, his second and third misses of the two-game season. Right now, the Lions have to at least think about investigating other kicking options.

Game ball: The Lions' defensive line as a whole. While a lot of attention was always going to be paid to Ndamukong Suh, the entirety of the line did a good job pressuring Newton. While the defense sacked him four times, the defensive line received credit for three of those sacks, including two from C.J. Mosley. They also had five tackles for loss as a unit. That is the type of performance Detroit needs from its line on a weekly basis.

What's next: The Lions play their first division game of the season on Sunday, facing rival Green Bay at Ford Field.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

December, 29, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' season-ending 14-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

What it means: The end. The end of a lot of things. The certain end of the Lions' season, a collapse from holding their own destiny in the NFC North two weeks ago to flying home for the season before New Year's.

The possible end of the Detroit coaching career of Jim Schwartz, who likely will learn whether he'll be fired or retained by Monday, the typical day of firing of coaches in the NFL. Also the possible end of some NFL careers, from kicker David Akers to the uncertain nature of the future for Rashean Mathis, Dominic Raiola and Nate Burleson.

This, of course, came in the most predictable way possible. Detroit took a lead in the fourth quarter and, as the Lions have done in the five losses before this one, watched it disappear by the time the game was over. This week it came because of a 50-yard punt return by Marcus Sherels that led to a Vikings touchdown that took a 13-10 Detroit lead and turned it into a 14-13 Minnesota lead.

Stock watch: Rising -- Kevin Ogletree. Starting in place of Calvin Johnson, the free-agent-to-be had five catches for 75 yards and was open on two other occasions. He was the only Lions receiver to show any ability to get open Sunday. Rising -- Lions' draft pick. Depending on what else happens Sunday, the Lions could end up with a top-10 pick. Falling -- Everything else. Few Lions played well Sunday, and for the most part, it was a fairly uninspired effort from a team that said it would try to stay focused throughout the week.

Bush hits 1,000: Reggie Bush needed 26 yards entering the game, and it took three-and-a-half quarters, but he finally eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in his career. He did it with a 7-yard run up the middle in the fourth quarter. A couple of weeks ago, when it looked like Bush would surpass 1,000 yards then, I asked him about the benchmark number, and he said it wasn't necessarily a big deal to him. That's understandable, considering in a 16-game season, a running back needs to average only 62.5 yards a game to get there. But he is the first Lions running back since 2004 to get to 1,000 yards. Actually impressive was what Bush and Joique Bell were able to do. They became the first running back tandem in NFL history to each rush for 500 yards and have 500 yards receiving in a season. Combined, they were effective for Detroit for most of the season.

What's next: The NFL draft is a few short months away -- taking place from May 8-10 at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

December, 22, 2013
DETROIT -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 23-20 loss in overtime to the New York Giants.

What it means: In many ways, this was a fitting end to Detroit's season: a fourth-quarter turnover returned for a touchdown to tie the game, the Lions choosing to play for overtime instead of taking a shot of getting in field goal range on the last drive of regulation, then seeing their season end on a winning field goal in overtime.

This loss epitomized so many of the Lions' problems this season -- the turnovers, the questionable clock management and play calling and, ultimately, a collapse that saw Detroit go from controlling its own destiny to out of the playoffs in six days.

Yes, the Lions have one more game to play -- on the road at Minnesota -- but they are now out of the playoffs for the fourth time in five years under Jim Schwartz, and the Lions might be close to a coaching change.

Stock Watch: Rising -- Nick Fairley. The defensive tackle has games where he disappears. Then he plays like he did Sunday, where he recorded a safety and had multiple pressures on New York quarterback Eli Manning. Falling -- Matthew Stafford. Another game, the same problems over and over again. He threw another fourth-quarter interception -- this time a pick-six to Will Hill -- that took a seven-point Detroit lead and turned it into a tie game.

The case for Bell: After Reggie Bush lost another fumble -- his second since guaranteeing he wouldn’t fumble again this season in November -- Joique Bell received the majority of the work for the Lions in the backfield. Not surprisingly, Bell played well. He scored Detroit’s first touchdown of the game and kept the Lions in the game while the rest of the offense looked listless. He finished with 91 yards rushing and 63 yards receiving, and should make the Lions at least think about who should receive the majority of carries for Detroit the rest of this season and possibly beyond. He runs hard, smart and with patience.

What's next: The Lions have their season finale on Sunday at Minnesota.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

December, 16, 2013

DETROIT -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 18-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

What it means: The Lions defense did exactly what it needed to do Monday night: It kept Baltimore from scoring a touchdown. The Lions found a way to lose anyway, putting their season and perhaps the coaching career of Jim Schwartz in jeopardy.

Detroit's team was built on its offense, with the firepower of Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush as well as an emerging quarterback in Matthew Stafford. Stafford threw three interceptions. The Lions scored two touchdowns -- on the first drive of the game and another on their last -- and showed almost no urgency in between. It was just a completely brutal loss for Detroit. This was a team that at one point looked poised to win the division.

Now, at 7-7, the Lions are third in the NFC North and a team that will need a lot of help to make the playoffs.

Stock Watch: Rising -- Detroit's defense. Saddled by an ineffective offense for much of the day, the Lions didn't allow a touchdown and held Ray Rice to 56 yards rushing and Torrey Smith to 69 yards receiving. They also pressured Joe Flacco fairly well for most of the game, keeping him off balance. Falling -- Stafford's accuracy. In addition to the three interceptions, he had a completion percentage under 55 for the fourth time in the past six games.

Fauria reappears: He had not caught a pass since Week 12 against Tampa Bay, but Joseph Fauria grabbed what was the go-ahead touchdown on a tough pass over the middle in the end zone. It was perhaps Stafford's best throw of the day and also a very, very difficult catch by the rookie tight end. He has 12 receptions this season. Seven of them are touchdowns.

What's next: The Lions have their home finale Sunday against the New York Giants followed by a trip to Minnesota to close the regular season.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

November, 28, 2013

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.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

November, 24, 2013

DETROIT -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 24-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

What it means: If you’re the Lions, you probably can’t figure out exactly what happened Sunday against Tampa Bay. Matthew Stafford threw four interceptions, including the one to seal the game that bounced off Calvin Johnson’s hands and into the hands of Johnthan Banks. Despite the fact that the Lions tried over and over to give this game away, Tampa Bay kept giving Detroit chances.

But the Lions could not convert on any of them, and it gives Detroit a really bad loss in a situation where the Lions had an opportunity to give themselves distance in the NFC North. Instead, Detroit is now in a situation where it is in the midst of a three-way battle in the division. If the Lions miss the playoffs, they will likely look back at this game and last week's loss to Pittsburgh as the reasons why.

All of this with division rival Green Bay coming to town in four days in a game that seems absolutely crucial for the Lions' postseason chances at this point.

Stock watch: Rising: Willie Young. The defensive end has been quite vocal in recent weeks about penalties against defensive linemen for hitting quarterbacks. He played extremely well Sunday, though, coming up with a key sack of Mike Glennon in the fourth quarter to force a field goal that Rian Lindell missed. Ziggy Ansah joined him in getting good pressure as the rookie had two sacks in his first game back from an ankle injury. Falling: Chris Houston. The cornerback struggled Sunday, giving up an 85-yard touchdown reception to Tiquan Underwood and then leaving the game with an ankle injury. The play summed up most of Detroit’s cornerback play Sunday. The Lions struggled when left in single coverage, allowing Glennon to pick them apart.

Burleson’s return: Nate Burleson played in his first game in two months Sunday and continued as if he was never injured. Burleson had seven catches for 77 yards and a touchdown against the Buccaneers, but looked fresh and was a guy the Lions could use in critical spots throughout the game, including on third down.

What’s next: The Lions next play Thursday against Green Bay in the annual Thanksgiving Day game.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

November, 17, 2013

PITTSBURGH -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 37-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

What it means: What a complete collapse for the Lions, a team that had went through every sort of emotion during Sunday’s game. They started off discombobulated in the first quarter, set records in the second quarter, then fell apart in the second half.

It’s tough to explain how the Lions went from an offensive juggernaut in the first half to Calvin Johnson not having a reception in the second half and Matthew Stafford unable to even throw for half a field after halftime. It is, though, a loss that could hurt the Lions down the road. Detroit had complete control over this game before a combination of defensive lapses, dropped passes and a bizarre fake field goal call in the fourth quarter turned a win into a loss and a potential three-game winning streak into a 6-4 record that gives the Bears and Packers a chance to keep pace in the NFC North.

Stock Watch: Rising -- Safety Don Carey. Carey had yet another week of significant playing time with cornerback Bill Bentley injured, and he had a decent game, making nine tackles and two tackles for loss. ... DeAndre Levy had a game-high 12 tackles, including two tackles for loss. Falling -- Detroit’s fourth quarter defense. The Lions gave up a 97-yard drive to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers midway through the fourth quarter, resulting in a touchdown with 4:46 left to give Pittsburgh the lead. ... Reggie Bush's production. The running back fumbled, ran for 31 yards on 12 carries and caught two passes for 23 yards. Not his best day.

Setting records: Detroit’s typical combination of Stafford-to-Johnson gave the Lions some big records in the first half. Stafford threw for 327 yards in the first half, a franchise record. He also broke Bobby Layne’s franchise passing record of 15,710 yards. With 362 yards Sunday, Stafford now has 16,005 yards. Stafford, though, faded in the second half, passing for only 35 yards.

What’s next: The Lions return home for two games in less than two weeks when they face Tampa Bay next Sunday and then Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day.