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Changes coming for Lions after loss to Bears?

November 12, 2018

CHICAGO — You could argue that Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey, who missed two extra-point tries and two field-goal attempts, was the best defense for the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field.

That’s how bad things were for the Lions in a 34-22 loss on Sunday against a Bears team they had beaten in nine of the past 10 meetings. And that’s now three straight losses for the Lions, who had been in the NFC North race not too long ago at 3-3.

“We practice hard every day of the week,” Lions LB Jarrad Davis said. “To come out here and perform like this — Sunday in, Sunday out — is tough. It’s hard to describe. …

“We haven’t put a full game together yet.”

They’re now 3-6, and in no way, shape or form does the team that whipped the New England Patriots in Week 3 look anything like a playoff team. It wasn’t hard to sense the frustration from the Lions — both during the game (such as when Davis shoved Bears QB Mitch Trubisky out of bounds in the first half) and afterward when a solemn and quietly frustrated locker room had little to offer in the way of an explanation of where they’re headed.

“I can’t put my finger on it,” Davis said. “I can’t say what it is. I don’t know what it is. I really want to find out, so we can get it squared away.”

Lions QB Matthew Stafford was sacked six times Sunday a week after he was sacked 10 times in the loss to the Vikings. A direct line can be drawn there as much to the team’s overall pass protection as it can to the trade of WR Golden Tate two weeks ago. Since then, the Lions have gone 6-of-28 on converting third downs.

“We’ve got to step up as individuals,” said Lions RB Kerryon Johnson, who had two touchdowns but also a backbreaking fumble after a Parkey missed FG attempt. “We’ve got more games, and more third downs are going to come. Somebody’s got to make the plays. One of us has got to take it upon ourselves to be the guy.”

Following the trade of Tate and the ousting of special-teams coordinator Joe Marciano the past two weeks, are more big changes coming soon in Detroit?

“We evaluate it every single week to give ourselves the best chance to win every time we step on the field,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said. “That’s a continual evaluation loop that we have. We watch games, we go back and evaluate it, whatever the mistakes are, to try to get it fixed.”

The Lions lost the turnover battle in this game, three to zero, and are minus-six in turnovers the past three games. They allowed six sacks Sunday and took down Trubisky one time, putting the sack differential over the past three games at minus-15. They’ve been outscored 64-20 the past three first halves.

“All the work we put in during the week, all the effort you put into getting your body right, get your mind right, get ready to play … and to not come out on the positive end of it is tough,” Stafford said.

Being without CB Darius Slay certainly hurt the secondary, which was rife with communication and execution errors all game Sunday. But one player missing should not cause this much discord, just as OG T.J. Lang missing from the offensive line can’t be blamed for all the pass-protection issues. The team also suffered several in-game injuries, including to WR Marvin Jones (knee), TE Michael Roberts (shoulder) and Johnson (ankle).

Lions S Glover Quin is regarded as one of the more thoughtful and intelligent players on the team in terms of dealing with the media, at least in terms of talking leading up to games. But even he offered little perspective on why the Lions continue to kill themselves with mistakes and put themselves in holes early on.

“It was different [without Slay],” Quin said. “We still got to go out and play. We just didn’t play good enough today.”

As for whether Quin still has confidence in Patricia and the coaching staff, the captain said his confidence level remains the “same.” Asked if he had confidence in them previously, Quin said, “Yeah.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but no bodies were rolled out in front of any buses, either.

Some credit for Sunday’s result certainly is due to the Bears, who are now 6-3. Johnson admitted that the six sacks hurt but that dealing with Khalil Mack, who had two of them, was a huge chore they were well away of prior to the game.

“I mean, come on, that dude is a handful,” Johnson said of Mack. “He’s going to have his plays, we just have to limit them. It starts with myself and the run game to help slow those [pass rushers] down.”

Johnson lamented his fumble, which came after the Lions kept it to a two-score differential at 26-10 early in the third quarter. Had the Lions been able to convert on that drive instead of a giveaway, perhaps it’s a different game. Instead, the Bears took a 34-10 lead late in the third and put it away thereafter.

“We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” Johnson said.

As for the Bears perspective of the Lions’ offense, CB Prince Amukamara hit on a familiar theme: that the Lions’ offense falls into familiar, predictable patterns.

“They’re going to run what they’ve been running,” Amukamara said. “They’re not going to install something crazy [this late in the season]. A lot of teams have their bread and butter, and yeah, that’s what they saw today.”

A reminder: The Bears and Lions face off again in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. It will be curious to see whether bread and butter will be on the dinner menu that afternoon, or if there could be a menu change before that. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter can’t be feeling too comfortable after this three-game stretch in which they’ve averaged 281.7 yards, with 58.7 coming from the run game.

Patricia was vague when asked where the blame primarily should lie.

“It’s always going to fall on coaching first and foremost,” Patricia said. “It’s a collaborative team effort. Whether it’s players or coaches, whatever it is, we’re all in it together. And we work very hard every single week to go out and compete. Just got to get ready to go.”

The Bears have won three straight while the Lions have lost three in a row. It will be interesting to see where these two teams will be at in 11 days, but it certainly looks like they’re headed in opposite directions.

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