Green Bay Packers’ next opponent: Quick takes on the Detroit Lions

Jim Owczarski
Packers News
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FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, file photo, Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia talks to a team member during the second half of an NFL football preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, in Detroit. Patricia and the Lions face the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2 of the NFL football season. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski, File)

The Green Bay Packers (2-1-1) head out on the road for the second time, traveling Sunday to Detroit and Ford Field to take on the Lions (1-3). Matt Patricia is in his first year as Lions coach, but Matthew Stafford has remained the constant under center as he is now in his 10th season. 

Basics on the Lions

Last week

Detroit failed to build on the momentum of a prime-time victory over the New England Patriots and fell to Dallas 26-24. The Lions took a 24-23 lead with just over two minutes left, but the Cowboys were able to drive down the field and hit a game-winning field goal as time expired.


Patricia brings a defensive mindset to the team after six years as Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator in New England. Patricia has installed a 4-3 front as he ran that with the Patriots, technically, but he wasn’t afraid to mix up fronts and pressure packages. To serve as his defensive coordinator, Patricia brought in Paul Pasqualoni, who coordinated defenses in Miami (2008-09) and Dallas (2010) and used a 3-4. In his history, Pasqualoni has had rush linebackers reach double-digit sack totals.

Patricia retained offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who has developed a good relationship with quarterback Matthew Stafford. Cooter is from the “Air Coryell” offensive tree, which likes to establish a power run game in order to push the ball down the field.

Key numbers


Yards per rush from rookie running back Kerryon Johnson


The Lions are No. 3 in the NFL in opponent red zone percentage.


Percentage in which Detroit converts on third down, 11th in the NFL.

Detroit Lions linebacker Devon Kennard sacks the New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold during the first half Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, at Ford Field in Detroit.

Players to watch

Devon Kennard, OLB

The 27-year-old is in the midst of a career season in his fifth year in the league and first with the Lions. A fifth-round pick out of USC by the New York Giants in 2014, Kennard recorded 9.5 sacks in 56 games, mostly as a rotational player. Signed by the Lions this offseason, the 6-foot, 4-inch, 256-pound linebacker already has four sacks — just a half sack off his previous career high, set in his rookie year.

Golden Tate, WR

The 30-year-old has remained Stafford’s top target, despite the additions of Marvin Jones, Sr. and Kenny Golladay as deep threats. Tate leads the team in targets by a wide margin with 44, and he has a team-high 28 catches. The 5-10, 197-pound receiver is coming off four consecutive 90-catch seasons and remains a catch-and-run threat. He’s averaging 13.9 yards per reception thus far, his best since 2013.

Kerryon Johnson, RB

Since Stafford was drafted in 2009, he has thrown for over 4,000 yards seven times. The best rushing season the team has had? Reggie Bush with 1,006 yards in 2013, and the team finished 17th in that category in the league. Last year, the Lions were dead last in rushing. Johnson was drafted in the second round out of Auburn this season to fix that, and he has 216 yards on 38 attempts — including a 101-yard effort against New England. He was the first Lions runner to reach the century mark since 2013.

Reasons to worry

The Lions are a middle-of-the-road offense through the first quarter of the season, ranking No. 11 overall and No. 17 in scoring. They’ve found a bit more consistency since the Week 1 debacle against the New York Jets, however, and that’s because they’ve rushed for 98, 159 and 96 yards in each of the last three games. Stafford has caught fire, too, throwing 7 touchdowns to one interception while completing 71.4 percent of his passes. In other words, this isn’t Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. The Packers' defense had its issues the first three weeks and the Lions are a team that can expose any flaw.

Reasons to relax

The Lions are the eighth-best defense in the league in terms of yards given up, but they are 24th in scoring defense. Excluding special teams and defensive scores, the Jets put up 34, San Francisco 30 and Dallas 26 — all numbers that would be season-highs for the Packers' offense. Only the Patriots had a hard time finding the end zone, and one could argue it was because Patricia knew exactly how to defend them. The Lions have also given up home runs — five of the 10 offensive touchdowns they’ve allowed have gone for at least 21 yards.

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