NFC North: Detroit Lions

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy caught the ball, fell and rolled forward on the ground. As long as no one touched him, he could gain as many yards as he wanted that way.

Eventually, Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy did make contact with Lacy, but the contact caused a fumble, which the Lions recovered. At first, the ruling on the field was that Lacy was down when he was contacted, but Detroit coach Jim Caldwell was trying to argue Levy only made contact with the ball.

"It's worth it," Caldwell said. "That's a tough situation and it was one that we thought there was a chance that he hit the ball first as opposed to his arm first and obviously it was overturned."

When he was asked whether that would still be down by contact, Caldwell said he was given a detailed explanation of what the rule was by the official.

"I know you probably listened to the broadcast but if you look at the rule, the official explained it to me in detail," Caldwell said. "If he would have hit the ball first when the ball came out, we had a chance at it but they ruled otherwise."

The drive finished with a blocked Mason Crosby field goal.

The Packers beat the Lions, 30-20.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In trying to explain what happened Sunday afternoon in Wisconsin, Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell and some of his players said that they faced a good team, which the Green Bay Packers no doubt are.

They also had to face the Packers on the road, which is never easy.

Except here's the problem for the Lions -- and here's why there should be concern for them for however long their season continues in the playoffs. The Lions are the No. 6 seed in the NFC, so the rest of the way they'll face good teams and they'll face them away from home.

"Whether we play at home or on the road in the National Football League, it's not easy," Caldwell said. "It's going to be a difficult task no matter who we play. But I think if we play well enough, we'll be right in there with them, regardless of who it is we line up against."

But why does Caldwell believe this year's Lions are that team?

"Because we've done it before," Caldwell said.

They did, but not against a team that will be joining them in the postseason. Of Detroit's 11 wins this season, the Lions beat only one team that finished with a winning record -- a 19-7 win against Green Bay in Week 3.

The Lions said over and over again after Sunday's 30-20 loss to Green Bay how a new season begins now, and sure, the playoffs are a completely different situation than the regular season. There's an issue there, though: Going on the road.

The Lions have gone on the road to four teams that also made the playoffs this season -- Carolina, Arizona, New England and Green Bay. They've lost those games by a combined score of 102-42. But when you ask the Lions if there is reason to be concerned that they haven't found an elixir against winning teams on the road this season, they didn't really have much of one.

They are, after all, playoff-focused now.

"No reason in particular. That's behind us now," linebacker Tahir Whitehead said. "Our focus changed to playoffs and we just got to go out there and play. Fix whatever mistakes we made and go out there and try to get the next win."

This is the same Lions team that continued the same themes they've had throughout the season: An offense that has very little consistency, a special teams group that makes as many good plays as it does questionable ones and a defense that continues to stay consistently good pretty much no matter the opponent.

This is who the Lions are, for good, bad and whatever happens in the playoffs.

"We had opportunities to win it and I feel like whoever we play, we have an opportunity to win it," guard Rob Sims said. "So my level of concern is not there. I really don't have one.

"We have to continue to get better, no doubt. We've dealt with some injuries. We've dealt with some things and we've just tried to keep on overcoming them and sometimes we come up short."

The Lions did Sunday, when they tried to win a division for the first time since 1993 and win in Wisconsin for the first time since 1991. The Lions can't come up short anymore because if it happens again, it will be the end of the team's season.

That hasn't happened yet, though, mostly because while Detroit has struggled against good teams, the Lions did win games they were supposed to throughout the year. And that's a large reason why the Lions will play at least one more game this season.

"Usually we walk out of here with a loss and that's it," Sims said. "We're talking about tomorrow's exit meetings and we're not talking that right now.

"We've got shots and I'm going to go take mine."

The Lions -- all of them -- just need those shots to be better than the ones they took Sunday.

Quick Take: Lions at Cowboys

December, 28, 2014
Dec 28
10:15
PM ET
» Wild-Card Round: Schedule » AFC: BAL-PIT | CIN-IND » NFC: DET-DAL | ARI-CAR


GREEN BAY, Wis. – Three things to know about Sunday's Detroit Lions-Dallas Cowboys wild-card playoff game at AT&T Stadium:

1. Familiar faces: Although the Lions and Cowboys didn’t play this season, there will be a lot of familiar coaching ties for Detroit on the sideline. Former Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan spent 2009-2013 with Detroit, including mentoring Matthew Stafford through the first five years of his career. He led Dallas to the No. 8 offense this season. The Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, Rod Marinelli, was Detroit’s head coach from 2006-2008 and has coordinated the NFL’s No. 20 defense this season.

2. Calvin vs. Carr could be interesting: When these teams played last season at Ford Field, Dallas chose to single-cover Calvin Johnson with Brandon Carr for most of the game, and it resulted in a 14-catch, 329-yard performance from Johnson in a 31-30 Lions victory. How Dallas chooses to cover Johnson and Golden Tate could be one of the more intriguing matchups.

3. Dallas is hot right now: The Cowboys have scored 31 or more points in six of the past seven games, including more than 40 points in three of the past four. The Lions will also have to contend with the NFL’s leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, who finished the regular season with 1,845 yards and a league-leading 13 touchdowns. To put Murray’s season in context, the Lions gained 1,422 yards rushing as a team this season. Of course, Murray will also have to face the NFL’s top run defense.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Detroit Lions’ 30-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
  • Raiola
    Left guard Rob Sims said he spoke with suspended Lions center Dominic Raiola earlier Sunday. He wouldn’t get into what the conversation was about but said Raiola was a bit down. Sims said he was sure Raiola watched the game.

“He wasn’t doing too well,” Sims said. “Of course he wanted to be here for this one. Of course he did.”

Rookie Travis Swanson replaced Raiola at center.
  • Lions coach Jim Caldwell went off on a reporter who asked him why the team didn’t blitz Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers more after he returned to the game with an injured calf that clearly limited the MVP candidate. Caldwell was displeased with the way the question was asked.

“Well, you’re probably getting into some areas where you don’t know what you’re talking about,” Caldwell said. “First of all, because of the fact that we have to look at this guy for what he’s done. If you look at the number of times when he gets blitzed, what happens; if you look at the number of times people play zones against him, what happens; when you start looking at all those things, breaking them down, looking at those things, then you might be qualified to ask me that question.”
  • Caldwell had no real update on the status of starting right guard Larry Warford, who left the game in the first half with a knee injury. He was carted off and didn’t return. Caldwell said he was “not sure” when asked if he anticipated having him for the playoffs against Dallas.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

December, 28, 2014
Dec 28
7:40
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 30-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field:

What it means: It was the biggest regular-season game for the Detroit Lions in decades, and for a little while -- especially when Aaron Rodgers left the game due to injury -- it was promising for the Lions. But then Detroit had miscues on offense and struggles on special teams and couldn't pressure a hobbled Rodgers when he returned, which led to the Lions' 24th straight loss to Green Bay in Wisconsin.

This one, though, has to sting more for Detroit, considering what was at stake. They had a shot at a first-round bye and their first divisional title since 1993. But they didn't do much right on offense or special teams. It led to a double-digit loss to an elite team on the road for the second time this season -- New England being the other game -- and questions about how this team will fare on the road in the playoffs, given that, as the No. 6 seed, they will have no home games.

Stock watch: Rising -- Travis Swanson. This was good experience for the rookie, and he didn't make any rookie nerve errors. There were no bungled snaps and no sacks allowed, and Detroit did run for 4.8 yards per carry. Plus, he had to play with a new right guard after Larry Warford went down in the first half. Not a bad first start for the Lions' center of the future.

Falling -- Joique Bell. The running back had been Detroit's most consistent rusher this season, but in his team's biggest game, he struggled holding on to the ball. Bell fumbled once and was part of a poor handoff exchange that led to a turnover and a Green Bay touchdown that gave the Packers a 14-point lead. When you are involved in two fumbles, you can't have a good game, no matter what else you do.

Falling -- Lions special teams. They were atrocious Sunday in a lot of areas. The Lions gave up a punt-return touchdown for the first time since 2012, when Micah Hyde had a 55-yard return in the first quarter. Sam Martin booted a kickoff out of bounds. Martin made up for it with a good onside punt, but the game was already out of reach by then. A rough day for a phase that has been inconsistent throughout the season.

Poor challenge by Lions: Jim Caldwell made a bizarre challenge call late in the third quarter when he threw the red flag on a fumble when Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy was already on the ground and rolling forward. In that instance, the ruling has always being down by contact, so it was a risky challenge for Caldwell to begin with but made no sense in a close game with the division title on the line. It cost Detroit a timeout, and in a one-possession game, at that point, it could have been huge.

Game ball: When teams face the Detroit Lions defense, almost all of them admit they have to have some level of scheme for defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. To understand why Detroit finished the regular season 11-5 and made the playoffs, it all starts with the Lions' defense. That all begins with Suh. That's why he was the team's most valuable player this season. He makes Detroit's defense demonstratively better every time he is on the field.

What's next: The Lions head to Dallas, where they will face the Dallas Cowboys in the wild-card round of the playoffs. This will be the team's first playoff appearance since 2011.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Darren Keyton was signed to the Detroit Lions' practice squad on Nov. 11 after sitting out most of the season.

Now, he'll be active for the team for the first time a day after being promoted from the practice squad. Keyton will be the backup center to rookie Travis Swanson, who is replacing the suspended Dominic Raiola in the lineup. Keyton's initial call-up came Saturday and it appears he beat out Rodney Austin for a spot on the active list Sunday.

Otherwise, the Lions have no surprises on the inactives list. Quarterback Kellen Moore, cornerback Josh Thomas, offensive lineman Rodney Austin, defensive linemen Larry Webster, Caraun Reid and Nick Fairley and wide receiver Ryan Broyles are the team's inactives for the regular-season finale against Green Bay.
When: 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay TV: Fox

Both teams clinched their playoff berths last week, but that doesn't mean the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions don’t have plenty at stake Sunday.

They’re both 11-4 and have their sights set on the NFC North title. The winner takes it, while the loser must begin its Super Bowl quest on the road in wild-card weekend.

ESPN Lions reporter Michael Rothstein and Packers reporter Rob Demovsky discuss the matchup:

Demovsky: The teams that have the most success against the Packers are the ones that can stop the run, get pressure on Rodgers with just a four-man rush and commit the rest of their players to coverage. The Lions seem to do that as well as anyone. Why?

Rothstein: The easy answer is Ndamukong Suh. Although he won't receive much consideration for the league's MVP award because it is a quarterback-driven league, Suh is perhaps more valuable than anyone else in the NFL to his unit's success this season. Opponents have told me often this season they have to scheme differently for the Lions because of the attention that must be paid to Suh. He essentially requires a double team on every play, and that allows Ezekiel Ansah, Jason Jones, George Johnson or C.J. Mosley to have a single-coverage matchup. Detroit blitzes about 25 percent of the time and records sacks on 6.6 percent of dropbacks. That's not a bad percentage at all. The pressure the front four provides gives Darius Slay, Rashean Mathis and the safeties relief from having to cover too long as well, which is usually a major issue for any defensive back. Perhaps the biggest surprise has been how efficient the Detroit run defense has been without Nick Fairley in the second half of the season. The Lions have yet to allow 1,000 yards rushing this season and since Fairley's injury, the Lions have allowed only 52.14 rushing yards a game. That's insane.

Green Bay tried to run it a ton the latest time the Packers faced the Lions. Since then, Detroit has posted the league's best run defense. What do you think ends up being Green Bay's offensive strategy this time?

Demovsky: Coach Mike McCarthy isn't going to bang his head against the wall and run, run, run if it's not working. If you think that means he's too quick to abandon the running game, then so be it. So it probably will depend on how Eddie Lacy fares early. If Lacy can rip off a few good runs in the first couple of series, like he has done of late, McCarthy might be more inclined to go back to it later. But here's one thing to look for: If Aaron Rodgers ends up throwing a bunch of dump-off passes or screens, it's probably a sign they don't think they can run the ball, so they'll use the short passing game to simulate the run. There's no shame in admitting you can't run the ball against the Lions. Who has this season?

What do you make of all these late-game, come-from-behind victories? Are they living dangerously, or are they just a good team that finds a way to win no matter what?

Rothstein: That stems from Jim Caldwell. His eternal calmness on the sideline has been extremely beneficial for Detroit in a ton of ways this season. Multiple players have said throughout the season that the reason for their ability to score and make plays late in games comes directly from Caldwell's calmness. They never panic because he never panics. Part of this has to do with Matthew Stafford, too. He's always been pretty good at putting together late-game drives, but he's been particularly good at it this season. He has thrived in those situations this season, and it is a position he not only feels comfortable in but also wants to be in. It allows him to use his intelligence, along with playing with a little bit of reckless abandon that has made him a playmaker in the past. It really starts with the two of them, but there is little doubt they are living a bit dangerously because starting this week and entering the playoffs, every team is going to be good, and most will have a quarterback who can do similar things. If they don't find a way to play better early in games, Detroit will have a short playoff stay.

We all know about Green Bay's win streak over Detroit in Wisconsin, but what makes it so tough for the Lions -- and many other teams -- to win in Green Bay?

Demovsky: It's not the noise; it's not even that loud, to be honest. If it were, why else would the Packers have launched their "Get Loud Lambeau" campaign this week to try to increase the noise level for Sunday's game? Rather, it's how the offense functions at home, where crowd noise isn't a factor for them. It's not a coincidence that before Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay, Nelson’s 11 longest catches of the season all came at home. Don't discount the footing, either. They're familiar with the turf and what shoes to wear. We've seen a number of different opponents come in and slip all over the field.

Since you brought up the streak in Wisconsin, how are Jim Caldwell and the new regime approaching it from a mentality standpoint? Are they ignoring it, downplaying it or accepting that it's a real thing?

Rothstein: They aren't worrying about it. This staff has a pretty good understanding of the difficulty of winning in Wisconsin too. Jim Caldwell is a Wisconsin native -- from Beloit -- and the offensive coordinator is Vince Lombardi's grandson. Some players will likely acknowledge the streak during the week -- they always do -- but one of the big messages this season has been that this team is different than all the prior ones, and they have to understand and believe that. So far, Detroit has, as only two other Lions teams in franchise history have won 11 games. I don't expect Detroit to win this game, but the history in Lambeau Field won't be the reason for that.

Rodgers appears to be playing at his typical, high level with the best QBR in the league. Where does this season rank for him in terms of his career?

Demovsky: It has to rank right up there with his MVP season of 2011. The difference that season is the Packers would pile up yards and rack up the points, while so many of those games became shootouts. This year, the points and yards are down. That 2011 team was loaded with offensive weapons -- Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, James Jones, Donald Driver and even a young Randall Cobb. This season, Rodgers might be better because he's getting more out of less. Really, his only consistent weapons have been Cobb and Nelson. Plus, McCarthy has put so much more on Rodgers' plate now -- running the no-huddle almost exclusively -- that his job is even more difficult than it was in 2011. Either way, perhaps the best part of both 2011 and this season is Rodgers’ touchdown-to-interception ratio. It was 45-to-6 in 2011 and 36-to-5 this season.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – When he steps inside Lambeau Field on Sunday, Joe Lombardi might glance into the upper reaches of the historic stadium of the Green Bay Packers.

And if one interesting, different thing happens Sunday before the game for the Detroit Lions offensive coordinator, it'll be then.

“Certainly I grew up with some of the mementos around,” Lombardi said. “It’s cool. It’s fun to walk out and see your grandfather’s name on the ring of fame, but it’ll be business as usual, I think.”

[+] EnlargeJoe Lombardi
Carlos Osorio/AP PhotoBeing a Lombardi opened the door for admission to the Packers Hall of Fame for Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. But that's about it.
His grandfather is Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Packers and the man the Super Bowl Trophy is named after.

Some of the mementos lying around included pictures and Super Bowl rings that were in view. So it wasn’t an ordinary upbringing in that respect for Joe Lombardi.

Lombardi said he’ll probably take Detroit’s offensive staff to the steakhouse bearing his family name – Lombardi’s – this weekend while the team is in Wisconsin, but that it won’t be a big deal, either.

“Listen, there’s been a lot of big names that have gone through Green Bay since my grandpa,” Lombardi said. “They’re not interested in Joe Lombardi; they’re interested in Vince Lombardi and all the famous people that have come since then.”

The Lombardi name did get him one other cool token that at one point he hoped would be a bigger deal – a lifetime pass to the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. Then, in college, he went up to visit Green Bay, Wisconsin, with some friends.

And he found out it didn’t really get him much at all.

“I had this lifetime pass, this metal card that I got sent when I was 8 years old or something,” Lombardi said. “Somehow I kept it around. So I was like, ‘Watch this, we’ll be MVPs.’ Then we walked in and it was like, ‘Go ahead,’ and it wasn’t a big deal. No one paid any attention.

“Said Joe Lombardi, it was this metal kind of thing. I thought it would be like, ‘All right, VIP.’ But they were like, ‘Go ahead.’ I got in for free. They had to pay 10 bucks or whatever it was.”

Lombardi said he probably still has the pass somewhere in the bottom of a box from all the coaching moves his family has made since then, but he isn’t sure where it is.

This weekend, though, he won’t have to worry about paying for access to Lambeau Field. He’ll be in there coaching for a division title.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The mostly healthy Detroit Lions had one surprise player show up on the team’s injury report Wednesday: running back Joique Bell.

Bell showed up with an Achilles injury and was limited in practice as the Lions prepare for the Green Bay Packers in an NFC North title game this Sunday.

There was no indication when Bell injured his Achilles or how severe the injury was other than it limited Detroit’s leading rusher Wednesday. Bell was present at the media portion of practice and Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi didn’t seem too concerned that Bell would miss this Sunday’s game.

“Boy, I don’t think so,” Lombardi said. “I think he’ll be all right.”

The 28-year-old Bell is having the best season of his career. He’s carried the ball a career-high 210 times for a career-high 800 yards. He’s scored seven rushing touchdowns. He also has caught 34 passes for 322 yards and one receiving touchdown.

If Bell were somehow unable to play, the Lions would rely more on veteran Reggie Bush and potentially a combination of Theo Riddick and George Winn to try and bolster the league’s No. 27 rushing offense.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Earlier this week, Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he felt there is sometimes a lack of appreciation for his quarterback, Matthew Stafford, both in the media and among the public.

Stafford
Stafford
The former No. 1 overall pick in 2009 is in his sixth year in the league and he’s made 76 starts through that time -- including every game over the past four seasons heading into the regular-season finale at Green Bay.

“I think there is a lack of appreciation for him around here, I think, at times,” Caldwell said. “Let me just tell you something, he's a man's man, he's a tough guy, he gets hit out there every single ball game, he hangs in there, and there may be one he'd like to have back but then there's a couple others that's probably not all his fault. I think when you look at the numbers and all that kind of stuff, we make assessments based on that, and that's it.

“He also did a lot of great things for us, I'll tell you what, he's progressing, I'm proud of the way that guy is playing, and I think also you're going to see him get better and better."

This season, Stafford’s yards have been down at 4,040 in 15 games. So, too, are his touchdowns -- 19 through 15 games. What has gone up, though, is his completion percentage of 61.1 percent and his passer rating of 85.4. Both are the highest they’ve been since 2011, the last time Detroit made the playoffs.

Statistically, though, he’s been pretty average compared to the rest of the NFL. He is ranked No. 18 in the NFL in QBR at 56.4, 23rd in completion percentage, 16th in touchdowns, tied for 17th in interceptions with 12 and 20th in passer rating at 85.4.

Stafford has gone through hot and cold stretches this season, although he has been far more consistent than he was last season, when he was very good in the first half of the year and very poor in the second half.

He doesn’t, though, care much about what other people think about him or why his coach would say he’s underappreciated in the media.

“I don’t know,” Stafford said. “I don’t pay attention to whether you guys give a rip about me or not.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Matthew Stafford won't have his center, Dominic Raiola, for the first time in his career Sunday when the Detroit Lions face the Green Bay Packers for the NFC North title.

Swanson
He isn't as concerned as he might have been a few years ago.

While the connection between Raiola and Stafford is important -- the two meet weekly to make sure they are on the same page heading into Sundays -- Stafford makes more calls at the line now than he did in prior seasons.

This lessens the potential strain on Stafford and the Detroit offense that might have been there in years past. Stafford also has confidence in backup Travis Swanson because he spent the majority of the season learning under Raiola, who Stafford called one of the best mental centers in the NFL.

He said one of the bigger adjustments might be in-game corrections that he and Raiola innately understood from over 5,000 snaps together, but he isn't worried about how Swanson will pick it up.

"Swanny and I wlll be fine," Stafford said. "I'm looking forward to watching him play."

For the Lions to win in Green Bay on Sunday -- something the Lions haven't done since Swanson, 23, was less than a year old -- they'll need him to play more like a veteran than the first-year player he is.

Stafford said he has worked with Swanson before and after practices before this week, when they'll work together a lot. There's also a level of comfort for Swanson. While this will be his first start in the NFL at center -- a spot he was expected to eventually take from Raiola anyway either in 2015 or 2016 -- he did play almost four full games, including three starts, at right guard replacing Larry Warford.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said while Swanson will be starting for the first time at center, he has used him a lot in that situation during practices.

"He's been in and out of there quite a bit," Caldwell said. "A starting role is different in that regard, but in terms of reps and opportunity, we're trying to certainly work him in that role for quite some time."

On Sunday, though, he'll end up having to actually play that role for the first time in the regular season.
» Pro Bowl analysis: AFC | NFC » Complete roster

SELECTIONS:

Glover Quin, S, first Pro Bowl selection: He ranted about changing the Pro Bowl voting earlier this season, and now Quin is a first-time Pro Bowler. He leads the NFL in interceptions with seven and has been one of the leaders of the Lions’ defense. He has intercepted passes in the past four games and is the first Detroit safety to be picked for the game since Bennie Blades in 1992.

Who he beat out: Harrison Smith, Minnesota; Antoine Bethea, San Francisco; James Ihedigbo, Detroit; Devin McCourty, New England.

Ndamukong Suh, DT, fourth Pro Bowl selection: One of the most dominant tackles in the game, Suh is the third-rated defensive tackle in the league according to Pro Football Focus and has 35 quarterback hurries according to PFF -- the most among defensive tackles in the league. He changes the way offenses scheme against Detroit.

Who he beat out: Johnathan Hankins, New York Giants; Sharrif Floyd, Minnesota; Terrance Knighton, Denver.

Calvin Johnson, WR, fifth Pro Bowl selection: He had another 1,000-yard season despite missing three games due to injury and being limited in two others. He hasn’t put up the numbers he typically does -- he has only 67 catches -- but he's considered one of the top receivers in the game and is a matchup nightmare.

Who he beat out: Golden Tate, Detroit; Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants; Emmanuel Sanders, Denver; Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia.

SNUBS:

Golden Tate, WR, no Pro Bowls: The NFL’s leader in yards after catch with 683, he also is fourth in the league in receptions (96) and seventh in yards (1,286). He also has been a more reliable target than Calvin Johnson this season and more durable, too. He has set career highs in receptions and yards.

Who he should have beaten out: Calvin Johnson, Detroit. Tate has more yards and catches than his teammate and has been more consistent. Johnson is one of the best receivers in the game, but Tate has had the better season.

DeAndre Levy, LB, no Pro Bowls: He leads the league in solo tackles with 109 and is third in the NFL in tackles with 140. He’s one of the best linebackers in coverage in the NFL and was a snub for the second straight season. He’s been one of the key cogs of the Detroit defense.

Who he should have beaten out: It’s tough to say because Levy is a 4-3 linebacker going up against 3-4 linebackers who compile gaudy statistics and almost play a different position than Levy as far as usage goes. If you were to expand it to linebackers overall, he probably should have beaten out rookie C.J. Mosley of Baltimore.

QB snapshot: Matthew Stafford

December, 23, 2014
Dec 23
1:00
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A quick observation of Matthew Stafford and how he played in the Detroit Lions' 20-14 win against the Chicago Bears in Week 16:

Stafford
Stafford
It was a somewhat rough day for Stafford. He threw two interceptions -- the first time he had been picked off since Week 12 and the first time he had multiple interceptions in a game since Week 7. He didn't throw a touchdown pass for the first time since Week 12, either, and was under 60 percent completions for only the second time in the second half of the season.

Both of his interceptions came in the red zone. Before Sunday, he had two red zone interceptions in his past 32 games combined.

It was only the ninth game in his regular-season career he threw a red zone interception, and his 11 and 12th red zone interceptions overall.

"Honestly, from my point of view, you can't have two turnovers," Stafford said Sunday. "First of all, I need to get [the ball] out of the back of the end zone. If I'm going to make the decision to put it there, I have to throw it all the way out.

"On the second one, it was an aggressive throw. [Ryan Mundy] made a nice play. I'll give him credit for it."

By QBR rating, though, Stafford had a fairly average day with a 56.2 overall rating, although his 53.7 passer rating was his second-worst performance of the season. A lot of the better QBR had to do with the pressure Stafford faced all day.

He was sacked four times by Chicago's defense and was hurried 11 times by the Bears.

Now Stafford faces Green Bay, a team he has a career QBR of 46.4 against. He has completed 201 of 340 passes for 2,377 yards, with 13 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions in the eight games he's faced the Packers.

The good news for Stafford is he has been better on the road against Green Bay than at home. At Lambeau Field, Stafford has not won, but he is 88-of-144 for 1,046 yards with seven touchdowns, three interceptions and a QBR of 68.2. His completion percentage of 61.1 at Green Bay is better than his career average (59.8 percent), and the Lions will need Stafford to be better than average if they want to win the NFC North on Sunday.
David Morian was a believer in June when he took a chance with art on his body. He heard his friends and family joking with him when he decided to get a tattoo with an unlikely proclamation on it.

Morian, 23, tattooed the Vince Lombardi Trophy and the Detroit Lions logo on the inside of his left calf during the "Dave and Chuck The Freak Morning Show" on Detroit radio station WRIF this summer. That's one thing. Here's where he went really bold -- on top of the trophy he had the words "Super Bowl" written in script.

[+] EnlargeLions Tat
101 WRIF/Greater Media Detroit Lions fan David Morian continues to hold out hope that Detroit can win the Super Bowl in 2015 -- just like it reads on the tattoo on his left calf.
At the bottom of the trophy, he had "2015 Champs" written in the same script lettering.

At the time, the Lions didn't appear to be true playoff contenders, let alone a Super Bowl team. And now? The Lions are headed to the playoffs.

"It's been an experience, I guess," Morian told ESPN.com earlier this week. "I was really hoping that this was how [the season] was going to turn out and really we're starting to make something right now.

"It's getting me excited."

Morian said he's occasionally been asked about the tattoo when he's gone out to local bars. Eventually, he said some of his work colleagues at Knight Global figured out he was the same David Morian who got the Lions tattoo on the radio, creating some funny conversations.

Overall, he said the reaction has been nothing major. He said his friends joked with him that the tattoo had something to do with Detroit coming from behind to win games throughout the season, but he laughed that off.

He does like what he's seen from the Lions when he watched games from his Grand Blanc, Michigan, home throughout the season. While he hasn't attended a game this season, he said he saved up enough money to go to a home playoff game should the Lions have one.

"Not a whole lot's changed," Morian said. "Still really optimistic about what's going to happen going into Sunday. Can't wait for that game.

"It's going to be a big one."

He's also picked up a few more superstitions since getting the tattoo, too. He said he doesn't wear his Calvin Johnson jersey anymore because the Lions seem to play better when he isn't wearing it. He also said he stays off social media during games because whatever he posts typically backfires.

He has no regrets getting the tattoo, though, because "it puts a smile on my face every time I see it."

He also maintained what he said when he initially got the tattoo, that he believed this season was going to be different for Detroit and so far, it has been.

"There was the same feeling you get every year as a Lions fan, but this year it was different," Morian said. "A lot of different pieces falling into place at the same time.

"It did feel different, like this actually could be a different kind of year for us."

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Dominic Raiola did this to himself.

That is the easiest way to explain why the longtime Detroit Lions center was suspended Monday for one of the biggest games of his 14-year career in Detroit -- a NFC North title game against the Green Bay Packers.

Raiola’s history as well as Sunday’s stomp on Ego Ferguson’s ankle led the NFL to make this move as the league cited his six safety-related violations since 2010 as part of the reason for the suspension. That he stomped on the ankle of the Chicago defensive lineman and then insisted afterward it was unintentional was just the last in a string of incidents.

Even though Raiola called it unintentional, the league clearly saw it differently, and barring a reversal on appeal at his hearing Tuesday, he will sit for the Lions on Sunday against the Packers. And he can’t blame anyone else for it.

Earlier this season, Raiola was caught taking a swing at the back of the head of New England defensive lineman Zach Moore -- drawing a fine of $10,000. He wasn’t fined for the initial play that caught people’s attention at first, which was a cut block on Moore when the Detroit Lions were kneeling for the game's final play.

Raiola was unapologetic then, and though he apologized to Ferguson and other Chicago players this time, it wasn’t enough for him to avoid a suspension.

Last season, he had to apologize and make a donation to the Wisconsin marching band after making inappropriate comments toward them during the Green Bay-Detroit game. He also used an obscene gesture and got into a verbal altercation with a fan in Miami in 2010 -- costing him $15,000 -- and was fined $7,500 in 2008 for making an inappropriate gesture to a Lions fan after the team dropped to 0-13.

So Raiola has acted this way from time-to-time for a long time, and it finally caught up to him at one of the worst times for the Detroit Lions, as they get ready for one of the biggest games in franchise history.

It also calls into question where the Lions sit with discipline right now. Lions coach Jim Caldwell has been fairly strong on disciplining his players so far this season, having suspended Brandon Pettigrew for a quarter against Tampa Bay for a violation of team rules and suspending Joique Bell for the first quarter of Sunday’s game against Chicago for a violation of team rules.

He also sent C.J. Mosley home from London and suspended him for two weeks for a violation of team rules.

Those were off-field issues, though, and they are something Caldwell talks about with his team constantly.

"Every week," Caldwell said. "It’s kind of where the high cost for low living comes in, so you cover the gamut and you’ve got to keep it before them."

Now, Caldwell can use Raiola’s actions as another teaching point -- to play cleaner on the field. This was even an issue for Detroit on Sunday beyond Raiola’s stomp. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah was flagged for unnecessary roughness when he made contact with the head of Chicago quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Clausen was found to have a concussion after the game, likely stemming from Ansah’s illegal hit, and already has been ruled out for the Bears' finale against Minnesota.

Typically, there is not much of a reason to make a big deal about penalties, especially considering Seattle, New England and Denver have all committed more infractions than the Lions this season. But Caldwell has made a point of saying any more than three penalties a game is too much.

That’s a mark Detroit has yet to hit this season. Now, after the most experienced player in the locker room is missing perhaps the biggest game of his career because of on-field shenanigans, Caldwell can use it to bring home his point even more.

Play clean on the field. Do things right off of it. Otherwise, there will be consequences, as the Detroit Lions have continued to find out throughout the season.

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