Lions focus on struggles in late-down situations

Detroit News

Allen Park — Third and fourth downs have been a problem for the Detroit Lions offense. Through four games, the team is converting on just 32.7% of their late-down opportunities. Only the Seattle Seahawks (32.5%) and Chicago Bears have been worse (26.9%).

Correcting those shortcomings — particularly after going 5-for-14 against the Bears on Sunday, and leaving plenty of points on the board in the 24-14 loss — is going to be a focus going forward for the Lions.

Coach Dan Campbell explained how the team was placing an emphasis on those situations, starting with Wednesday’s practice.

“Look, we’ve done a little bit of third-down work against each other on Thursdays, up to this point,” Campbell said. “We’re going to start doing it every day. Whether it’s one or two plays at the end of each (practice) segment, offense versus defense, good versus good, we’re going to do it. We’ll start there.”

Larger role for Jacobs

Following Bobby Price‘s struggles the past two weeks, the Lions benched the young cornerback in the second half against the Bears in favor of undrafted rookie Jerry Jacobs.

And while it was just 18 snaps, Campbell liked what he saw from the rookie, noting he’s on the cusp of earning a bigger role.

“I thought he did a good job,” Campbell said. “I thought he stepped in and thought he did his job, thought he played hard, and so I think he deserves a shot. But I also think Bobby still gets his shot to help us as a team. But yeah, I thought Jerry stepped in and did some good things.”

Detroit is still navigating the loss of top cornerback Jeff Okudah, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the season opener. And top backup, third-round draft pick Ifeatu Melifonwu, landed on injured reserve a week later with a thigh injury.

Price, who converted from safety in the late stages of training camp, has understandably struggled with his prematurely increased workload. In the loss to Chicago, he surrendered five receptions on six targets for 149 yards in just 13 coverage snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

Jacobs was not targeted in seven coverage snaps after replacing Price.

Goff’s perfect night

Lions quarterback Jared Goff has started 73 games in his career, but finished with a perfect 158.3 passer rating in just one, a 38-31 victory over this week’s opponent, the Minnesota Vikings, in a 2018 primetime television matchup.

“Obviously a completely different team,” Goff said when asked if there was anything he could carry over from his success that night. “There are probably still a few guys there, (safety) Harrison (Smith), (linebacker) Eric (Kendricks) and (linebacker Anthony) Barr, maybe a couple of guys on the D-line. It’s a completely different team and I’m sure they’re doing a lot of different stuff defensively now than they were then.

“But yeah, it was a good night for me and a lot of fun, no doubt,” Goff said. “It was one of those nights where you just kind of can’t miss. Yeah, it was a fun one.”

Goff completed 26 of his 33 passes in that victory for 465 yards and a career-high five touchdowns.

Injury updates

Not only were the Lions down offensive tackle Penei Sewell for Wednesday’s practice, but the team was also without Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson, who is dealing with a knee injury.

Hockenson leads the Lions with 215 receiving yards through four games and is tied for team lead with two touchdown catches.

In addition to the two former first-round picks being held out, defensive tackle Michael Brockers (shoulder), running backs D’Andre Swift (groin) and Jamaal Williams (hip) and outside linebacker Trey Flowers (knee) were limited.

It was Flowers’ first practice in three weeks, but he appeared to be struggling to move around after the session, limping off the field with his right knee in a brace and his lower leg heavily taped.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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