Scouting report: Detroit Lions at New England Patriots

Detroit News

Lions (1-3) at Patriots (1-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts

TV/radio: FOX/97.1 FM

Records: Lions 1-3, Patriots 1-3

Line: Patriots by 1

Nolan Bianchi of The Detroit News breaks down the Lions’ Week 5 matchup against the New England Patriots.

Key matchup


It’s still unclear if Lions running back D’Andre Swift will be able to go this weekend, but the Lions have to find a way to keep their defense off the field. Averaging 35 points per game hasn’t been enough to do the trick, but maybe extending some drives will.

Jamaal Williams was marvelous filling in for Swift this past Sunday (19 carries, 108 yards, two touchdowns) and Detroit has proved that it can run on anybody, with anybody. Not to mention, New England has the league’s 26th-ranked run defense and is allowing 135.8 rushing yards per game. Jonah Jackson looks like he’s picking up potential to return this weekend, which would only make Detroit’s offense — particularly on the ground — even more dangerous.

The Lions would find it useful to lean on that aspect of their offense this weekend, so long as it’s sustaining drives, to keep the game from turning into a shootout, once again letting the game slip away because of defense.

Patriots to watch

RB Damien Harris: The Lions’ run defense ranks 30th in the league, and even though it’s likely New England will be without its starting quarterback on Sunday, Detroit’s defense is not out of the woods yet. The Patriots have a two-headed monster at running back, but Harris leads Rhamondre Stevenson in carries (53), yards (246) and touchdowns (three). The Lions have badly struggled to contain No. 1 ballcarriers in every game besides Washington, making Harris an easy guy to circle heading into this weekend.

CBs Jack and Jonathan Jones: We got a two-fer here, and while New England cornerbacks Jack and Jonathan Jones are not related, folks, they have been making quarterbacks say “Oh, brother.” Jonathan has three passes defensed with an interception on the year. Jack, a rookie who got the first start of his career last Sunday — and Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked corner — had a pick-6, forced fumble and fumble recovery last week at Green Bay. The Lions’ offense hasn’t had trouble beating defenses this season, but Jared Goff has thrown a backbreaking interception — which would ultimately make the difference — in two of the first three losses so far.

LB Matthew Judon: A Pontiac native and West Bloomfield High School alum, Judon has come off of a career year in 2021 by collecting four sacks through his first four games. The Lions’ offense can use every point that it gets these days, and if their game at New England is anything like the first four games this year, Judon (Grand Valley State) getting to Goff for a third-down sack (for example), or pressuring him into an interception, feels like it has potential to be the difference this week.

Facts and figures

▶ With Jamaal Williams’ 51-yard touchdown run against the Seahawks last Sunday, the Lions now have four rushes of 50-plus yards this season, which ranks No. 1 in the NFL. There are eight teams tied for second place; they each have one.

▶ The Patriots will look a little different when Detroit visits this weekend, as they’ll break out their famed Pat the Patriot look out of retirement. New England is 9-3 all-time in the red-jersey, white-helmet combo, including a 45-24 win over the Lions on Thanksgiving 2010.

▶ Does this Lions’ defense give you a familiar feeling? That’s because you’ve seen this type of futility before, and not all that long ago: The Lions in 2020 allowed 32.4 points per game — the second-most by any team in NFL history — and this year are allowing 35.3, which has them on pace to allow more points than any team in the history of the NFL by a significant margin; the 1981 Baltimore Colts hold the record with 33.3.

Twitter: @nolanbianchi

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