Lions lose Hilliard in Monday Night Game

Opening Monday Night Football is always a great thing.  Opening with a  victory is even sweeter. But for the Detroit Lions, that sweetness has a tinge of sour after learning that OL Corey Hilliard will be out for probably the rest of the year after suffering a Lisfranc injury along with torn ligaments in his foot.  The team also place CB Bill Bentley on IR after he suffered a torn ACL.

The Lions embarassed the New York Giants Monday night 14-35 and next face the Carolina Panthers on the road.  Great seats and cheap tickets are still available so be sure to get yours now and support your Detroit Lions!


Mike O’Hara: Matthew Stafford’s first 16 games are Peyton-like

Mike O’Hara: NFL Monday countdown

Digging into their history books for comparisons suddenly has become a joy for the Lions instead of an exercise in self-inflicted torture.

Winning streaks and comebacks are replacing losing skids and blown leads.

It’s like walking through a haunted house and finding the ghosts and monsters have been replaced by genies granting unlimited wishes.

The Lions’ 3-0 start to this season, highlighted by Sunday’s 26-23 overtime victory at Minnesota, is fuel for a trek back in time.

Nowhere are the comparisons more valid — and more revealing — than at quarterback, where Matthew Stafford is displaying his elite talent and the psyche and makeup that separate the people who play quarterback from the ones who really are quarterbacks.

There’s a difference, and Stafford is proving he’s the real thing. He is a quarterback, not just playing the role.

This week’s Monday Countdown starts with the standard held out for Stafford when the Lions drafted him first overall in 2009. Peyton Manning, drafted first overall by the Colts in 1998, was considered the model for a rookie in his first 16 games.

There also is a look at how the Lions compare to some other Lions teams that had fast starts — notably the 1980 team — the impression they are making nationally, a dilemma facing coach Jim Schwartz with his offensive line, and the best and worst of the NFL.

Before the Stafford-Manning comparisons, we start with a comment on the Lions made Sunday by former Pro Bowl safety and Fox Network analyst John Lynch:

1. Lynch on the Lions: “I’m a believer,” he said. “The reason why you turn on the film, they do things good teams do.

“They dominate the defensive line. This is the best defensive line in football . . . They’re fun to watch.”

And that was before the game — not after the Lions had won in overtime, when Lynch’s view understandably could have been influenced by the comeback from a 20-0 deficit at halftime.

2. Stafford vs. Manning, first 16 starts: Stafford’s first 16 games vs. Manning’s first 16 isn’t a perfect comparison because of the time frame. Manning started all 16 games as a rookie. Because of injuries, Stafford didn’t start his 16th game until the third game of his third season.

Stafford matches up favorably. He also had three training camps to prepare while Manning had only one.

But the stats are what they are, as follows:

Manning — 56.7 completion rate, 3,739 yards and 6.5 yards per attempt, 26 TDs, 28 interceptions and a 71.2 passer rating. The Colts’ record was 3-13.

Stafford — 57.0 completion rate, 3,779 yards and 6.4 yards per attempt, 28 TDs, 23 interceptions and a 75.8 passer rating. The Lions’ record with Stafford as the starter is 6-10.

3. Stafford vs. Manning, first three games, third season:

Manning — 67.2 percent completion rate for 1,080 yards and 9.3 yards per attempt, 8 TDs, 3 interceptions, 109.1 passer rating and a 2-1 record.

Stafford – 66.9 percent completion rate for 977 yards and 8.3 yards per attempt, 9 TDs, 2 interceptions, 110.7 rating and a 3-0 record.

4. Manning’s 16-game third season totals: 33 TD passes, 15 interceptions, 10-6 record and a second straight playoff berth, as a wild card. The Colts won a division title in 1999 with as 13-3 record.

5. Stafford’s third-season projection: At his current rate Stafford will throw 48 TD passes, third-most in NFL history behind Tom Brady (50 in 2007) and Manning (49 in 2005).

Don’t expect that to happen, and it doesn’t matter.

The bottom-line standard for this season has to be winning, not Stafford’s passing totals, and that is the biggest reflection on how expectations have changed for the Lions. They are expected to win, which is a good problem.

6. 1980 Lions vs. 2011: The only comparison is in the records. In 1980 the Lions were 4-0 and 6-3, and players were singing their theme song “Another One Bites the Dust.” They faded to 9-7 and were getting mocked by opponents, who sang “Another One Beats their Butts.”

The biggest difference between the two teams is on offense. Billy Sims was a superstar running back as a rookie, but except for him and Dexter Bussey — who switched from tailback to fullback — there wasn’t a single player at the skilled positions on the 1980 team who could start for this year’s team.

7. Lions QB comparison, 1980 vs. 2011: Compare players from different eras is hard, but how they compared to their peers in a given years is valid.

Stafford rates eons ahead of Gary Danielson, the Lions’ starter in 1980.

Danielson had 13 TD passes against 11 interceptions, which put him well below the leaders in most categories.

Stave Bartkowski of Atlanta led the league with 31 TD passes. Dan Fouts of San Diego, Brian Sipe of Cleveland and Vince Ferragamo of the Los Angeles Rams tied for second with 30. Danielson was 11th in completion rate (58.5 percent compared to 64.5 for league-leader Joe Montana, in his second season with the 49ers), but Danielson was a solid seventh in passer rating (82.4, with Sipe No. 1 at 91.4).

8. Danielson vs. Manning: Danielson’s 1980 rating was one notch ahead of a Manning. Archie Manning, father of Peyton and Eli of the Giants, ranked eighth with a passer rating of 81.8.

9. Schwartz’s dilemma: It will be interesting to see how his offensive line unfolds, particularly at tackle.

After Game 1, right tackle Gosder Cherilus was benched as a starter and replaced by Corey Hilliard for taking a bad penalty late in the victory over the Bucs. Cherilus was reinstated Sunday but benched again after giving up a sack.

On the left side, Jeff Backus had probably the worst game of his career. He was beaten cleanly by Jared Allen for two sacks and penalized three times — two false starts late in regulation time, and a holding call early that was declined because Allen beat him for a sack on the play.

One issue for Schwartz is consistency in demoting players.

But the other is finding an alternative. And three games into the season, no team in the NFL can find better replacements for two starting tackles.

10. Backus injury: He has never missed a game — making 163 straight starts — for a reason. He’s tough and dependable. However, Backus missed most of this year’s training camp because of a torn left pectoral muscle sustained in an offseason workout.

On Allen’s two sacks, he beat Backus on the outside to his left — where Backus would punch with his left arm to force the pass-rusher to go wide. It’s fair to question whether Backus has regained the strength necessary to handle a top pass-rusher with speed.

In the next two games, he’ll go against the Cowboys’ DeMarcus Ware and the Bears’ Julius Peppers.

NFL’s best

1. Packers (3-0): Will they be unbeaten when they play the Lions on Thanksgiving Day?

2. Bills (3-0): Beating the Patriots counts for a lot.

3. Lions (3-0): The payoff is winning.

4. Raiders (2-1): Great runner (Darren McFadden), tough defense.

5. Patriots (2-1): Their defense is scary bad.

6. Saints (2-1): Drew Brees led a big win over a decent Houston team.

7. Ravens (2-1): Bounced back by hammering the Rams, as expected.

8. Redskins (2-0): I’m expecting a Monday night loss at Dallas.

9. Steelers (2-1): Winning by three at Indy isn’t impressive.

10. Chargers (2-1): Winning by three over KC at home is almost a loss.

11. Jets (2-1): Rex Ryan left his defense at home, but his mouth made the trip to Oakland.

12. Tampa Bay (2-1): They made the Falcons stumble again.

13. Giants (2-1): Winning at Philly is always hard.

NFL’s worst

28. Vikings (0-3): But they’re 3-0 in the first half. Who cares?

29. Rams (0-3): They have a young QB in Sam Bradford but not much else.

30. Colts (0-3): At least they gave Pittsburgh a battle.

31. Dolphins (0-3): Tony Sparano will be the first coach fired, and soon.

32. Chiefs (0-3): Home next week to face the Vikings in the Draft Bowl.

Lions rookie Nick Fairley says injury is no setback

Chris McCosky/ The Detroit News

Allen Park— Rookies, even those drafted 13th overall, can ill-afford any setbacks in this condensed, post-lockout training camp.

Thus, there was a high level of concern throughout the organization when defensive tackle Nick Fairley’s sore left foot was in a walking boot Tuesday, the first day the Lions were full pads.

“It’s not a (setback) at all,” said Fairley, as he walked past reporters after practice. “I am doing what I can to get back as soon as I can.”

The fact that neither he nor coach Jim Schwartz could accurately say when he might be back, or what the full extent of the injury was, heightens the concern.

Schwartz said Monday, after Fairley injured the foot on a special-teams drill, preliminary X-rays were negative. Yet on Tuesday, the Lions medical staff was examining the foot for a possible stress fracture or other complications.

“We are still doing some tests,” Schwartz said. “We are having a lot of different people look at it. He’s down for now.”

When asked if he’d term it a long-term or short-term injury, Schwartz said, “I really can’t say right now.”

Fairley, like the other rookies, already was working from behind because all the offseason team work was canceled by the lockout. He didn’t have the benefit of a rookie orientation, rookie minicamp or team OTAs.

“Rookies have a lot on their plate,” Schwartz said on the eve of training camp. “Usually they are here on May 17 or before that. They have a rookie orientation, they get to mix in with the vets and work out at the facility. They are learning the system and going through OTAs and minicamps and by the time they get to training camp they are familiar with the system and we know they are in shape. They know their teammates and they know their way around. They have all that stuff under their belt and they can go out to training camp and compete for spots and playing time.

“What happens now is, they have to learn the system while all of that other stuff is going on. They are starting from zero. It’s a lot to manage.”

Even before the foot injury, Fairley was not expected to come in and start or make an immediate impact like Ndamukong Suh did last season. He was working in as the fourth or fifth defensive tackle behind Suh, Corey Williams, Sammie Hill and Andre Fluellen.

So, though the injury is a concern, it’s far from a deflating blow to the team’s optimism.

“He can pick up some things from watching on the sidelines,” Williams said. “He can watch the technique of some of the vets. There’s some stuff he can do while he’s out, but it’s no replacement for actually being out there doing it.”

Dealing with injuries is an inevitability of any training camp, but without the offseason work, teams are forced to make tough decisions on when they can bring players back. Case in point: starting right tackle Gosder Cherilus, coming off microfracture knee surgery, hasn’t practiced the last two days. He’s dealing with soreness and the coaches aren’t quite sure how much to push him.

“We would have liked to see him bounce back,” Schwartz said. “Guys coming off knee surgery, you know it’s going to get sore but you want to get past it. You don’t want to put them out there when it’s still sore but you want to push them through.

“In the past, we’d push them through (the soreness) in OTAs and figure out the best way to handle it then.”

Now, precious work days are being lost while they try to work Cherilus through the soreness.

In other injury news, running back Maurice Morris left practice Tuesday because of a sore left hand. The results of X-rays were not available after practice.

Linebacker Zack Follett (neck) had a scheduled day off. Cornerback Jack Williams (knee) and rookie linebacker Cobrani Mixon (unspecified) also missed practice.

Rookie receiver Titus Young (leg) and starting left tackle Jeff Backus (pectoral muscle) are on the non-football injury list.

With Backus and Cherilus out, Schwartz has had to be creative with his line drills. Second-year tackle Jason Fox has taken some reps at guard. Veteran guard Donald Thomas has worked some at tackle. And rookie Johnny Culbreath has gotten way more work than would be normal for a seventh-round pick.

“It’s not experimental, it’s by necessity,” Schwartz said. “With Backus and Gos out, and with (tackle) Corey Hilliard, (guard-center) Dylan Gandy and (Tony Ugoh) still unable to practice (signed free agents), it’s forced guys to do double duty and cross train at other positions. We are getting a good look at some of these guys.”

Camp update

Lions training camp practices today (9:15 a.m.) and Thursday (4:15 p.m.) are open to the public. Gates open a half-hour prior to the start time; access is on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Receiver Calvin Johnson committed to Lions

Chris McCosky / The Detroit News

Allen Park— Of course Calvin Johnson is frustrated.

He’s in his fourth season with the Lions, having a Pro Bowl-level year, and yet his team has won four games the last three seasons.


How could Johnson notbe frustrated?But, as he said Friday, he’s not making any threats or ultimatums, and he’s certainly not throwing in the towel. He just wants to win.

“All I meant was, everybody’s frustrated,” Johnson said, explaining comments he made on a local radio show Thursday. “We’ve been losing. … I’ve been here four years and haven’t had a winning season. For the most part, it’s just a lot of frustration. Everybody in here wants to win.

“We’re working toward it. There’s been a lot of progress and we’re getting closer.”

Johnson can be a free agent in two years, and he was asked during the interview if he’d consider leaving if things didn’t improve.

“Put it this way, if we turn this into a winner, I’m happy,” Johnson said. “Losing definitely (is a bummer) and you definitely don’t want to be around losing.”

When told Friday it sounded like he was issuing a challenge to the Lions, Johnson said, “I don’t know what it sounded like. The bottom line is winning.”

Coach Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan were far from taken aback by Johnson’s comments. They supported them.

“What I get from it is he’s a winner and he’s frustrated with not winning,” Linehan said. “There’s not anybody around here that doesn’t agree with him. It’s lousy and we want to be able to step up and turn this thing around.”

Said Schwartz: “We need to worry about Sunday and the last four games of this season. We don’t need to be worrying about what’s going to happen two years from now. You know, we worry about a lot of things with this team; Calvin Johnson isn’t one of them. He’s having an outstanding year, he’s a productive player and he’s a huge part of what we’re doing, not only in the game plan but also in terms of what we want to do as an organization.

“The only quote I saw was, ‘I want to win.’ And that’s everybody here.”

Johnson isn’t griping about not getting the ball.

He understands the team is on its third quarterback.

He understands he draws double coverage every week.

And, he’s still producing.

He has 62 catches (12th in the league) for 873 yards (ninth) and 12 touchdowns (second).

“The thing I’m most frustrated with Calvin is, I don’t know why he’s not leading for the Pro Bowl,” Linehan said. “What he’s been able to do with us having to adjust to playing our second quarterback and then our third quarterback, and to still be near the top in just about every statistical category is amazing to me.”

Linehan was asked if Johnson has ever complained to him about his role.

“No, never,” Linehan said. “He never complains. All Calvin does is work hard and give 100 percent every day. Calvin is a model for what you’re trying to get from a teammate and a player you want to coach.”

On two different occasions, Johnson said he had no issues with the progress the team was making or the direction it was headed in.

“There’s been a lot of progress,” he said. “There is a whole new squad in here. We’ve been close in so many games. I don’t see guys giving up. Everybody’s still fighting. That’s a positive. There are a lot of good things going on here we just haven’t turned into wins yet.”

Linehan probably summed the whole thing up best.

“You can get into discussions about what you are frustrated about, but the bottom line is, start winning some games and we won’t be talking about some of the things we’re talking about now,” he said.

Extra points

The Lions placed receiver Derrick Williams on season-ending injured reserve Friday.

Williams (high right ankle sprain) recently moved past Bryant Johnson as the team’s No. 3 receiver.

The Lions signed veteran receiver Brian Clark to replace Williams on the roster.

… Starting right tackle Gosder Cherilus (knee) missed his second straight practice Friday and is doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Packers.

Corey Hilliard will replace Cherilus.

Packers at Lions

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit

TV/radio: Fox/WXYT

Records: Packers 8-4, Lions 2-10

Series: Packers lead 89-64-7 (Packers 28-26 on Oct. 3)

Line: Packers by 61/2

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