DETROIT: Mistakes and all, Lions unbeaten after beating Chargers
ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Matt Patricia came to Detroit with a defensive background, so it will be no surprise if the Lions keep playing tight, low-scoring games.
Turnovers can be particularly harmful in matchups like that, but Detroit got away with those mistakes in a win over the Chargers.
Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions — and Matt Prater missed a field goal and an extra point — but the Lions overcame all that to beat Los Angeles 13-10 on Sunday. The Chargers matched Detroit's two turnovers and had kicking problems of their own, so the Lions now have a win and a tie to their credit after playing two games that could have easily gone either way.
"Any time you win, you try to use it as a step forward," said Patricia, in his second season as Detroit's coach after a successful run as New England's defensive coordinator. "But I think they're only step forwards if you really learn from the mistakes that you made within those games. I think if you mask any of that or try to just move past it or think that those mistakes aren't going to happen again just because you won — I think it's important for us to get it fixed and corrected."
Detroit (1-0-1) allowed 424 yards of offense against Los Angeles, but aside from the latter half of the fourth quarter in Week 1 against Arizona, the Lions have done a good job keeping teams off the scoreboard. That blueprint to keep teams out of the end zone and avoid mistakes on offense could serve Detroit well, especially after the team added defensive linemen Trey Flowers and Mike Daniels in the offseason.
But the Lions didn't do a good job avoiding miscues Sunday. Stafford had gone five straight games without an interception, but he was picked off twice on ill-advised deep throws. Prater's misses could have been costly, too, on a rare afternoon of shakiness from a kicker who has been terrific for Detroit.
The Lions were fortunate that Los Angeles wasted opportunities of its own, especially on a third-quarter drive when the Chargers had two touchdowns called back for penalties and eventually lost a fumble near the goal line.
One encouraging moment for the Lions came on the final drive, when Detroit was able to run out the clock after Stafford threw to Jesse James to convert third-and-6. The previous weekend, the Lions appeared poised to ice a victory in similar fashion at Arizona, but a timeout from the sideline halted a third-down play late in the fourth quarter.
"It's a building block for us mentally as a team, just where we are as a team, emotionally and everything," offensive lineman Frank Ragnow said. "Just being able to say, 'Hey we did it. We finished a game and we were able to come through at the end.'"
Stafford's receiving targets have already had some nice moments this season. Rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson had a good debut against the Cardinals, and receiver Kenny Golladay had eight catches for 117 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers. Golladay made a tough catch over the middle on the 31-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that put the Lions ahead.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Detroit's running game has looked ordinary. Kerryon Johnson had only 41 yards on 12 carries Sunday, his second straight game under 50 yards rushing. Johnson did score on a 36-yard catch and run in the first quarter.
Rookie linebacker Jahlani Tavai, a second-round draft pick, forced the key fumble at the goal line and was the Lions' second-leading tackler.
Punt returner Jamal Agnew, who muffed a punt in the opener, was relieved of that duty against the Chargers. Danny Amendola took over punt returns in the second quarter. Patricia said he believes in Agnew but needed to make a decision in the moment.
Offensive lineman Taylor Decker (back) and linebacker Jarrad Davis (ankle) — Detroit's first-round picks in 2016 and 2017 — were inactive Sunday.
3 — The number of tackles through two games for Flowers, the big offseason acquisition. Detroit didn't allow many points against the Chargers, but there's still room for that defensive front to improve.
The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Lions, who face the Eagles and Chiefs in their next two games. The game this weekend is at Philadelphia.
-- By Noah Trister, AP
CHICAGO: Despite win, Bears have room to improve to make deep run
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — It was ugly. It was gut wrenching. And it was, ultimately, a win for Chicago.
A 16-14 victory at Denver on Sunday has the Bears breathing a little easier, and they can thank their dominant defense and kicker, of all people, for that.
"What we saw yesterday was a team that was very resilient," coach Matt Nagy said on Monday.
The Bears came into the season with soaring expectations after winning the NFC North in Nagy's first year and making the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
The defense so far has looked good, containing Aaron Rodgers and the rival Green Bay Packers in a 10-3 loss at Soldier Field to open the NFL's 100th season, and delivering another solid effort against Denver. New kicker Eddy Pineiro came through on Sunday, booting the winner on the final play.
But if the Bears are going to make a deep playoff run, they need more from an offense that has struggled through two games. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is having a difficult time, and that has to turn around.
The Bears at least avoided an 0-2 hole that would have cast a cloud over a team with soaring expectations.
The defense continues to rank among the league's best under new coordinator Chuck Pagano after Vic Fangio left to take the head coaching job in Denver.
The Monsters of the Midway ranked fourth overall through Sunday, and were two off the NFL lead with seven sacks.
The Bears turned in a solid effort against Denver after holding Green Bay in check. Yes, the Bears gave up 372 yards and 27 first downs to the Broncos, and they appeared to lose steam down the stretch on a hot day in the high altitude. But they gave up just one touchdown.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Bears expect to make a big jump on offense in their second season under Nagy. So far, it's not happening.
Chicago ranked 30th on offense through Sunday and has just one touchdown through two games — a 1-yard run by rookie David Montgomery in the third quarter against the Broncos.
"We know we need to be better," Nagy said. "As the season goes on, we really feel like — and we have an amount of trust in ourselves — that we as coaches and we as an offense will get going here. We feel really good that when we do get this thing going, it's going to be a lot of fun."
The Bears can maybe breathe a little easier when they send out their kicker.
Pineiro made all three attempts against the Broncos, including a 53-yarder to end the game. He also connected from 40 and 52 yards, after Nagy opted in the opener to try for a first down on fourth-and-10 rather than attempt a 51-yard field goal.
Chicago ultimately went with Pineiro — 4 for 4 on the season — after bringing in a long line of kickers in the offseason to replace the embattled Cody Parkey.
The Bears began the season looking for bigger things from quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in his third year in the league and second in Nagy's system. But he was erratic against Green Bay and no better against Denver, throwing for 120 yards on 16-of-27 passing. To be fair, he has faced two tough defenses. And facing Von Miller and Bradley Chubb was not going to be an easy task, particularly with Fangio now scheming against Chicago.
Nagy said the Bears were still determining the extent of the hand injury that knocked defensive tackle Bilal Nichols out of the game. He does not expect Nichols to go on injured reserve.
29 — The Bears ran 29 times for 153 yards against Denver, compared to 15 carries for 46 yards against Green Bay.
Trubisky and the offense will try to get in gear when the Bears visit the Washington Redskins on Monday night.
-- By Andrew Seligman, AP
GREEN BAY: Aaron Jones does 'unbelievable job' in win over Vikings
GREEN BAY, Wis. — What Aaron Jones did on Sunday is exactly what coach Matt LaFleur envisioned for the running game when he took over the reins of the Packers in January.
Jones had 116 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 23 carries in Green Bay's 21-16 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
"He did an unbelievable job," LaFleur said Monday of the third-year running back. "Matter of fact, he was our player of the game on offense. He did a great job. But I thought it really started up front, too. I thought our offensive line did a really nice job blocking for him."
After totaling just 39 yards rushing at Chicago in the season opener, Jones eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground for the fourth time in his career and the first time since Week 10 of last season.
While the spotlight will be on LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers this season, LaFleur has maintained that in order for the offense to be as efficient and effective as he wants, the run game has to be established early and often.
Jones also had four catches for 34 yards, including a 15-yard gain on a grab with the Green Bay offense backed up to its end zone.
"Wins aren't pretty in the NFL, but as long as you get that W in the win column, that's all that matters," Jones said.
The secret is out: The Packers have a really good defense.
The defense, for the second straight week, carried the team to victory. Coordinator Mike Pettine's group forced four turnovers on Sunday and now has the NFL's No. 2 scoring defense, behind only the Patriots. Green Bay has allowed 19 points through the first two games, its fewest through the first two weeks since 2001.
"Shoot, I mean, it feels good," second-year cornerback Jaire Alexander said. "You got everybody bringing that swag, everybody bringing that juice and we see the results. Sacks, hurries and interceptions."
WHAT'S NOT WORKING
The offense (kind of). After scoring touchdowns on each of their first three possessions Sunday, the Packers failed to get points on their next 11 drives. The offense continued to look out of sync despite doing enough to keep Green Bay unbeaten.
"We haven't done as well as we'd like to on the offensive side of the ball, but I still have a lot of confidence in the players that we have out there," LaFleur said.
Jones said before the season that he felt "slept on." Well, not anymore. After his performance Sunday, and a coach in LaFleur who is bound and determined to get Jones and the running game going, the 2017 fifth-round pick is primed to be the Packers' first 1,000-yard rusher since Eddie Lacy in 2014.
Left guard Lane Taylor's snap numbers suggest the seventh-year veteran is losing his grip on the starting job. Green Bay drafted guard Elgton Jenkins in the second round in April and the rookie impressed throughout the summer. Jenkins stole some of Taylor's snaps on Sunday, and LaFleur said it's a "fluid competition" between the two.
Safety Raven Greene (ankle) was placed on injured reserve on Monday. Greene was carted off the field on Sunday following the first play of the second half.
343 — Sunday marked the 343rd consecutive regular-season sellout at Lambeau Field.
Green Bay will host the Broncos on Sunday. The Packers are 6-7-1 against Denver, which is 0-2 following a loss to the Raiders in their season opener and a last-second defeat against Chicago in Week 2.
-- By Keith Jenkins, AP
MINNESOTA: Cousins, Vikes lament mistakes, opportunities lost vs. Pack
EAGAN, Minn. — Near the end of an already flawed performance, Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings were in prime position to pull ahead of the Green Bay Packers and make all the cringe-worthy plays that came before moot.
Then Cousins made the mistake of all mistakes, a rookie-like decision to throw off balance toward Stefon Diggs in a crowd after rolling out on first-and-goal and facing pressure by the Packers. Kevin King made the leaping interception in the corner of the end zone, and the Vikings wound up with a most agonizing defeat after a game that was well within their grasp to win.
"It was just a gut-wrenching loss," Cousins said. "Proud of the way my teammates kept fighting, but very disappointed in my performance."
The pass was supposed to be beyond the reach of everyone except Diggs. There wasn't quite enough zip on it to keep it in the safe zone.
"Kind of an ours or nobody's thing, but it wasn't nobody's," Cousins said.
In his 75th regular-season start, Cousins posted his second-worst completion rate (43.8 percent) as a pro after connecting on only 14 of 32 passes against a spruced-up Packers defense. Two of them were picked off. He lost one of two fumbles that came on consecutive plays in the first quarter. There were also a handful of uncharacteristic overthrows by a ninth-year quarterback who was second in the league last season in completion rate (70.1 percent).
"He's got all the talent, and we just need to continue to coach him the way we want him to play," coach Mike Zimmer said after the 21-16 defeat.
The first interception was thrown into traffic, too, when Darnell Savage arrived at the ball as the same time as Diggs. Outside linebacker Preston Smith had dropped back in zone coverage and snagged the deflection. Perplexingly, that turnover immediately followed one of several smart throwaways Cousins did make on Sunday when he saw no openings.
"I just didn't feel like I did my part," Cousins said.
Here's a snapshot of the Vikings after two weeks:
The direction of offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski with significant input from offensive adviser Gary Kubiak has so far yielded superb results for the running attack behind the new zone blocking scheme. Dalvin Cook leads the NFL with 265 rushing yards.
Not only has Cook displayed the power, vision and explosiveness the Vikings lacked in the 19 games he's missed to injury over his first two years, but Stefanski has stayed committed to the run, even after falling behind 21-0 to the Packers. That was the main reason Zimmer fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo last season.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Vikings have been a disciplined team in six years under Zimmer, but over their first two games they've compiled a league-high 200 penalty yards on 19 accepted infractions. Diggs had a touchdown negated by pass interference on Cook that was discovered during the mandatory replay review of all scores, forcing the Vikings to settle for a field goal, and Zimmer bluntly said on Monday he believes that was "a bad call."
He was less forgiving about the rest of the penalties, though, including unsportsmanlike conduct on Diggs for removing his helmet during the celebration of his third-quarter touchdown catch. That pushed the extra-point attempt back to 48 yards, and Dan Bailey, who earlier missed a 47-yard field goal, had his kick blocked.
"They've got to start playing within the rules," Zimmer said, "and they know the rules."
The defense stiffened up after a rough start and had Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of rhythm for the last three quarters. Everson Griffen was credited with three hits on Rodgers and applied persistent pressure opposite All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari.
"Bakhtiari's one of the best, and Everson's also one of the best," safety Harrison Smith said. "He plays with a lot of energy and passion and violence."
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was mostly assigned to two-time Pro Bowl pick Davante Adams, who had four receptions for 81 yards on four targets in the first quarter alone to help the Packers build their three-touchdown lead. Rhodes also had a 25-yard pass interference penalty.
Cornerback Mackensie Alexander (elbow) was missed. Rodgers went after rookie Nate Meadors for his second touchdown pass, when Meadors was in slot coverage on Geronimo Allison on second-and-goal from the 12 late in the first quarter. Backup safety Jayron Kearse again saw frequent action in the nickel role.
The other significant absence was left guard Pat Elflein (knee), who was replaced in the lineup by Dakota Dozier. Interior pass protection has been an issue for the Vikings since last year, and the fumble Cousins lost was caused in part by heavy pressure by Packers nose tackle Kenny Clark over Dozier and Bradbury.
165 — Total yards for the Packers over the final 44:16 of game time, a period over which the Vikings outscored them 16-0.
Minimizing penalties and a return to accuracy for Cousins will be top priorities when the Vikings host the Oakland Raiders next. Restoring cornerback depth will be critical, too, with Alexander sidelined and Holton Hill suspended. Mike Hughes is close to clearance in his recovery from a torn ACL suffered last season.
-- By Dave Campbell, AP