ALLEN PARK, Mich. - Don’t tell Matt Patricia his Lions have nothing to play for this week.
“I’d like to think that we’re playing for something every game,” Patricia said. “That’s my mindset. We’re trying to play to go win. Doesn’t matter what the situation is, doesn’t matter what the opponent is playing for, doesn’t matter anything other than we’re trying to go out there and do the best job we can to give ourselves a chance to win.”
In reality, his Lions have been coasting to a stop for weeks, as Sunday’s 27-17 loss to Denver was their eighth straight.
At 3-11-1, only draft positioning is at stake in Sunday’s season finale against the Green Bay Packers. Detroit is currently slotted at No. 3 in the draft order, but could move up to second or down to fifth.
A loss on Sunday also would make it the franchise’s longest losing streak since the winless 2008 campaign.
DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 22: Head coach Matt Patricia of the Detroit Lions works on the sideline during a game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field on December 22, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
For that one, the Lions could look to Kyle Sloter as their fourth starting quarterback of the season this week after David Blough’s struggles continued at Denver.
“I’m ready whenever they need me,” Sloter said. “I know I can be a starter in this league. Nothing so far in this league has told me that I can’t be.”
The Lions rushed for 4.6 yards per carry, their fourth-highest average in a game this season. The team got its first look at the tandem of Kerryon Johnson of Bo Scarbrough together in the backfield. Rivals from Auburn and Alabama, respectively, the pair could be a nice two-headed monster next season behind quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Returning after missing eight weeks after knee surgery, Johnson rushed 10 times for 42 yards.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The team’s 95 passing yards were a season- ow by nearly half and only Kenny Golladay had more than two catches. Stafford’s been out since Nov. 3, with Jeff Driskel going 0-3 and then Blough going 0-4 as replacements.
Jamal Agnew returned a punt for a 64-yard touchdown to give Detroit a 10-0 lead. He also became the only NFL player this year with a punt and kickoff return for a score.
The Lions couldn’t realistically expect too much from Blough, an undrafted rookie quarterback. But after a strong debut against Chicago on Thanksgiving, Blough has sputtered and Sunday was his worst game. Blough completed 12 of his 24 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. However, it was the first of his four starts when he didn’t throw an interception.
Add rookie linebacker Jahlani Tavai to the lengthy injured reserve list for the Lions, which now reaches 16 after the rookie linebacker’s shoulder injury.
The second-round pick injured the same shoulder that ended Tavai’s senior season early at Hawaii and required late-season surgery, Patricia said Monday.
Tavai’s rookie season ends with 58 combined tackles, two sacks and one interception.
Golladay could salvage something nice this season for Detroit, as Sunday he hauled in touchdown No. 11, which leads the NFL. Baltimore’s Mark Andrews is one behind Golladay with 10, but the tight end might sit out Week 17 with the Ravens already locking up the AFC’s top seed.
More like limps than steps for this team, but Green Bay comes in for the finale on Sunday at Ford Field. Detroit has an outside chance of being in position to draft an impact player like Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young at No. 2.