By Gregory Hunt
The New England Patriots will look to extend their six-game winning streak when they face the Detroit Lions Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. It will be New England’s third game in a row against a team in first place in its division.
The Lions hold a 7-3 record, putting them in a tie with the Green Bay Packers for first place in the NFC North. Detroit had a four-game winning streak snapped in Week 11 when it lost 14-6 to the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
In the all-time series, the Lions are 4-6 against the Patriots in a series that dates back to 1971, one year following the AFL/NFL merger in 1970. Detroit currently holds a three-game losing streak versus New England, with the most-recent game being a 45-24 Thanksgiving Day loss at Ford Field on November 25, 2010. Detroit’s last victory against New England was a 34-9 win at the Pontiac Silverdome, also on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2000.
The teams have never met in the postseason, largely because the Lions are the only team in the NFC to have never advanced to the Super Bowl. Detroit’s last NFL Championship came in the 1957 season, nine years before the Super Bowl was created and three years before the then-Boston Patriots began play in the inaugural season of the AFL.
Lions On Offense
In 2011, Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 5,038 yards, making him one of only five QBs in NFL history to pass for more than 5,000 yards in a single season. However, in 2014, the offense has struggled to gain yards and score points. At 332.3 yards per game, Detroit is 21st in the NFL in total offense. At 18.8 points per game, the Lions are 26th in the league in scoring.
Stafford’s most-dangerous weapon, four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Calvin Johnson, missed three games earlier in the season with a sprained ankle, and against the Cardinals he suffered an elbow injury. The ground game hasn’t been much help, as no running back on Detroit’s roster is averaging as much at 4.0 yards per carry. Running backs Joique Bell and Reggie Bush split most of the carries, but Bush, who can also be dangerous in the short passing game, has missed the last three games with an ankle injury although he is expected to play against the Patriots.
Lions On Defense
Led by linebacker DeAndre Levy, how has nearly twice as many tackles as anyone else on the team, and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, a fifth-year player that has already made the Pro Bowl three times, the Lions have one of the best defenses in the NFL. This unit is currently ranked 1st in the league in both total defense (290.3 YPG) and scoring defense (15.6 PPG). It is also 9th in the league in sacks (26) and 6th in the league in interceptions (12). Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah leads the team in sacks with 5.5, and he’s only in his second year. Strong safety Glover Quin leads Detroit in interceptions with three, and he’s averaging more than 20 yards per return on those picks.
The New England offense has been firing on all cylinders in recent weeks — it’s scored more than 40 points in each of the last three games — so it will be intriguing to see how well it does against such an elite defense. Something has to give, so get your popcorn ready.
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Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He’s also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women’s college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.