Lions mailbag: 3 reasons Lions can beat Seahawks

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
G Larry Warford - Warford continued the steady play the Lions have grown accustomed to during his four seasons manning right guard. He allowed three sacks, but had no holding calls all year. GRADE: B+

The Detroit Lions' schedule disrupted our weekly flow, but with a five-hour flight out west, what better time to knock out a mailbag? On to your questions. 

@Justin_Rogers Do you know where Stafford finished in air yards per attempt this year? Expecting it to be low with all the short passes

— Joe Friedli (@joefriedli) January 6, 2017

Matthew Stafford's average pass traveled 7.44 yards through the air, which ranked 25th among qualifying passers. Still, that was nearly a full yard increase from last season, when he averaged 6.47 yards per throw. For the sake of comparison, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton led the NFL.His average pass traveled 10.27 yards before reaching its intended target.

Stafford's career long, set in 2012, is 8.69 yards.

@Justin_Rogers why did Tahir Whitehead change from the face mask he started the season with?

— Zac Snyder (@ZacSnyder) January 6, 2017

I didn't notice, but some common reasons for a switch would be improved vision or better protection, namely for a players' eyes. Or, maybe he broke his and they no longer made that version for his helmet. The next time I talk with him I'll ask and relay what I learn.

@Justin_Rogers is something wrong with Laken Tomlinson or does he suffer from severe lack of talent?

— Joel Lawwell (@LawwellJ) January 6, 2017

There's nothing wrong, from an injury perspective. He hasn't been appearing on the report and there's no benefit for him to hide an injury. I also wouldn't say he lacks talent. He's physically capable of doing everything required at his position, he's just struggled to do that consistently.

I've thought Tomlinson has been playing better during this recent stretch. It will be interesting to see how the team handles the guard position this offseason, with Larry Warford scheduled to hit free agency. I have to imagine they'll be patient with Tomlinson, give him at least one more year to put it all together, but he's not a Bob Quinn draft pick, so pulling the plug early isn't out of the question.

@Justin_Rogers worst in flight experience or meal youve had

— Ben Szilagy (@BenSzilagy) January 6, 2017

I've had tremendous luck with flying, only experiencing a handful of delays and no truly awful meal. I can't say the same for my brother-in-law, a practicing Muslim, who was served and unknowingly bit into a ham sandwich on an international flight.

Wojo: Lions not necessarily hopeless in Seattle

My best experience was taking a red eye back from Phoenix a few years back. Somehow, I got an entire row to myself. I pulled up all the armrests, sprawled out and got better than expected sleep.

@Justin_Rogers Will the Lions look inside or outside of the organization for a new d-coordinator when Austin gets a head coaching job?

— John Popovits (@Thurfir_Hawat) January 6, 2017

I can't imagine they'll limit their search to one or the other, but I would lean toward the position being filled by an internal candidate. Defensive back Alan Williams would be a leading option.

@Justin_Rogers what teams practice squad db's are we trotting out this week?

— 〽️ (@rover_dover) January 6, 2017

Well, your own. The Lions promoted Adairius Barnes off the practice squad this week — following Asa Jackson's season-ending ankle injury — and there's a good chance Barnes sees the field against the Seahawks.

@Justin_Rogers Any Lions players that could play another sport professionally? Who is it and which sport would they play?

— Sonny-Out of Bounds (@showe_32) January 6, 2017

Maybe not now, but had he focused on it earlier in life, Golden Tate might have been able to make it to the majors. He was selected in the 50th round of the MLB draft in 2010.

At least a dozen players in the locker room, led by Darius Slay, would tell you they could have made it to the NBA. They're all wrong.

Reply to @Justin_Rogers With the talent on the D-Line, why haven't the Lions been able to generate any pressure with 4 man pass rush?

— Brett Cousino (@bcoozno) January 6, 2017

It's largely schematic and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has admitted as much. The Lions are so focused on preventing the big play, they concede a lot of short passes. The thing with those underneath throws, when left uncovered, is the QB can get rid of the ball quickly, negating the pass rush.

@Justin_Rogers do the Lions do anything different to prepare for a west coast night game?

— Mike Cygan (@oldeskewl) January 6, 2017

Not really. The practice and travel schedule remained unchanged. The game is at 5:15 p.m. in Seattle, so no different than the past team's past two games.If anything, their body clocks should already be adjusted to playing at this time slot.

@Justin_Rogers is a mail bag the sportswriter equivalent of a teacher putting on a movie for the afternoon while grading papers?

— Kevin D (@Kevinjdd) January 6, 2017

A fair question. It certainly requires significantly less prep work, but I do my best to answer a lot of questions, not just three or four, putting in the necessary research to answer some of the more difficult queries. The only things that takes me longer to write, during an average week, is a film review.

@Justin_Rogers of the slew of 1-yr "prove it" contracts Quinn gave out last year, who in your mind most deserves to stay/go?

— Steve Phillip (@Steve_Dubs) January 6, 2017

Of the players Quinn signed, return man Andre Roberts and versatile defensive back Rafael Bush are the most deserving of coming back. Roberts shined on punt returns and Bush gave the Lions some options at nickel back with three-safety packages. That stopped some of their early-season bleeding in the secondary.

@Justin_Rogers why are people praising Jim Bob Cooter when the lions are the 20th best offense in the league? Do we just lack standards?

— Mike Russi (@mrussi) January 6, 2017

I wrote a lengthy feature on Jim Bob Cooter during the bye week, so I guess you could consider me as guilty as anyone of praising him based on that criteria. But when asked during radio interviews about his head coaching potential, I always emphasize he's not ready. Beyond lacking some of the polish required to be the face of the franchise, he's still unproven as a play-caller.

Cooter deserves praise for his work with Matthew Stafford, maximizing the talents of the franchise quarterback. And you can't just look at the surface numbers when determining the effectiveness of the offense. You must consider the pace at which the offense and defense play. Most people don't realize, but the Lions actually rank 10th in points per possession, and it was better than that before the three-game losing streak.

Cooter is a bright, up-and-coming coaching talent, but he has a long way to go. Having talked to him one-on-one before writing that feature, he wouldn't disagree.

@Justin_Rogers How many games do you think Caldwell will last next season?

— Rocky de Vries (@rockympls) January 6, 2017

All of them. Predicting anything otherwise would suggest the Lions bomb to start the season, similar to the way they did in 2015. That's not something I would prognosticate.

@Justin_Rogers any chance Quinn takes a look at Mixon when he slides in the draft?

— J Lamberton (@JJLamberton1) January 6, 2017

The Patriots, Quinn's former team, have never shied away from taking character risks, but that franchise has built up equity through consistent success to absorb the criticism. Quinn said he had zero tolerance for domestic violence, but also said he had zero tolerance for gun crime before signing two players who violated that statement. All that to say I can't tell you there's no way the Lions don't roll the dice on Mixon. But given the amount of controversy the move would generate, and the negative distraction it could become, I strongly believe the Lions pass, regardless of how far the talented running back falls.

@Justin_Rogers List three reasons why the Lions can upset the Seahawks and three why they are likely not to.

— Aldo Gandia (@AldoBarkeeper) January 6, 2017

Three reasons the Lions can win:

1. The Seahawks offensive line is arguably the worst in the league.

2. The team's elite defense has looked average at times since safety Earl Thomas suffered a broken leg.

3. As long as it's close, I'll never discount Stafford's ability to lead a comeback.

Three reasons they'll likely lose.

1. The Seahawks are exceptional at home.

2. Russell Wilson presents all kinds of problems with his feet and the Lions had no answer for Aaron Rodgers' mobility last week.

3. Earl Thomas or not, it's very difficult to run on the Seahawks. They allowed a league-low 3.4 yards per carry this season and when the Lions lack offensive balance, they lack scoring potency.

@Justin_Rogers What is Stafford's Turnover ratio Road/Home games? And, is it way outta step comparatively?

— Brad Finkbeiner (@beiner5) January 6, 2017

This season, he's throw 13 touchdowns and four interceptions at home compared to 11 touchdowns and six interceptions on the road. For his career, 103 touchdowns, 57 interceptions at home and an 84-51 ratio away from Ford Field.

@Justin_Rogers Lions have stayed with NYG/DAL/GB in first half but collapse in 2nd. Poor adjustments or better talent outlasting over 60min?

— Scott Warheit (@swarheit) January 6, 2017

Each game was a different. Oh no, that sounded like Caldwell.

In New York, the Lions struggled with field position in the second half. The offense moved the ball two of its first three drives, but not enough to get into field-goal range. Defensively, they held up decently until Odell Beckham finally took advantage of the Slay-less secondary.

In Dallas, the defense didn't have an answer for Dez Bryant. Again, Slay's absence was part of the problem. And by the end of the third quarter, the deficit was enough that the Lions had to abandon the ground game. They didn't help themselves with penalties and execution errors coming out of the locker room.

Against Green Bay, the defense couldn't bottle up Rodgers. That's probably a combination of scheme and execution, but I'm putting a greater percentage of blame on the players not properly setting the edge. That allowed the Packers to dominate time of possession in the third quarter.

Offensively, giving up a third-down sack on your first series is a bad way to start and the neck injury to Quinton Rollins seemed to derail the Lions' momentum on their second possession. Suddenly, they're down 31-17 and you're saying what the hell just happened?

@Justin_Rogers who could be the lions greatest loss to free agency?

— Sean Reece (@sareece68) January 6, 2017

It would be tough to lose both Riley Reiff and Warford. Ideally, you keep both at reasonable price tags and continue to build on the continuity up front, but that's probably unreasonable. Losing both, and being to forced to rebuild the starting right side, likely with more young, unproven talent, is daunting.

@Justin_Rogers What is the mood of the team? Do you sense determination? Business as usual? Fatigue left over from the GB game? (4 q's)

— Bruce Walker (@Smoke25) January 6, 2017

In the locker room, the mood has been light and relaxed. That's largely unchanged from the rest of the year. I don't think that's a bad thing. I'd be lying or trying to force a narrative if I said there was some noticeable air of determination.

@Justin_Rogers Has it really been 60 years ago when the Lions won a playoff game on the road? Back when Eisenhower was POTUS?

— JW (@jmwhitejmwhite) January 6, 2017

That's inaccurate. It's been 59 years. Stop exaggerating, JW. On Dec. 22, 1957, the Lions topped the 49ers in San Francisco, 31-27 en route to the team's last championship.

@Justin_Rogers Who has better craft beer: Washington or Michigan?

— Brandon Alisoglu (@BrandonAlisoglu) January 6, 2017

This is the only time I'll openly embrace being called a homer. I'd put our great slate of breweries against any state's.

jdrogers@detnews.com

Twitter: @justin_rogers