Quarterback Jeff Driskel brings mobility as uncertain Lions look ahead
After Matthew Stafford’s consecutive streak of 136 starts was snapped Sunday, the obvious question arises about next week: Will Jeff Driskel’s streak snap after one?
Lions coach Matt Patricia would not speculate Tuesday whether Stafford will practice throughout the week leading up to Sunday’s game against Dallas, his hometown team.
The Lions (3-5-1) are effectively — though not mathematically — eliminated from NFC playoff contention after losing 20-13 to Chicago on Sunday, Detroit’s first game since 2010 with anyone other than Stafford starting under center.
Driskel could’ve been worse, setting career highs in completions (27), attempts (46) and yards (269) in his 10th NFL game and sixth start.
He also could’ve been better, throwing a bad interception in the third quarter as Detroit’s offense equaled a season-low with 13 points.
“I think he functioned properly," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said Tuesday. "We were able to get in and out of things that we needed to. He performed well for his first opportunity with us."
One thing is for sure about Driskel and Stafford: They’re different.
That means Detroit could effectively be putting in two different game plans this week for the Cowboys (5-4), protecting a roughed-up Stafford or taking advantage of a mobile Driskel.
Driskel led the Lions in rushing Sunday with 37 yards on five carries, including a conversion on 3rd-and-8 in the third quarter.
“He was able to make some plays with his feet for us,” Bevell said. “He has done a little bit of that in his background as well. We were able to just kind of tap into that just a little bit.
“That’s just a different element to his game that he has.”
Quarterback David Blough is next up on the depth chart behind Driskel and was active Sunday for the third time this season.
With no injury reserve announcement Tuesday, and Stafford saying Monday he’s going to prepare to play for Sunday like every other week, it’ll be awhile before we have clarity on who will take snaps from Frank Ragnow at Ford Field this weekend.
“I would say we’re not of the mode where we just kind of have one system in place, and it’s just kind of the same thing and we just stick people in there regardless of who’s playing,” Patricia said. “I do believe that we try to do our best to cater those different game plans to the guys that are on the field.”
Blowing in the wind
Wind for games in Illinois is a touchy subject for Lions fans, but it came into play again for Detroit’s decision-making in Sunday’s loss.
With the ball on their own 44-yard line with 3 seconds until halftime, the Lions had a chance to have Driskel throw a Hail Mary pass to the end zone.
Instead, Patricia elected to hand it off up the middle to J.D. McKissic for a 6-yard gain, going into the locker room trailing 7-6.
Patricia said the main elective of the drive, which began on Detroit’s 30 with 18 seconds left, was to try and get kicker Matt Prater into position for a long field-goal attempt — he was already 2 for 2, including a 54-yarder.
When that didn’t happen, protection for Driskel and the wind played into Patricia’s decision.
“Protection was probably our No. 1 concern,” Patricia said Monday. “Then also just kind of the wind and the particular play that we had dialed up there, we just didn’t feel it was the right situation.”
More famously and regrettably, former Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg took the wind going into overtime in a 2002 game against the Bears in Champaign, Ill.
Quarterback Jim Miller led the Bears down the field for a 40-yard game-winner from fellow Michigan State alumnus Paul Edinger, giving the Bears a 20-17 win.
Speaking of memories, Bevell had some kind words for former Lions coach Rod Marinelli on Tuesday, calling him “a fiery competitor.”
Marinelli is in his seventh season with the Cowboys and sixth in his dual role as defensive line coach and defensive coordinator.
The Cowboys also have more familiar faces on staff, as first-year offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is a former Lions quarterback, as is quarterbacks coach Jon Kitna.
Moore spent 2012-14 with the Lions but did not play a regular-season snap. Kitna played three seasons with the Lions starting in 2006, starting the first four games of the 2008 season where the Lions went 0-16 under Marinelli.
The NFL announced the date for the Lions’ road finale.
The Lions will play at Denver at 4:05 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 22, while three other games were moved to a triple header on Saturday. The Lions-Broncos game was a candidate for Saturday.
The Lions close the season on Dec. 29 at home against Green Bay.
Make your holiday party plans accordingly.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.