ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Matthew Stafford zipped a quick pass out to the right, his timing and accuracy seemingly unaffected by windy, rainy practice conditions.
Detroit’s passing game looks poised to take off during the second half of this season, but there are some factors beyond the Lions’ control. Such as the elements.
The forecast calls for clear conditions Sunday when Detroit plays at Chicago, but Stafford can never be too sure about that when on the road against the Bears. So it made some sense that the Lions were practicing outside in the rain Wednesday. Although their home games are indoors, they have four road trips still to come in the regular season, starting this weekend.
“I played in a bunch of games there. I played early in the season, played late in the season,” Stafford said. “You never know what you’re going to get. That’s how we’ll prepare. You got to go out there and see the way the game’s unfolding, see the way the weather is either affecting the game or not affecting the game.”
The Lions lost 17-14 at Chicago early last season and were held without an offensive touchdown. Detroit is 3-5 there during Stafford’s career, and he’s thrown for over 300 yards only once at Chicago, in a 37-13 loss in 2011. Stafford attempted 63 passes and was intercepted four times in that game.
The Lions probably won’t throw that many times this weekend, but make no mistake, they’re still heavily reliant on Stafford, his receivers, and the offensive line’s ability to protect the quarterback. Detroit is 29th in the league in rushing, and although the Lions averaged 5.5 yards per run in a win over Cleveland last weekend, they leaned on Stafford with the game on the line.
After falling behind 24-17 late in the third quarter, Detroit ran the ball twice in its next 13 offensive plays, scoring two touchdowns to go back ahead. Rookie Kenny Golladay had back-to-back catches of 14 and 50 yards in his first game back from a hamstring injury.
“The thing about this league is you have to, when you get one-on-one opportunities, you got to be able to win some,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “I think our guys on the outside, not just Kenny, but I think Marvin (Jones Jr.) is the same way. They’ll force you to get in situations where there’s 50-50 balls, and if we win our share, obviously you may have to do a couple things a little differently in order to handle them.”
Tight end Eric Ebron had a crucial touchdown catch Sunday, joining Golladay and Jones to provide good secondary receiving options for Stafford. Golden Tate remains Detroit’s top receiver with 56 catches for 659 yards on the season, and it now looks like he’ll have plenty of help down the stretch.
“We’ve got plays that can help everybody get the ball in their hands, and I just don’t see how you’re going to guard all of us effectively,” Tate said. “I think whenever I’m getting doubled, someone else is going to be wide open, and so on. We’re excited. I think this time of the season is when we usually start to peak, and that’s what I’m expecting this year. It’s getting later in the season. We’re in the third quarter of the season. It’s time for us to string a few games together.”
NOTES: OL T.J. Lang participated fully in practice after missing last weekend’s game because of a concussion. … DE Ezekiel Ansah (back) and RB Dwayne Washington (hip) missed practice. … The Lions acquired LB Kasim Edebali via waivers from Denver. Detroit waived DE George Johnson, who had just been signed the previous day.
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