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Detroit Lions Week 4 report card: Entire team takes step back vs. Bears – prideofdetroit.com

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It was an ugly day all around for the Detroit Lions in their Week 4 matchup against the Chicago Bears. Once again, the offense showed promise, but they couldn’t perform for an entire four quarters and they made some critical errors in key moments. The defense lost another key piece of the roster, and they simply do not have enough talent to hang in the NFL right now, even when it’s against one of the worst offenses in the league.

Coaching took center stage late in the game, but Dan Campbell’s decisions were the least of Detroit’s worries on Sunday. Here are my Week 4 positional grades for the Lions.

Quarterback: D+

It’s another week in which box-score scavengers would believe Jared Goff had an excellent day against a good Bears defense. 24-of-38 for 299 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, and a 105 passer rating!

Unfortunately, that is not representative of the day Goff actually had. The Lions quarterback overthrew his receivers far too often in this game and in the contest’s most critical moments. He overthrew Kalif Raymond down the seam on a play that would’ve resulted in an early touchdown—and likely would have changed the trajectory of the first half. Worst of all, on a critical fourth-and-1 late in the game, he overthrew Amon-Ra St. Brown on an almost identical play as the one on fourth-and-1 against the Packers.

As always, we need to put this performance in context. His receivers are rarely getting open, St. Brown hesitated at the beginning of his route, and his offensive line play was not good in this game. But Goff still had his chances and he missed on far too many of them.

Running backs: C

Jamaal Williams was likely the best player on offense for the Lions on Sunday. He ran with authority and decisiveness, almost always finding the designed hole on the play. He battled out some tough yardage, too. Unfortunately, the game script called to move away from him and he finished with just 14 rushes and 66 yards.

Unfortunately, his good performance was erased by D’Andre Swift’s struggles against the Bears. Swift had eight carries that went for just 16 yards, and he continues to struggle—in the run game—at creating any extra yards after contract. He was a little better in the receiving game (four catches, 33 yards), but this is a team that is relying on Swift to be a centerpiece of the offense, 49 total yards ain’t going to cut it. Also, Swift really struggled in pass protection and allowed at least one sack.

Wide receivers: C-

In the first half, the Lions receiving corps was invisible. Again, they were really struggling to find any separation from Chicago’s secondary, and Goff was forced time and time again to try and extend the play and to create time for this receiving corps to get open. In the first half, Goff completed a total of four passes to receivers.

However, things changed in the second half and we saw some life out of the receiving corps. Now, some of that undoubtedly had to do with the Bears playing off a little more after going up 21-0 in this game. Still, it was nice to see Quintez Cephus set a career-high with 83 receiving yards, and Amon-Ra St. Brown finally get involved with 70 yards of his own.

Tight ends: D

For the second straight game, T.J. Hockenson was held below 50 yards receiving, and it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Goff completed just four of eight passes to Hockenson, as the Lions’ tight end joined the crowd in struggling to find separation. Worse yet, he had his worst blocking day of the season, causing at least one pressure in pass protection and allowing a tackle for loss in the run game.

Offensive line: D+

It was another rough game for rookie right left tackle Penei Sewell. He had a tough time dealing with Robert Quinn’s speed, which resulted in one of the Lions’ many turnovers in the red zone when Quinn slipped by him for a strip sack. Matt Nelson didn’t look a whole lot better opposite Khalil Mack, who notched a sack and two quarterback hits.

However, Detroit did still manage to create rushing lanes in the first half, which would have kept them in games had the Lions finished those early drives into the red zone.

Defensive line: F

Grading on a curve here, because the Bears’ offensive line came into this game hailed as one of the worst units in the league. Granted they had shown flashed of being able to run the ball, but considering Detroit was coming off a game in which they successfully stop the Ravens rushing attack, their performance on Sunday was unacceptable.

Detroit was gashed on the ground to the tune of 188 yards, 4.8 yards per carry, and three touchdowns.

The Lions also failed to generate much of any pressure on Justin Fields with their defensive front, although they didn’t seem to ever get themselves into favorable down and distances to really come at Chicago with pressure. It also doesn’t help when you’re missing your two best edge defenders in Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara.

Linebackers: C-

The good news: the Lions linebackers were not exposed in coverage like they had been in the first three games of the season. Tight end Cole Kmet caught just one pass for 6 yards, while running back Damien Williams had just two catches for 15 yards. In fact, Jalen Reeves-Maybin tipped a Justin Fields pass that led to an Amani Oruwariye interception. So there was significant progress in the passing game.

The bad news: tackling was bad. Run fits were bad. And because the linebackers struggled so badly in the run game, it allowed the Bears to pretty much do whatever they wanted all game.

Secondary: D-

The only reason this isn’t an F is because of the interception—and that had more to do with the linebacking crew.

It’s hard to blame a secondary that is so bereft of talent because of injury, but these defensive backs are just killing the team right now. Don’t take my word for it, here’s Dan Campbell after the game:

“This is what we can’t allow anymore. I said this before, but we need these young guys to grow at a drastic rate, you know. And as long as you’re not making the same mistakes and not playing scared, but the same mistakes are showing up now a little bit. We’ve got to find a way or we’ve got to find somebody else that can do them. And whether that’s in the building, which we’ve got a couple other guys, or — you know, you go from there. But it’s not from lack of effort. It’s not from want to. It’s none of those things. But we just — they’re hurting us a little bit right now.”

Bobby Price is supposed to be a special teamer. Jerry Jacobs is probably best used on the practice squad right now. But these guys are being forced into starting roles right now, because of the Lions’ situation, and the results speak for themselves. Broken coverages, wide-open receivers, and career days for quarterbacks.

Detroit has played around with different players at safety already, but based on Campbell’s comments it sounds like more changes could be coming.

Special teams: C+

Nothing too notable from the Lions’ special teams group. Jack Fox continues to be pretty darn good. Detroit’s kick coverage teams were fine, but they haven’t really gotten any spark out of their own returners yet.

Coaching: C+

I spoke at length on Dan Campbell’s in-game aggressive here, but let me quickly summarize here.

Decision 1: Go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 5.

This was the more questionable of the two decisions simply because it was so early in the game. However, I get where Campbell is coming from when he said at that point in the game—with the Bears having scored touchdowns on both of their two drives—it looked like field goals weren’t going to win this one.

“I just think in a game like that where they get up a couple scores, kicking field goals may not be the game,” Campbell said. “Whereas last week it could’ve been a little more of that game. You take it as it comes.”

Fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line, however, is a low-percentage play. You can’t really run the ball from there, and there is not a lot of room for the receivers to work with. So I could’ve gone either way on this one. But given how bad this team is right now, you’ve got to take some risks, so tie goes to the aggressor, in my opinion.

Decision 2: Go for it on fourth-and-inches instead of kicking a field goal down 10 points with four minutes remaining

I have no problem with this decision. None. At some point, you’re going to have to get a touchdown, and you’ve got a pretty damn good shot at it when you’re already at the Bears 8-yard line with a favorable down-and-distance. Fourth-and-inches is heavily in the offense’s favor, and the play was there. Goff just missed the throw.

Now, there are plenty of reasons to blame the coaching staff for execution there. Instead of taking their time to call a good play and convert on this critical play, the Lions hurried to the line, snapped the ball quickly, and didn’t even appear to consider running the ball.

That’s a choice that deserves real criticism. But the good news here is that Campbell admitted that error and will hopefully learn from that mistake.

“That’s on me,” Campbell said. “I just think we need to huddle and give them a play call that’s a little more fourth-down oriented, fourth-and-short, fourth-and-a-yard.”

Outside of those decisions, I think Campbell made the right call in challenging a deep pass to Allen Robinson. Although the replay eventually showed a clear catch, FOX didn’t provide a good angle in time before Chicago’s snap, and it was a big enough play that it was worth the blind risk.

Additionally, I thought Detroit’s offensive game plan worked, yet again. Anthony Lynn found creative ways to utilize Kalif Raymond’s speed, they’re using a ton of pre-snap motion that is working. Execution was simply the issue on Sunday.

Defensively, I don’t know how it’s possible to fairly grade Aaron Glenn in this game. The roster is just a disaster with injury after injury.

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Canadiens come up nearly empty against Rangers in home opener – Montreal Gazette

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Jonathan Drouin’s goal gave hockey starved Montreal fans their only thrill in a 3-1 loss.

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A third-period goal by Alexis Lefreniére proved to be the difference as the New York Rangers defeated the Canadiens 3-1 to spoil the home opener at the Bell Centre on Saturday night.

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Lafrenière got behind the defence and Jake Allen had little chance as he converted a perfect pass from Mika Zibanejad to snap a 1-1 tie. The goal at 9:50 came 26 seconds after Jonathan Drouin gave the near-sellout crowd some hope when he ended Igor Shesterkin’s shutout bid. He was set up by Christian Dvorak, who carried the puck behind the net and found Drouin in the slot.

Kevin Rooney completed the scoring for the Rangers with an empty-net goal.

Shesterkin made 31 saves, while Allen stopped 21 of 23 shots.

After a listless first period, the Rangers picked up the pace to start the second and the Canadiens provided some opportunities by taking three consecutive penalties before the period was 10 minutes old. Montreal did a good job killing the first two, but New York got the bounce to take a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal at 9:59.

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Chris Krieder was credited with his third goal of the season when he deflected a shot by Zibanejad. Allen stopped the shot, but the rebound went in off defenceman Alexander Romanov.

The Canadiens created two scoring chances later in the second period. Cédric Paquette deflected a shot by Jeff Petry and it was headed to the top corner when Shesterkin made a spectacular glove save.

Two minutes later, defenceman David Savard showed off his puck-handling skills as he weaved his way through the Rangers and tried to find Brendan Gallagher in front. Gallagher was unable to control the pass for a shot and Shesterkin pounced on the loose puck.

The Canadiens’ power play continues to experience problems. Montreal had two power plays in the first period and managed only one shot on goal. They had four shots on a third-period advantage, but the best scoring chance came on a shorthanded breakaway by Zibanejad. The Montreal power play is now 0-for 11 on the season

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There were few opportunities for either team in the first period, which ended with the Rangers outshooting the Canadiens 7-5. Josh Anderson had the best scoring chance when he unleashed a shot from the right faceoff circle. Shesterkin was unable to handle the shot cleanly, but the puck trickled wide. Tyler Toffoli attempted a wraparound late in the period, but Shesterkin sealed off the post.

The game was preceded by words of welcome from team owner Geoff Molson and a drawn-out introduction of the players, coaches, the training and medical staffs and various other members of  the hockey operations department. The loudest ovation was for Drouin, who returned to action this season after taking timer off to deal with anxiety.

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During a break in the first period, the Canadiens announced this will be the final  season for Pierre Gervais as the team’s equipment manager. Gervais, who has been involved in more 3,000 games over a 35-year career, will remain with the team in yet-to-be-determined new role.

This was the first of four consecutive homes games for the Canadiens. They will welcome the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, followed by the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday and the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.

phickey@postedia.com

twitter.com/zababes1

  1. MONTREAL, QUE.: September 26, 2021 -- Saturday night's game against the New York Rangers will be the first one with a full crowd at the Bell Centre since March 10, 2020, when the Canadiens lost 4-2 to the Nashville Predators.

    Jonathan Drouin excited about playing in front of fans at Bell Centre

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    Make-or-break season for Canadiens prospect Poehling | HI/O Bonus

  3. Canadiens Shea Weber moves the puck up ice during first period against the Calgary Flames in Montreal on April 14, 2021.

    Hickey on hockey: Weber departure would be feather in Habs’ salary cap

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Canadiens vs. Rangers: Game thread, rosters, lines, and how to watch – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers

How to watch

Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: CityTV, Sportsnet East (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the Rangers region: MSG
Streaming: ESPN+, NHL Live, Sportsnet Now

We pick the best three comments from each game thread to feature in our Top Six Minutes articles which are published at the conclusion of the game. Be sure to share your best gif or analysis to become a star.

The Montreal Canadiens head to the Bell Centre for the first meaningful action since last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. The last game Montreal fans witnessed in person was an overtime victory on Josh Anderson’s second goal of Game 4 in the Final.

Anderson was responsible for that last goal the Canadiens scored in 2020-21, and had a major hand in the first one versus the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night, but offence has been very difficult to come by for the team since that goal seven minutes into the opener; there’s only been one more since.

As a reaction, lines were juggled in the most recent match in Buffalo, but to little avail. Even so, Dominique Ducharme is sticking with the group he has hoping that his players will quickly find solutions.

The Rangers’ bid to increase their early-season offence was dealt a blow when Ryan Strome was ruled out by the COVID protocol for tonight’s game, knocking one of the top point-producers from a season ago out of action. Both teams will be missing significant offensive pieces as they go for their first win, but one of the clubs is going to avoid a winless start, even if it takes Marek Malik coming out of retirement to end it.

Montreal Canadiens projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
#40 Joel Armia #14 Nick Suzuki #22 Cole Caufield
#92 Jonathan Drouin #28 Christian Dvorak #17 Josh Anderson
#73 Tyler Toffoli #71 Jake Evans #11 Brendan Gallagher
#85 Mathieu Perreault #13 Cédric Paquette #62 Artturi Lehkonen

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
#27 Alexander Romanov #26 Jeff Petry
#8 Ben Chiarot #58 David Savard
#77 Brett Kulak #20 Chris Wideman

Goaltenders

Starter Backup
Starter Backup
#34 Jake Allen #35 Samuel Montembeault

New York Rangers projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Alexis Lafrenière Mika Zibanejad Chris Kreider
Artemiy Panarin Filip Chytil Kaapo Kakko
Sammy Blais Barclay Goodrow Julien Gauthier
Dryden Hunt Kevin Rooney Ryan Reaves

Goaltenders

Starter Backup
Starter Backup
Igor Shesterkin Alexandar Georgiev

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In ever-evolving NBA, Raptors’ length and athleticism opens doors on defence – Sportsnet.ca

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Under head coach Nick Nurse, the Toronto Raptors have always worked to stay abreast of league trends, or even push the envelope on what might be next.

As an assistant coach, Nurse received a considerable amount of credit for overseeing an effort to inject more spacing, ball movement and player movement into an offensive approach that had grown too reliant on DeMar DeRozan’s mid-range isolations. The result was a team-record 59-win season in 2017-18. Nurse also had his fingerprints on the “bench mob” – the high-tempo, aggressive defence-first group that was a big part of the Raptors’ regular-season success.

Since becoming head coach in 2019-19, Nurse’s defensive focus has been more apparent, with the Raptors embracing liberal switching on the perimeter as well as a growing reliance on zone defences – tactics that were less common across the league than they quickly became.

But basketball’s pace of change hasn’t stalled. You can only pay so much attention to games that don’t matter, but it’s hard not to notice that in pre-season play the Golden State Warriors are putting up an astounding 55 three-point shots a game. Four other teams – Sacramento, Denver, Utah and Oklahoma City are averaging 45 three-point attempts.

For context the only teams in league history to average 45 three-point shots a game were the 2018-19 and 2019-20 Houston Rockets, with James Harden at his gun-slinging peak. A decade ago NBA teams averaged 20 three-point attempts a game. Last season it was 34 and still climbing apparently.

“I don’t know if any of us sat here at some point and said the amount of threes are going to be double … or whatever the number is,” said Nurse. “… It does evolve pretty quickly though.”

Given the value of those shots, a team that wants to be effective defensively must have a plan to discourage them being taken, or at least make them more difficult.

One of the benefits of a roster rounded out with so many players in the six-foot-six to six-foot-nine range – the Raptors only have four players in training camp shorter – is the pressure they can put on perimeter shooters.

The Raptors got a taste of it last season, when six-foot-nine Chris Boucher led the NBA with .84 blocked three-pointers a game and was ranked fourth in the league in the percentage that opponents shot when he was the closest defender. Pascal Siakam ranked second in the league in the number of three-pointers contested after leading that category in 2019-20.

As a whole, the Raptors weren’t especially good at defending the three-point line – opponents shot 37.9 per cent from deep, which was above league average and ranked them 24th overall – but given the range of mitigating circumstances they faced last season it’s probably not something to dwell on. The Raptors led the NBA in that category in 2019-20 when the set a franchise record for winning percentage.

This is a different team with plenty of new faces, but maybe having a roster full of athletic, agile guys in the mould of Boucher and Siakam could pay dividends in a league where it looks like more teams are going to be hoisting threes than ever before.

Raptors rookie Dalano Banton has certainly had the importance of getting to three-point shooters impressed upon him in his weeks-old NBA career, and as a nimble six-foot-nine guard, he can play the part.

“Shot contesting is one of our pillars that we go off of on defence as well as pressuring the ball so guys don’t get easy shots so, running them off the line,” said Banton after practice Friday. “In this league guys make shots and they make it at a high clip so I feel like just doing the best you can to run out at every shot that gets put up by the other team is big for us and being in our defensive stance, just showing length and just discouraging them from making plays they’d make if we weren’t in our right spots.

“…Just being in the right spot is just the biggest part of the battle and showing your hands. Once you’re there, it puts your whole team in a better position to play defence.”

Selling out on three-point shooters takes trust. Actually blocking a shot is rare and smart teams and players will look to pump fake on careless closeouts and look for a side-step three, a chance to penetrate the paint for layups, generate kick-outs to open shooters or simply swing the ball to take advantage of a scrambling defence.

It’s not enough to run at a shooter, it has to be done properly.

“Just playing the game the way you practice — running guys off lines and the next guy helping and making the next play,” says Banton. “So, it’s just about the offence having to make the next play, not giving them that shot or that layup, having to make them make that extra pass. The guy behind you is gonna help, we’re all playing defence in one line together so we’re all trying to work in a tandem and move where we have to move and rotate to the right spots.”

It’s music to Nurse’s ears. The goal of his scheme, he says, it to challenge every shot, everywhere.

“It’s kind of icing on the cake when we get a block [on a three-pointer],” he said. “I think I’m really more concerned that we’re making a heavy contest. Obviously the block is the heaviest of all contests. We just want to make sure we make it contested. It goes to hustle and hard play: You’ve got to keep playing the whole possession. Sometimes you’ve got to fire out, fire out, fire out.

“Every now and then you get put in rotations and some teams are really good in making you do it. But you’ve got to do it. That’s just an effort and hustle thing that we want the heavy contest. Chris [Boucher] has certainly got a knack, incredible timing on that stuff. I’m not sure it’s teachable or transferable … What we teach and what we drill every day is heavy contesting.”

Changing times call for changing measures – and maybe a lot of long, athletic guys flying around at the three-point line like never before.

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