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Points will be at a premium when Lions visit Bills
The Detroit Lions are technically alive in the NFC playoff hunt, although they would have to vault seven other teams over the final three weeks of the season.
Giving those improbable circumstances, the Lions are more focused on how to boost production from an injury-depleted offense when they visit another struggling team in the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon.
Detroit leaned on its defense to halt a two-game slide with a 17-3 road win at Arizona last weekend, marking the fifth time in the past seven games the team has failed to score more than 17 points. Still, first-year head coach Matt Patricia pointed to the end result rather than how it was achieved.
"I think everybody has different views on what they think is exciting and fun football," Patricia said. "I tend to like the struggle, I like the battle, I like all of it. So, I think back in the day when I was growing up, I think SEC football, scores used to be like 7-3 and I thought those were exciting. I thought they were great games. So it doesn't really matter however the game goes, you just got to try to find a way to win.
"And whether it's a lot of points or no points, doesn't matter as long as you can just try to come up with the W, which is the hardest thing to do."
Patricia's vision of exciting football could be on tap against the Bills, who are averaging an AFC-worst 15.5 points and endured a six-game stretch earlier this season in which they failed to top 13 points. Buffalo is coming off a last-minute home loss to the New York Jets -- its second straight four-point defeat.
"We've eliminated ourselves from the playoffs, but there's a bigger purpose," Bills head coach Sean McDermott said. "The bigger purpose is how we develop into that team that we're trying to become, which is that caliber of team, that standard. Like I mentioned before, it's the quality of our play.
"That's really what I'm looking for from each and every individual, from us as coaches, from the units, offensive, defensive, and special teams is our quality of play that will lead to sustained success over the course of time and eventually, the ultimate goal."
The Lions have been unable to overcome injuries to some of their top offensive players. Leading rusher Kerryon Johnson hasn't played in three weeks because of a knee injury. Top deep threat Marvin Jones Jr. went on injured reserve last month. Detroit also sent leading wide receiver Golden Tate to Philadelphia at the trade deadline.
Matthew Stafford, one of the most prolific passers in the NFL for most of his career, threw for just 101 yards in last week's win over the Arizona Cardinals, his lowest total since he injured his shoulder in the first game of the 2010 season. He has one touchdown pass in the past three games -- to left tackle Taylor Decker on a trick play.
"I think it's important for us to adjust to who we have now," Detroit offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. "Different times in our history we've played a lot more receivers or we've had a lot more maybe spread-out looking formations than we have now. But I think the job for me and the job for our offensive staff is to take a look at the board, see who's up and healthy and who's ready to go, and put a game plan together with those guys that gives us the best chance to win the game.
"It may not always be a ton of points and a ton of yards. We'd love to move the ball every drive and score points every drive, but we're going to find a way to win that game."
The Bills have made strides on offense since rookie quarterback Josh Allen returned to the lineup on Nov. 25 after sitting out four games due to injury. The No. 7 overall pick in this year's draft will be facing a defense that ranks 12th in yards allowed and is fourth in sacks per pass attempt.
Allen has yet to pass for more than 245 yards but he has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the past two games and is taking ownership of Buffalo's offense.
"Overall, we've got a young offense and that's been well documented, probably because of that but also because of the way Josh has developed," McDermott said. "I think if you polled the players, most would say that Josh, certainly (running back) LeSean (McCoy) does good things as well, but Josh, because of the quarterback position, has become the leader."
Updated December 13, 2018