Lions competitive, but season spiraling after third straight loss

DETROIT -- The Detroit Lions have been competitive with every team they’ve played. That’s nice, but this season, being competitive and in every game might not be good enough.

In the NFL, with margins small enough that a play or two can decide a game or a season, Detroit is slowly teetering toward an area of concern following a 42-30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the club’s third straight. And in a division as difficult as the NFC North, mistakes are amplified.

It's tough to win when you make mistakes like a false start on the long-snapper, taking you out of field-goal range on the first drive of the game. Or when your run defense is so poor that everyone, no matter the team, can rush for 100 yards on you.

Those mistakes can suddenly make a massive, four-touchdown performance meaningless. They can push a team that seemed to have great promise into a position of needing a major rally to even start to consider the postseason.

Buy on Marvin Jones' performance: Jones doesn’t get the target share Kenny Golladay does, but when quarterback Matthew Stafford looks his way, he’s been extremely effective. Entering Sunday, Jones caught 20 of 29 targets and then had 10 of 13 targets caught against Minnesota for 93 yards and four touchdowns. It’s the second time in his career he has scored four touchdowns in a game, with the last coming on Oct. 27, 2013, against the Jets. Jones usually has an active day against the Vikings. Only once in his four years with Detroit has he had fewer than eight targets against Minnesota. But other than a slow night against Green Bay (two catches, 17 yards), he’s had 40 or more yards in every game. Jones tied a Lions record with four receiving touchdowns and is one of four players in NFL history with multiple four-receiving-touchdown games in league history along with Jerry Rice, Sterling Sharpe and Bob Shaw.

Troubling trend: The Lions just can’t stop the run. This is the sixth straight game they have given up more than 100 yards rushing as a team. Going into Sunday, Detroit was allowing 133.8 rushing yards per game and didn’t do anything to slow that against Dalvin Cook. Minnesota ran for 167 yards on the Lions, including 142 from Cook. It’s allowing teams to extend drives, shorten games and keep Stafford off the field. Considering how much Detroit invested in its defensive line -- the trade for run-stopping tackle Damon Harrison last year and signing pass-rusher Trey Flowers in the offseason -- the struggles stopping the run are a major concern.

Pivotal play: Not surprisingly, it was a defensive gaffe. With Detroit needing one stop to have a shot to win, the Lions gave up a 66-yard reception to Stefon Diggs and then a 4-yard touchdown two plays later to seal Minnesota’s win. A complete loss in coverage of Diggs by all of Detroit’s defense and a spot where the absence of Darius Slay, who left the game in the first half due to a hamstring injury, was really felt.