You’ve heard this all by now. The coaches say it starts with them. The players say they have to make the plays on the field.
It’s a constant rhythm to Matt Patricia’s three seasons as head coach of the Detroit Lions-- everyone wanting to take responsibility but little changing except the record getting worse.
Detroit has lost 11 straight games after a 42-21 drubbing by Green Bay. Under Patricia, the club is 9-24-1 and have shown few signs of tangible improvement from last season despite a new defensive coordinator, new special teams coordinator and a bevy of new players, who especially on defense were brought in partly because they knew Patricia’s scheme.
Yet it all looks similar to last season. The last four defeats dating back to last season have followed a pattern. Get a double-digit lead. Watch it waste away. According to Elias, this is the first time in NFL history a team has done that in four straight games.
The last time the Lions lost this much, they were in the midst of a 0-16 season that saw a complete regime change within the organization by the end of it.
To be sure, this is the start of an unusual season with many changes and COVID restrictions. But the on-field product feels more like a continuation of last season.
Yes, the Lions have injuries, particularly at cornerback where starters Desmond Trufant and Justin Coleman were out, and on the offensive line, which had Oday Aboushi and Tyrell Crosby filling in for Joe Dahl and Halapoulivaati Vaitai. But Green Bay had injuries, too, including to star defensive tackle Kenny Clark.
And injuries were an issue a year ago when Stafford missed the last eight games – all losses – with broken bones in his back.
It’s the overarching issues that stand out. Detroit continues to be unable to create a pass rush – hitting Aaron Rodgers just three times Sunday. None of those came from a defensive lineman. Through two games only one Detroit defensive lineman, Trey Flowers, has been given a quarterback hit or sack.
Patricia pointed to the lack of consistency and the inability to continue momentum as reasons why they’ve continually been in this position of losing leads they work to build.
“You can’t ride the wave of the game. We can’t go up-and-down and be really high and then something happens and go really low and then try to pick it back up and then something good happens and are really high again,” Patricia said. “Just the ebbs and flows of the game, we’ve got to ignore that. We’ve got to stay consistent."
Some of that is on the players. But it’s also – perhaps more so – on the people hired to prepare them, both mentally and physically, to make sure they can close out games. That’s talent evaluating and coaching, where the Lions are the only team in the NFL since 2018 to not have an over-.500 record when leading by double-digits in games.
“We made too many mistakes [Sunday] and they did a nice job of capitalizing on them,” Stafford said. “You know, obviously got to go back and look at the tape but it all boils down to that. Can’t make as many mistakes as we did and expect to beat a good football team.”
The way the Lions have played, it’s tough to envision them beating many NFL teams right now.
That’s a discipline aspect, too, something Detroit has been lacking so far this season. For the second straight week, key penalties cost the Lions. Last week, it cost them linebacker Jamie Collins. This week, a combination of poor penalties and decisions from Stafford, Oday Aboushi, Will Harris and Jamal Agnew, among others, hurt the Lions throughout a pivotal stretch of the game.
“We just got to do a better job in those situations. Put it on all of us,” Patricia said. “Put it on me, first. We got to coach it and we’ve got to execute it better when we have those situations. We understand we can’t have penalties. We’ve got to keep our composure. We can’t have turnovers. We got to do everything we can to make sure we don’t give up big plays. So it’s just got to be all of us doing a better job.”
Patricia has been saying it for years, to put the blame on him. That it starts with him. Perhaps it’s time to take it on face value.
The losses, the sloppy play, the inability to hold leads. All of it.
Patricia has said often it’s early in the season. He’s right. There is time to fix it. Yet at 0-2 with Arizona and New Orleans next, early may become incredibly late faster than he may even think.