DETROIT -- Coach Matt Patricia stood at the 40-yard line, alone, staring out onto the field. His Detroit Lions had just given up another touchdown, pushing Houston’s double-digit lead to 24 after a fourth-quarter trick play.
In that moment -- in so many moments during Houston’s 41-25 waxing of Detroit on Thanksgiving Day -- one thing became clear: It’s time. This is over. Patricia needs to go. Now.
Progress will never come. This team -- Patricia’s team -- will never improve. All the Lions do under his guidance is play the bad football that was on display Thursday.
At this point there’s no reason for Patricia to return in 2021. Realistically, there’s little reason for Patricia to be Detroit’s coach next week.
Patricia, when asked Thursday if he felt he was going to be the team’s coach next week, said he’s focusing on the present.
“I focus one day at a time. That hasn’t changed,” Patricia said. “We’ll focus on today and go from there.”
Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson and quarterback Matthew Stafford both didn’t want to comment on the status of their head coach.
“Obviously I can’t say, I’m not going to comment on somebody else’s job, I’m just here to do mine,” Hockenson said. “Matt Patricia gave me a chance to come into this organization so for that, I owe him. So obviously, that’s up to the front office, all that other stuff, you guys can talk about that. But, you know, he’s still my head coach, he’s still my head coach. And if he’s not, he’s still the guy who gave me an opportunity to a Detroit Lion so for that I’ll forever be grateful.”
Patricia wouldn’t say when he is scheduled to have his typical meeting with ownership or talk with general manager Bob Quinn – he said he just met with the players at this point and that was it.
But Patricia did as he usually does, stayed focused on the immediate past and immediate future when asked about anything related to his job, the toll it takes or why it hasn’t worked.
“Yeah, just focused on right now. Just got done with that locker room,” Patricia said. “Love those guys. They played really hard. They are hurting and we know we got a lot of work to do. That’s my focus now. On today.”
The problems for the Lions on Thursday mirrored the issues Detroit has had throughout his tenure.
Patricia’s love of man-to-man defense continually saw receivers open on crossing routes because Detroit could muster little-to-no pressure from its defensive front. Its linebackers seemed out of position often. The offense was inconsistent and largely stubborn -- although Thursday the Lions at least pulled out a couple of trick plays to make things mildly interesting.
With Patricia, it has been the same over and over, trying to essentially do the same thing with the same players, hoping for different results that will never come.
This entire tenure has been a mess. The Lions, in almost three seasons, have yet to win three games in a row at any point. With loss No. 7 this season, Patricia would have to win out to equal the record of Jim Caldwell, the man he replaced, during his final season.
And there’s no real tangible reason for him to even be allowed to get that chance. At 13-29-1, Patricia has lost more games in less than three seasons than Caldwell lost in four. And for the Lions, Caldwell’s three winning seasons in four years was not good enough. What Patricia has done shouldn’t be, either.
Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp said in June “major improvement” was the goal. Back in December, when Ford Hamp and her mother, then-owner Martha Ford, decided to keep Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn, they said they needed to be playing meaningful games in December.
Detroit’s past four losses have come by double digits. Their next game is in December. It won’t have much meaning for the postseason. There is no major improvement here. Not even minor improvement, really. In many ways, there’s stagnation and regression.
And that's why it's time for Patricia to go.
Describe the game in two words: An embarrassment. Detroit, playing with the faintest hope of the postseason available, was run out of its own building on national television by a Houston team with an interim head coach.
Sell Detroit’s non-D’Andre Swift run game: The Lions showed some rushing promise against the Texans with Adrian Peterson gaining 55 yards and Kerryon Johnson 46 yards. But it’s likely a mirage. Houston entered the game allowing 159.3 rushing yards per game and the Lions couldn’t even reach that average. Detroit needs Swift back to offer itself any consistent offensive balance.
Biggest hole in the game plan: The same one Detroit has had under Patricia -- playing man defense with little-to-no defensive pressure up front against speedy receivers. This left the middle of the field wide open for crossing routes and for the Texans to take advantage of favorable matchups, including Duke Johnson’s 33-yard touchdown reception from Deshaun Watson, which came with him lined up in man defense against a linebacker.
Eye-popping stat: The Lions had turnovers on three straight possessions in the first half against Houston, the first time Detroit has turned it over on three straight possessions since Week 11 of the 2012 season, a 24-20 loss to Green Bay, according to ESPN Stats & Information.