Lions’ awful defense not all Patricia’s fault, but it’s up to him to fix it

This defense worse than the 0-16 team in 2008

ALLEN PARK — The Lions’ defense is bad, it’s ranked 30th in the NFL giving up 412.8 yards per game. In Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys, the defense gave up 509 total yards. No other team amassed more yards on Sunday.

It might not be the Lions’ worst defense ever, but if not it comes close.

In 2008, you remember the season the Lions went 0-16, Detroit’s defense allowed 404.4 yards per game. It was the worst in the NFL but still allowed less yards than this season’s bunch.

So what now?

The Lions (3-6-1) play at the woeful Washington Redskins (1-9) on Sunday. The Redskins ended their streak of 16 straight quarters without a touchdown when they scored a pair late in a 34-17 loss to the Jets on Sunday. The Lions are 2.5-point favorites.

With a championship, playoffs and likely a winning season out of the realm of possibility, coach Matt Patricia on Monday said: “We’re playing for this game, that’s what we do and that’s really honestly that’s how the week is for us. It’s one-game seasons, that’s what they are, that’s how the NFL works.’’

While Lions’ penalties were an issue Sunday (11, costing 89 yards) and are most every game day, the defense is the reason the Lions lost to Dallas, 35-27.

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said he had time to go through his progressions two or three times. It was crazy. It seemed like he had all day because he did. No wonder he passed for 444 yards — the most against the Lions this season. Often his receivers were wide open. Four of them had single catches of 21 yards or more (21, 23, 41,49). That’s a little crazy too.

So Patricia was asked if there will be changes on defensive play-calling immediately after the game. He danced around a straight answer.

He was asked again on Monday and remained vague. It’s uncertain if he or coordinator Paul Pasqualoni are making the calls during the game. 

This was Patricia’s reply on Monday: “I think for us as a staff, and how we’re doing things on defense, I think we need to continually improve it. I definitely feel that that has been my message to those guys throughout the entire season, so that we can help the players more. I try to do as much as I can and will continually try to do that, but I think the coaches are working really hard to try to get it right from that aspect of it. We obviously have to do more, and we will. Sometimes I look at it and think I have to teach it differently too. I always try to evaluate, ‘OK, what can I say differently here? How can I explain it different? How can I term it different that we’ll at least maybe understand it and maybe be able to play a little bit better from that aspect of it?’’’

When pressed on an answer about play calling he said his role on game days changes game by game. 

“So, some games it’s been more, some games it’s been less, and that’s been consistent throughout the season. That’s true,’’ Patricia said.

Whether it’s Patricia or Pasqualoni making the calls, improvement must be made.

This mess of a defense is not all on coaching, but that is definitely a part of it. Patricia went 6-10 last season and now is 3-6-1. Is the team still listening to him? “I think there’s nothing that would give me an indication that they’re not,’’ Patricia said. 

Not so long ago — actually in 2014 under coach Jim Caldwell in his first season — the Lions finished the season with the second-best defense in the NFL, allowing 300.9 yards per game. It was Ndamukong Suh’s last season in Detroit.

It’s been downhill since.

Last season, the defense ranked 10th (335 yards per game) after it made a turnaround during the season (after the acquisition of Damon “Snacks” Harrison) and toughened up.

This season’s new low is not all because of Patricia’s defensive philosophy, but it’s up to him to right a sinking ship. 

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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