Lions Matt Patricia: Fundamentals, execution holding us back right now

Next up, Lions head to Chicago, the NFC North leader

ALLEN PARK >> Matt Patricia said there was not one glaring factor when Matthew Stafford was sacked 10 times in the 24-9 Lions’ loss at the Vikings on Sunday.

Obviously, more sacks than points scored is never good.

“It’s a full team thing, it’s a full unit thing and we have to do a better job. We can’t play that way,’’ Patricia said at his Monday press conference.

And, even though it’s November, half of the season is history and the Lions are 3-5, the first-year coach is leaning on basics.

“Fundamentals and execution is what’s holding us back right now,’’ Patricia said.

Talent? The coach said they have plenty of talented guys to help them win.

So where are the wins? How could they get humiliated two straight weeks? Yes, the Vikings and Seahawks are good teams, but the Lions didn’t just lose, they were embarrassed.

Certainly the Lions’ coaches made adjustments as Sunday’s game went on, it was just difficult to see the improvement.

“What happens as the season goes and you have some success in certain areas, obviously teams are going to gear up to try to stop those things you do and make you do them differently,’’ Patricia said. “We have to be able to handle those changes better than what we do right now and put our players in a better situation to give them some success, especially with the offensive run game. The defensive run game definitely seeing some repeat runs which are giving us problems.’’

And, of course, there was Dalvin Cook’s 70-yard run which Patricia called “catastrophic.”

The Lions ran for just 66 yards at the Vikings and the Detroit defense gave up 128 rushing yards.

“With both offensive and defensive lines I would say the point of emphasis right now is fundamentals,’’ Patricia said. “Some of our fundamentals (Sunday) got out of whack, some of our technique stuff was not necessarily where it needs to be on a consistent basis.’’

It all seems a little nuts. They worked on fundamentals in long, grueling training camp sessions in July and August. Much of the roster is composed of NFL veterans who should not need to go back to square one for Football Fundamentals 101.

But they will work on basics this week in the meeting rooms and Patricia said he might add some extra periods during practice. “It’s hard when we’re trying to get everything we can done and get ready to go. It is what it is, we have to get it done, put a little more effort into it,’’ Patricia said.

Next up is another road game against a divisional opponent, the first-place NFC North Chicago Bears (5-3).

Patricia said they had a good week of practice last week, it just didn’t carry over.

“We were prepared and ready to go we just didn’t show up on Sunday enough all the way around,’’ Patricia said. “Just got to do a better job.’’

That is everyone, coaches included.

When Patricia was hired by the Lions in February, he was not brought in for a rebuild. The long-time Patriots defensive coordinator was expected to improve on the Lions’ 9-7 record from 2017.

General manager Bob Quinn made it clear the reason Jim Caldwell was fired was because he thought they were capable of winning more than nine games each of the last two seasons. He traded Golden Tate, the top wide receiver, last week. Maybe it’s a move for the future but Quinn knew they had two divisional opponents coming up.

Any talk that the Lions are currently sinking because it is all a part of the plan is just not true unless they’ve changed course and didn’t mention it.

Sunday’s loss at the Vikings was cringe-worthy.

Fundamentals and execution. Seems like we’ve heard those two words before.

The season appears to be basically over thanks to a 3-5 record. Not sure this was part of the Quinn-Patricia plan.

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Lions Matt Patricia offers insights on Golden Tate trade, moving forward

It will take a team effort to replace leading WR

ALLEN PARK — Matt Patricia said he was open with the team about the trade of Golden Tate to the Eagles. The Lions coach talked to his players before their first practice on Wednesday minus Tate, their leading receiver.

“The biggest point for me is to make sure everybody understands this also shows a lot of confidence in the people that are in that room,’’ Patricia said. “There are great players in that room and there are a lot of them. There’s a lot of guys who have opportunities to make plays and go out there and play at a high level. The biggest thing for us is we have to turn the page and be ready to go. If we spend all Wednesday talking about this, Minnesota is getting ready to kick the ball off at 1 o’clock on Sunday, whether we’re there or not. We better show up ready to go.’’

Patricia admitted it wasn’t an easy decision. Detroit got a third-round pick in exchange for giving away their leading receiver (44 catches, 517 yards, three touchdowns).

The Lions (3-4) are still in the thick of the NFC North race and face the Vikings (4-3-1) on Sunday in a big divisional game in Minnesota. Then the Lions had to Chicago (4-3)  on Nov. 11.

“The decisions are not easy. It’s more than just players, it’s relationships, it’s friendships, it’s working together for a long time,’’ Patricia said. “I talked to Golden at length yesterday, I talked to him last night. I wanted to make sure he was alright moving forward. I know he’s going to a good place with people who will take good care of him.’’

No one on the roster currently has the same talents as Tate has so it’s going to take some adjustment on the offense. Along with Marvin Jones Jr. (26 catches for 387 yards, five touchdowns) and Kenny Golladay (30 catches for 477 yards, three touchdowns), the other wide receivers on the roster are TJ Jones (3 catches, 36 yards) and rookie Brandon Powell who has only played on special teams. Running back Theo Riddick, who has missed two games with a knee injury, can line up in the slot.

“You never try to walk in and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to replace this guy with this.’ It’s a team effort,’’ Patricia said. “It’s totally however we think scheme-wise what will help us win this week.  It might be different the next week and might be different the week after that. We have a lot of good players that can step up in different roles depending on how we decide it’s best to play this game.’’

General manager Bob Quinn may have made the call, but he worked with Patricia on the decision to trade Tate for a third-round pick.

“You have to work together with all those situations. There certainly is good conversation that goes on and it’s good to have that, it really is. You can get caught up either way to one side. You may make decisions that are more emotional than logical. At some point you’re trying to make the best logical decision that you can, that’s the important thing,’’ Patricia said.

“Football is great, there’s a lot of emotion in it, there’s a lot of emotion on game day, there’s a lot of emotion during the game when we work and the relationships are emotional. That’s what makes it so special,’’ Patricia said. “… There’s a huge emotional part of this when you’re running a business or need to make decisions for the greater good.’’

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer can’t be quite sure how to prepare for the Tate-less Lions.

“I think Golden is a heck of a football player, he’s definitely a great run-after-catch guy. He’s always giving us problems,’’ Zimmer said in a conference call on Wednesday morning. “It changes some of the things with our game plans. It’s part of the NFL everything changes all the time.’’

Lions’ trade of Golden Tate to Eagles is a befuddling move

Eagles send third-round pick for the veteran WR

The Lions had a good thing going on offense with a talented trio of wide receivers in Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr., and Kenny Golladay.

Subtract Tate from the equation. He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for a third-round pick today, the NFL trade deadline day.

It’s a head-scratching move.

Has GM Bob Quinn given up on the season? He will say no, but his message seems clear.

The Lions are just 3-4 but still had a fighting chance in the NFC North with Tate on the roster.

Now? The offense loses a major weapon. The locker room loses a leader and fans lose one of their favorites.

The three wide receivers are not interchangeable — they each had their strengths. Tate’s shiftiness, his ability to work between the seams and creases set him apart. He fought hard for  yards after the catch and was successful.

The 30-year-old team leader, who was in his fifth season in Detroit, was in the last year of his contract and it seemed unlikely the Lions would pay a high price to bring him back.

However, the timing seems bad. It’s not a move that will sit well with fans or perhaps the rest of the team. This group finished last year 9-7 which cost Jim Caldwell his job. They brought in Matt Patricia to improve on that. They added nose tackle Damon Harrison last week which seems like a good move, but now trading Tate away seems a little scary.

In seven games this season Tate had 44 catches for 517 yards (11.8-yard average), three touchdowns and three carries for 42 yards. He never missed a game in his time in Detroit.

Sunday’s game puts Lions’ Matt Patricia and Patriots’ Bill Belichick in spotlight

Both coaches insist it’s about the game, not their relationship

ALLEN PARK — Whether they like it or not, much of the focus leading into Sunday night’s Lions home game against the New England Patriots will be focused on the coaches.

Bill Belichick hired Patricia in 2004 as an offensive assistant and kept him around until the Lions hired him as their 27th head coach in February.

Neither one wants to talk much about the past. In typical coach-speak, they’re focused on the matchup between the Lions (0-2) and Patriots (1-1). Kickoff is 8:20 p.m. on Sunday at Ford Field.

Belichick is 4-1 against the Lions since his first year as head coach in New England. The only loss was on Thanksgiving in his first season (2000) when the Lions won, 34-9. Drew Bledsoe was the quarterback for the Patriots who went 5-11 that season. Charlie Batch led the Lions who finished 9-7 in 2000.

“This is about the Patriots and the Lions. And each of us has a part in the game obviously, and I have all the respect in the world for Matt, Bob (Quinn), Mrs. (Martha Firestone) Ford, who I worked for. Great people in the Lions organization,’’ Belichick said in a conference call on Wednesday. “But in the end, it’s about the two teams competing and that’s what the game is about. Hopefully we can go out there and do a good job. So, that’s what we’re going to try and do.”

Belichick, who has won five Super Bowl rings in New England, coached with the Lions early in his career as assistant special teams coach in 1976 and receivers coach in 1977. (By the way, the Lions were 6-8 both of those seasons.)

Patricia, who won three Super Bowl rings as  the Patriots’ defensive coordinator, would also rather focus on the Lions instead of his New England ties.

“New England is New England. We’re trying to build Detroit here. We’re trying to do the best thing we can for the Lions with this team and the players that we have,’’ Patricia said. “There’s certain philosophies that I think carry over as me as a coach and what I believe in. Whether that’s New England or Syracuse or wherever I was before, college or whatever the case may be, just things that I believe in.’’

The comparison has been made for three years since the Lions hired general manager Bob Quinn from the Patriots where he had spent 16 seasons in a variety of roles. The talk intensified when he hired Patricia to replace Jim Caldwell who was fired after posting a 9-7 record in 2017.

Belichick didn’t want to get into too many details about his relationship with Patricia. He wouldn’t say if he saw some of himself in Patricia 14 years ago when he first hired him.

“I try not to evaluate those kinds of things. Look, every player and every person is different and every coach is different. No two of us are the same, even identical twins. So, everything is different, I really don’t worry about that,’’ Belichick said. “I just try to do the best job that I can in the role that I have.”

Belichick said there was no magic when he first hired Patricia. He makes it sound like it was a just another hire.

“We had openings, he was recommended, we talked to a number of people and we thought he was the best fit. And he did a great job and continued to expand his role,’’ Belichick said. “He did a number of things in the organization. He started off as an offensive assistant on the offensive line and ended up as the defensive coordinator—and there were a lot of things in between.”

Patricia is growing and learning at his first stint at any level as a head coach. Of course, he’s taking some of what he learned from New England and trying to transform the culture at the Lions’ organization. He’s figured out at least one thing about Belichick since he’s been a head coach.

“I would say the only thing that you can’t really get a perspective on until you sit in this seat would be, and I think I’ve mentioned this before, is just how much time that (Belichick)  would give me in particular and the other coaches. You walk in his office and he might be doing a thousand things. You have no idea. And your question is the most important question in the entire world, so you have to get it answered right away,’’ Patricia said. “And he would just stop and explain it, teach it, coach it. And I’d move on, I’d go handle my situation. And I’m sure that he just got stockpiled with everything else that was walking through his door, I slowed him down a little bit, I’m sure, at that point. Which you think you kind of realize, but you really don’t realize just how much is coming at you.”

Five thoughts on the Lions embarrassing 48-17 loss to the N.Y. Jets

Even Prater missed a pair of field goals

DETROIT — It wasn’t just a loss. The Lions through the years have dropped many games they were supposed to win.

No, Monday night’s season-opening 48-17 loss to the N.Y. Jets was humiliating, embarrassing and all-around atrocious.

To say it was awful is just too kind.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The Lions were beat solidly in every phase on Monday night in the friendly confines of Ford Field by rookie Sam Darnold, the youngest quarterback to ever start a game in the NFL.

Five thoughts:

1. Let’s start with the coaching. Did Matt Patricia have this bunch fully prepared? It did not look like it. Patricia’s first start as an NFL head coach was abysmal.

“Look we’re just trying to come out here everyday and get better. It’s a team game but it starts with me and we’ve got to do it better,’’ Patricia said afterwards. “Look we work hard, try to do the right things, we try to coach it the right way, we try to run it the right way, we try to execute the right way we obviously didn’t do a good enough job tonight.” Obviously.

2. Matthew Stafford is a talented quarterback with a big arm. He is not just a gunslinger. His former backup, Dan Orlovsky, said on WJR’s pre-game show that most people don’t understand the level of Stafford’s intelligence. It was the first game of Stafford’s 10th season and he threw four interceptions. Four. His record is five in a game but that was back when he was a rookie. Stafford got dinged twice in the game, but made it through until there was absolutely no need for him to be on the field.

“The story of the game was turnovers, we had too many of them, I had too many of them. I told those guys in there I’ll take (the blame) for this one. I hope I never have to say that again, I don’t want to do it, I’ll push myself as hard as I can to make sure I don’t have to. Felt prepared coming into the game, but didn’t make enough good decisions or good throws,’’ Stafford said.

3.  It is not the first time opponents said they knew what plays the Lions offense was running before the ball was snapped. Dan Wetzel, Yahoo columnist, tweeted that “a number of  Jets defenders said they knew what plays the Lions were going to run based on formation and Stafford hand signals.’’ Could explain why the Jets defense intercepted Stafford four times and Matt Cassel once. This is inexcusable and it can be blamed on coaching. Patricia knows better than this.

4. Defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said finger-pointing will not help. He emphasized that players and coaches have to examine their roles in the debacle. Francois started with himself.

“We just got beat across the board. Tonight is a game we need to look at, we need to look at each individual self including my damn self. I need to look myself in the mirror and look at this game. I have to put it behind me fast,’’ Francois said. “This is a game we need to learn off of. The bad part about it, we got beat this way. The good part about it is we get to learn from it. We’ve got 16 more weeks to play.’’

5. Bailing out the water from this sinking ship can’t be a drawn-out process. It has to be done before Sunday when the Lions play at the 49ers.

“There’s not a lot to be happy about here. I think in general all of us have to be better, start from the top and work our way down, I don’t think there’s anything you can say other than it’s all execution and coaching it all has to be better from that standpoint,’’ Patricia said.

BONUS 1: Wide receiver Kenny Golladay (7 catches for 114 yards) and rookie running back Kerryon Johnson (5 carries for 17 yards; 3 catches for 20 yards) provided highlights on offense. … Safety Quandre Diggs intercepted Darnold on the first play from scrimmage and ran it back 37 yards for a touchdown. It was a great way to start a game. … Detroit’s defense allowed 169 rushing yards and 349 yards overall. … Matt Prater missed two field goal attempts (55 yards short and wide right from 44 yards). … Ziggy Ansah had a sack early, but couldn’t finish the game due to a shoulder injury. Devon Kennard also sacked Darnold. … Ameer Abdullah and A’Shawn Robinson were inactive.

BONUS 2: Ricky Jean Francois gets the final words: “As long as nobody in this locker room, this organization lost faith, I could care less (what’s said) outside the door. None of them play for us. The only people who play for us are the people in this locker room, who I go to practice every day. As long as they still have confidence, as long as they know we have 16 weeks and as long as they know we’ve got a quick turnaround for this game we have to play (Sunday). That’s all that matters to this Lions organization.’’

 

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions open against the N.Y. Jets

All eyes are on Matt Patricia

ALLEN PARK >> Every move that GM Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia have made since January has led up to tonight.

The Lions are 6.5-point favorites against the visiting N.Y. Jets. Kickoff is 7:10 p.m.

The pressure is on Quinn who fired Jim Caldwell after last year’s 9-7 season. He said at the time the team was better than their record.

All eyes are on Patricia in his first stint as a head coach at any level. If 9-7 wasn’t good enough for another year for Caldwell, certainly more is expected of Patricia.

“I think external expectations, they are what they are. I can’t control them, there are probably a lot of people outside this building that have no idea what goes on inside the building from that standpoint,’’ Patricia said. “So, we’re just always going to try to take it day-by-day, we’re going to take it game-by-game. That’s the only thing that matters to us. I think to put numbers on what 16 games are going to look like is just unrealistic for anybody. So, we’re going to try to make sure that we do the best job we can with this game.”

A win against the Jets would be a good start for the Lions who play at the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday and return home to the New England Patriots in Week 3.

Five things to watch in the opener versus the Jets:

1. Watch the running backs — either three or four of them will be active. Patricia refused to elaborate on the number in his Saturday morning press conference. He also wouldn’t say if Ameer Abdullah, who is listed as the kick returner on the depth chart, will indeed have that responsibility. Quinn has said during the offseason that three running backs will be active. Theo Riddick? Check. LeGarrette Blount? Check. Abdullah? Probably. So what about Kerryon Johnson? He will be active. Count on it. We’ll know 90 minutes before the 7:10 game time. “We’re going to try to do what we can that particular week to best fit what the game plan is, to go out and execute at a high level,’’ Patricia said on Saturday. “It might be more running backs, it might be more wide receivers, could be an extra lineman. We might have a situation where we need to go in a different personnel group from that standpoint. So, I wouldn’t always just lock in a number from that look.

2. One game doesn’t mean everything, but it could give us a better indication of what to expect from defensive end Ziggy Ansah this season. He seems healthy and is coming off a season where he had 12.5 sacks with six of them occurring in the last two games. It seemed like an off year for Ansah. The pass rush is critical to an improved defense and Ansah should lead the way.

3. Patricia, in his first game as head coach, will leave play calling to his coordinators Jim Bob Cooter and Paul Pasqualoni. Obviously he’ll chip in when he feels a need. Many Lions fans criticized Jim Caldwell for not displaying emotion on the sideline and yet finished with a 36-28 record. Patricia has been more vocal on the practice field, we’ll see how he is on game day.

4. Matthew Stafford enters his 10th season and 113th consecutive start. No doubt he has a handle on the offense which has been tweaked but not overhauled since last season. If the reworked offensive line and the run game are effective, Stafford will look good not perfect. Don’t jump off the ledge if he throws an interception. That happens, especially if the Lions fall behind. He’ll do his part but will everyone else?

5. The new-look defense will feature multiple looks and packages. This has been a focus of Patricia and Pasqualoni. First, watch for pressure up front and contain on the edges. Jarrad Davis will play a key role and needs to step up from his rookie season. Patricia seems to love Quandre Diggs, who was signed to a three-year extension this week. He’s listed on the depth chart as the starting strong safety, but could also play nickel. Glover Quin and Darius Slay are expected to pick up where they left off. Nevin Lawson had a rough preseason game, but he’s a better corner than that. Or is he?

Prediction: Lions 30, Jets 21. Opening at home will be key for the Lions. This is a game they should win. The Jets, coming off a 5-11 season, feature a rookie starting quarterback in Sam Darnold.

(The game will air on ESPN with Beth Mowins on play by play, Brian Griese as analyst and Laura Rutledge on the sidelines.)

Lions waive Anthony Zettel; awarded DE Romeo Okwara via waivers

Zettel had 6.5 sacks in 2017

In the past two years, Lions GM Bob Quinn has proven that he is not shy about dumping his own draft picks.

It happened again on Wednesday when Quinn waived defensive end Anthony Zettel who was a sixth-round pick in Quinn’s first draft class in 2016.

The Lions were awarded DE Romeo Okwara via waivers from the New York Giants. Okwara, 23, played in six games for the Giants in 2017 due to a knee injury and finished with no sacks. As a rookie he played in all 16 games with four starts and one sack. He was signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame in 2016.

In 2016 with Kerry Hyder out, Zettel started all 16 games and was second in sacks (6.5) only to Ziggy Ansah (12).  As a rookie he played in 13 games with no starts.
Zettel, who is from West Branch, Mich., was listed as Hyder’s backup on the depth chart released this week.

In the final game of the 2017 season, the defensive line starters were Zettel, Ansah, A’Shawn Robinson and Akeem Spence who was traded to the Dolphins in May. Ricky Jean Francois and Sylvester Williams are expected to start at defensive tackle with Robinson as a backup. Hyder and Ansah will start at defensive end.

The Lions open the season on Monday night against the New York Jets.