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.

Five reasons the Lions lost to the Vikings

Stafford sacked career-high 10 times

In a crucial NFC North game, the Lions were no match for the Vikings who won 24-6 in Minnesota on Sunday.

It was a particularly ugly game for Detroit because, once again, they were ineffective in all three phases. Right off the bat, Sam Martin slipped and fell on the opening kickoff. It was an omen for another wretched loss.

The Vikings are now 5-3-1 and the Lions fall to 3-5.

It was their first game without leading wide receiver Golden Tate who was traded to the Eagles on Tuesday. The Vikings defense typically would have to account for Tate on every play. Now they don’t. Think about it. Yes, Theo Riddick can line up in the slot and catch the ball, but he is no Tate who was usually Stafford’s best option especially on third down. This is what would happen to most NFL teams if they all of a sudden lost their top wide receiver.

Hey, this loss was not all because Tate is gone, but that is a part of it.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The offensive line had no answer for the Vikings’ bull rush.

The Lions defense had another bad day at the office even though coach Matt Patricia is a defensive specialist and he has some decent talent on the roster. They did hold the Vikings to 283 yards and 24 points and Darius Slay came up with a big interception. But it wasn’t enough.

Five reasons the Lions lost:

1. The Vikings defense came out fired up and the Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter had no answers. If he made adjustments, they were not apparent. The Lions had their lowest offensive output (in yards) for a game this season with just 209 and their lowest points with 9. The lowest had been 264 in the win over the Packers in Week 5.

2. Matthew Stafford was sacked 10 times, a career high for him and a Vikings’ franchise record. Ouch. The offensive line was responsible for not providing protection on most of the sacks, although Stafford could have thrown it away a few times. One time he was ground so far into the turf, the Lions had to call a timeout to dig pellets (from the field turf) out of Stafford’s left eye. Entering the game, he had just been sacked 13 times in the first 7 games. He completed 25 of 36 passes for 199 yards for a rating of 83.0. It was the first game this season he didn’t throw a touchdown pass.

3. The Lions also couldn’t get the run game established, finishing with 66 rushing yards. Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson, who was averaging 6.2 yards per carry, rushed 12 times for 37 yards (3.1 yards per carry).

4. Teez Tabor. Enough said.

5. Coaching. It just looked like the Lions weren’t prepared for the Vikings. It wasn’t just Patricia or Cooter or defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni — it was all of them. Patricia is kind of new to the NFC North and it showed. Watching, it was hard to imagine the Lions had won their last two games there at U.S. Bank Stadium. Wait, that was when they had Golden Tate and a mostly different coaching staff.

ALSO: Interestingly enough, the Lions had a big edge in time of possession: 36:45 to 23:15. … Vikings wide receiver had at least 100 receiving yards in each of the opening eight games but was held to four catches for 22 yards. …. The Lions play at the Chicago Bears (5-3) next Sunday. The Bears smacked Buffalo, 41-9 on Sunday.

Lions: Five things to watch vs. Vikings

First look at Tate-less offense

ALLEN PARK — It’s almost halfway through the season and the Lions will play just their second NFC North game on Sunday at the Vikings (4-3-1).

It’s huge. The Lions (3-4) are in the mix but it’s close with the Bears (4-3) and Packers (3-3-1).

It won’t be easy in the Lions’ first game without Golden Tate who was traded to the Eagles. Tate was Matthew Stafford’s go-to guy especially on third down, leading the team with 44 catches.

“I know you hate hearing it, but we have to take it one at a time. We can look at the big picture of all of it for sure, but this week’s starting off (with) a lot of big challenges. Really every week in the NFL, as we know, is a huge challenge,’’ Stafford said. “Going on the road in the division, I like to say division games count for two. You get the win and they get the loss. They’re big games. And the more you can go and win those, whether on the road or at your place, the better. We have a big stretch of them coming up and hopefully we’ll win more than we lose, and it’ll be a good situation for us.”

Five things to watch:

1. Stafford’s offense has been inconsistent this season and is coming off a bad showing in the 28-14 loss to the Seahawks. Stafford now has the added issue of making it work without Tate. “I think the biggest thing for me is just moving forward with what we have,’’ Stafford said. “That’s all I can do. I try to go out there and prepare each week whether somebody’s hurt or somebody’s traded, whatever it is, not available to play that week. Alright, let’s go be successful with what we have. And this week is no different from that standpoint.”

2. Look for TJ Jones to line up in the slot in place of Tate. Jones only has three catches in six games. He was inactive against the Seahawks with rookie Brandon Powell activated for the first time, but Powell only returned. He has yet to get his first NFL catch. It could happen in Minnesota. Powell will have to prove his worth. If he makes the most of his opportunities, he may get more targets. “I’ve played a decent amount of football with TJ, too. Brandon not as much. But, TJ is a savvy guy. He’s got a lot of great feel, he’s a smart guy,’’ Stafford said. “He’s a good blocker. He does everything you would want in a receiver. I think he and BP give us a really good element inside.”

3. Offensively the Lions will have trouble sustaining drives against the Vikings tough third-down defense which is the best in the NFL and it’s not even close. They allow just 25.5 percent of conversions. That’s 6 percentage points better than Baltimore which is No. 2. Offensively, the Lions convert 42.3 percent of their third-down chances. “Third down is a critical part all the way across the board. One of the things (the Vikings) do defensively on third down, which is so difficult, is the different looks and fronts and stunts and blitzes that they are able to run,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “They have a bunch of combinations of overloads, walk-up, double-A gap looks, tight coverage that’s mixed in behind it. Some of that’s tight zone coverage, some of that’s tight man coverage. When you watch it, they do a great job with the timing, especially at home.’’

4. The Lions’ secondary will have its hands full with the one-two wide receiver punch of Adam Thielen (74 catches, 925 yards) and Stefon Diggs (58 catches, 587 yards). They’ve combined for 10 of the Vikings’ 16 receiving touchdowns. Cornerback Darius Slay can just handle one at a time. And don’t forget tight end Kyle Rudolph.  “Now with a lot of attention going to those receivers, the tight end position is now back open and he becomes more critical. Especially I would in the you’ve-got-to-have it situations or most importantly the red area. He’s a big target down there, he’s a big catch radius guy, he’s a savvy veteran,’’ Patricia said.

5. The Lions must establish the run game early and stay with it which will be difficult because the Vikings rushing defense is among the NFL’s best. “We play these guys a bunch, they’re very good defense. They have really good players, very good scheme, very sort of diverse scheme. It’s a good challenge for us kind of every year getting to play these guys a couple times. It’s really quite the challenge,’’ offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. “Really good players, really good scheme. Coach (Mike) Zimmer does a nice job with these guys. There always ready to play and they play a high level.” The Lions can’t fall too far behind at the half. The Vikings have outscored opponents in the second half 107-83.

Prediction: Vikings 31, Lions 17.

Herman Moore: Lions Kenny Golladay has potential to dominate in NFL

But first he has to get the ball

ALLEN PARK — Kenny Golladay’s total production in the last two games was three catches for 49 yards.

Even though the Lions’ second-year wide receiver and Golden Tate played different roles on the offense, look for Golladay to get more targets since Tate has been shipped off to the Eagles. Sunday the Lions (3-4) will play their first Tate-less game against the Vikings (4-3-1)at Minnesota.

So far it appears that Golladay has been under-used. He has 30 catches for 477 yards and three touchdowns so far.

“He’s going to get some different attention based on game-plan or just general game-plans might go in different directions based on what we feel we need to do win that particular week,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “So it does change week-by-week, but there is a learning process that we’re still going through and that he’s going to see a bunch of different things that maybe necessarily he hasn’t seen before from a coverage standpoint and we just have to keep working to just keep growing and developing him as a player and also as an offense.’’

Golladay had a dozen targets, seven catches and 114 yards in the season opener but hasn’t had close to that much attention since with just 32 targets over the past six games.

He had one target and one catch for 12 yards in the loss to Seattle last week. It came on the first pass of the third quarter after he was a non-factor in the first half.

Golladay has gotten the attention of former record-setting Lions wide receiver Herman Moore who thinks, with some work, that Golladay can dominate in the NFL.

“He reminds me of almost like a Jermaine Crowell in terms of how lean he is, he’s tall and he has straight-ahead speed. He has upper-body strength,’’ Moore said. “If he can hone in the craft and say, ‘It’s not just going to be the deeper passes, I’ve got to learn how to catch the shorter ones, break tackles, make plays when plays aren’t there and just be dependable.

“He could turn out to be one of the great ones, I don’t say that lightly. Those chapters have to be written, but he has all the physical attributes for today’s NFL if you look at a prototypical dominant receiver. He has the ability to do that,’’ Moore added.

First, the ball has to be thrown his way.

“Kenny is still playing good football, we’re going to keep doing that. (Matthew) Stafford is going to keep throwing the ball to who gets the right one on one look,’’ offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. “It could be a defensive decision, it could be something their doing on their side of the ball. So that thing is a little bit different week. … The ball finds its way around usually when you have multiple guys working to get open.”

Cooter and Stafford have both repeatedly said that they don’t go into a game, planning to throw more passes to one receiver than another. It just depends on how the game develops.

Moore spent some time with Golladay last year during his rookie season. Moore, a first-round pick who struggled as a rookie, could identify.

“I talked with him as he was going through some of his injuries, the frustration that he was having. He knew he had far more abilities and talent than he was able to display,’’  said Moore who was inducted into the Lions’ ring of honor on Sunday.

First he encouraged him to work through getting healthy. “The second part was learning the system and don’t become one-dimensional. Try and show you have the ability to work across the board. I think he’s improving on that,’’ Moore said.

Five main reasons Detroit Lions lost to Seattle Seahawks

Detroit falls to 3-4; next up at Vikings

DETROIT — It’s not just that the Seahawks were well rested coming off  a bye week, they were better prepared for whatever they would face against the Detroit Lions.

Quality coaching by Pete Carroll and overall solid execution led to a 28-14 win over the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday.

For the Lions (3-4), it was complete failure in all three phases. It was ugly.

Coach Matt Patricia took partial blame afterward, as well he should.

“It was a bad job coaching, bad job playing. We have to do a better job getting prepared during the week. (We) played a very good Seattle Seahawks team. Give them credit. They came out, they out-performed us,’’ Patricia said. “Pete (Carroll) had his crew ready to go coming off the Bye week and we just couldn’t stay with them at all. So, I have to do a better job getting the team ready.’’

And certainly much is on him.

Veteran defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, who is not afraid to speak his mind, said the team came out flat and unfocused.

“We didn’t focus on nothing, we couldn’t stop the run, and we let the Seattle offense control the game. We killed ourselves in penalties, we didn’t connect with their plays and we didn’t focus at all. We were just out there playing,’’ Francois said.

When running back Ameer Abdullah was asked if the team hit cruise control, he had a one-word answer: “Obviously.”

That is on coaching.

After winning two straight, it looked like the Lions were turning the corner in Patricia’s first season. Now it looks like they’ve fallen down the stairs and it’s uncertain if they can climb back up.

Five main reasons the Lions lost:

1. The defense did not in any fashion resemble the same bunch that beat the Patriots and Packers. It looked like they’d reverted to their status when they were embarrassed by the Jets in the season opener. Patricia, supposedly a defensive guru, has problems here. They can’t be this inconsistent week to week if they want to win. On the snaps where newly acquired nose tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison was on the field, they were more effective at stopping running backs Chris Carson (25 carries, 105 yards) and Mike Davis (10 carries, 33 yards). That’s potentially a good sign, but it can’t all be up to the new guy. “Seattle’s run the ball really well, so we knew it was going to be a big challenge for us. It’s a full-team effort in the run game,’’ Patricia said. “We have to get everybody executing better. … We have to get the fits right and we have to get off some blocks and we need to get our fundamentals better. So, that’s the bottom line.’’

2. Matthew Stafford fumbled and lost the ball and also threw an interception. Both were fourth-quarter miscues. Can’t happen. Stafford said if he would’ve had two hands on the ball he wouldn’t have lost it. He only blamed himself. The Lions were first-and-goal at Seattle’s 4-yard line when cornerback Justin Coleman stepped in front of Golden Tate at the 1-yard line and got his mitts on the ball. A touchdown would have closed the gap to a 7-point deficit and left the chance the Lions could pull out a last-second comeback. Stafford finished 27 of 40 for 310 yards, two touchdowns and a 96.9 rating.

3. Special teams play stunk too. They had penalties on a punt and on two kickoffs. Ameer Abdullah, who was returning kickoffs, fumbled and lost the ball in the second quarter. Sam Martin shanked a 28-yard punt late in the third quarter to give the Seahawks the ball at their own 28, when the defense needed them to be backed up. Patricia wouldn’t specifically address the special teams woes. “Right now, I’m not really pleased with any phase,’’ the coach said.

4. When the Lions run the ball well, offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter looks like a genius. They only rushed for 34 yards with just 13 carries. They stuck with the run early but once they were down 21-7 in the second quarter they need to play catch-up by passing the ball. It’s why an early lead is so essential, it can change everything. “We were coming in with a balanced game plan and obviously the score got to where it was, we had to try and do some things to get back into it,’’ Stafford said.

5. Get the ball to Kenny Golladay. The wide receiver had one catch for 12 yards. Last week he had two for 21 yards. “We don’t really go into a week thinking, ‘Throw this guy a ball a bunch of times,’ we just go out there and call plays and I need to make sure I get it to the right guy,’’ Stafford said. Makes sense. However, when you’ve got a talented guy like Golladay maybe find ways to get him more involved. On the bright side, Marvin Jones Jr. had seven catches for 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Golden Tate had seven for 50 yards.

UP NEXT: The Lions (3-4) play at the Vikings next Sunday, and then at the Chicago Bears on Nov. 11. Two huge divisional opponents who are tough to play on the road. It will be interesting to see which Lions team shows up.

 

Five things to watch as Lions host Seahawks; plus prediction

Both teams at 3-3 heading into match-up at Ford Field

ALLEN PARK — To have a chance to win the NFC North, the Lions have to win at home.

So far they’re 2-1 at Ford Field with impressive wins over the Patriots and Packers and an  embarrassing loss to the Jets.

Sunday’s game at Ford Field against the Seattle Seahawks isn’t a must-win but almost halfway through the season it’s time to get on the right side of the .500 mark.

The Seahawks (3-3) have won three of their last four just like the Lions (3-3). Tee up another tough one for the home team. Seattle is coming off its bye week so should be rested and ready to go.

“I think Seattle has a little bit of jump on us this week and got going early. I know coach (Pete) Carroll is going to have his group ready to go,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “We just have to be ready to go from the start. We can’t let whatever happened last week affect us this week. We have to move on and get ready to go and just expect their best right away. They are a fast-starting aggressive team, we know that just in general so we’re going to have to be ready to go as soon as that thing kicks off. But we know that they’re energy, the competitiveness that Seattle brings, they’re going to do a great job of trying to get on top early and keep the throttle going all the way through the game.”

The Seahawks have outscored opponents 28-21 in the first quarters of their six games while the Lions have a 45-13 scoring edge in the first quarter.

Here are five things to watch:

1. No room for complacency on the Lions run game. Feed the ball to Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount. Don’t shy away. Keep pounding. Got that Jim Bob Cooter? I think he does, actually. Cooter has looked like an offensive genius since Johnson has found his groove.

2. Matthew Stafford has been playing out of his mind. In the last five games he’s thrown 11 touchdowns and one interception and finished each game with a rating of more than 100 (158.3 is perfect). He has the respect of the Carroll, the Seahawks and everyone else. “He’s a terrific player, I have great respect for him. He’s one of the great ones in the game. He’s got all the background, all of the experience, he’s thrown a million passes in unbelievable situations late in the game, two minutes, you name it, big third down guy, big red zone guy,’’ Carroll said on a conference call this week. “He’s a great player and he’s one of the classic quarterbacks in this league and has been for a long time.” The Seahawks’ passing defense is ranked third in the NFL allowing just 206.0 passing yards per game and they have nine interceptions, tied for sixth in the NFL

3. Will have to wait and see whether NT Damon “Snacks” Harrison will make his Lions’ debut. Patricia wouldn’t say either way prior to Friday’s practice. The nose tackle, acquired for the Giants, practiced with the team on Thursday and Friday. Stafford, who has played against him, said he’s not only good for stopping the run, but he’s also sneaky good in the pass game too. The defense has improved at stopping the run, but Harrison’s addition could be huge.

4. Detroit’s defense has to make Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson uncomfortable which is tough because he’s still dangerous when he gets outside the pocket. “Russell Wilson is still Russell Wilson, moves around a lot, makes a lot of plays for them. They are getting back to what they like to do is run the ball, run the ball, control the game up front and then take some shots off the run game,’’ Lions safety Glover Quin said. Wilson has thrown 13 touchdowns against just four interceptions.

5. Keep an eye on Seattle running backs Chris Carson (4.5 yards per carry) and Mike Davis (4.6 yards per carry).  The Seahawks average 127.8 rushing yards per game. “Coach ( Brian (Schottenheimer) and I went against each other for a long time when he was at the Jets and I know he likes that downhill kind of pound-it run game,’’ Patricia said. “And I think he just has two backs that he feels are big, physical guys that will be hard to tackle for 60 minutes. And I think they’re in a situation where they’re handing the ball off 30-plus times here recently in order to control the game and I think that’s what they want to do. I think that’s what he likes is just having those bigger backs that—it takes a toll. When you have those big guys, you may stop them for a yard or two early but those one or two-yard runs turn into five or six and then all of sudden it’s a 10 to 12 to 20-yard run and that’s the biggest problem with guys like that. And I think they’ve just settled into a system that fits them really well.”

PREDICTION: Lions 27, Seahawks 21

Lions welcome Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison with open arms and a box of snacks

Harrison expected to play Sunday against the Seahawks

ALLEN PARK — Damon “Snacks” Harrison has arrived.

Waiting for the newest Detroit Lions nose tackle in his locker was a big box of snacks — candy, chips, a solid goodie assortment for a 355-pound mountain of a man nicknamed “Snacks.”

“I thought it was appropriate. I reached out to him via social media. He said Honey Buns and Butterfingers, which are solid choices. I figured I’d take care of him and other D-linemen,’’ wide receiver Golden Tate said.

The Lions who traded a fifth-round pick to the N.Y. Giants for Harrison, made the move official on Thursday morning.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Harrison was handed a No. 98 jersey and practiced for the first time with the team. He’ll meet with the media on Friday.

“It’s exciting, he’s been a big-time playmaker in this league for a long time. He’s really good at what he does,’’ Matthew Stafford said. “Hopefully he can bring that to us. Played against him a bunch of times, he’s definitely a guy you star when you playing against him and understand what his strengths are. Obviously really happy to have him.’’

The nose tackle has developed a reputation as a run stuffer, but he offers more than that.

“(He’s) extremely disruptive in the run game and sneaky good in the pass game too,’’ Stafford said. “Condensing the pocket in the pass game, and in the run game just dominating with his size, strength and quickness he’s been really good for along time.’’

Defensive end Kerry Hyder spent 2014 on the practice squad with the N.Y. Jets where Harrison was a starter.

“He’s a good dude, I’ve known him since my rookie year. To see him here, he’s a real cool dude, man, and he’s definitely going to give us a great impact,’’ Hyder said. “I’m excited to see him out there.’’

Hyder expects Harrison to easily pick up the scheme and be ready for Sunday’s game at Ford Field against the Seattle Seahawks.

The Lions are riding a two-game win streak. Not much is needed to pump them up for a Sunday home game, but it appears the addition of Harrison has provided a spark in the locker room.

“What he’s done for a long time speaks for itself,’’ Tate said. “I think he’s an instant addition to our team that’s going to help us. That’s what we’re hoping for. I can’t wait to watch him.’’

Tate is not alone.