Five things to watch as Lions face 49ers

Both teams want to avoid 0-2 start

After Monday night’s 48-17 loss, the Detroit Lions have much to prove today at the San Francisco 49ers.

They can quiet the rumors that the team doesn’t buy into new coach Matt Patricia. The defense can show that Patricia and Paul Pasqualoni have drawn up a scheme that complements the players’ talents.

They can prove this team is ready to take a step up from a 9-7 record last season. They can show that they can compete for a playoff spot.

(Kickoff is at 4:05 p.m. on FOX)

The Lions’ short turn-around from playing on Monday night is no excuse. This is the NFL, this is what they do.

In the past 10 seasons only 10 NFL teams  made the playoffs after an 0-2 start. Here’s the thing, though. San Francisco is 0-1 too — although they looked more competitive in the 24-16 loss at the Vikings.

It all sets up for a Week 2 game with plenty on the line for both teams.

Five things to watch:

1. Matthew Stafford should have a better game. The four interceptions were not all on him, but he made some bad decisions in the first game of this tenth season. He is better than that. Of course when he delivers a ball to a receiver, they cannot drop it. Golden Tate alone had two drops. He knows he can do better.

2. The offensive line last week didn’t allow Stafford to be sacked. However, the quarterback faced much pressure. With T.J. Lang (foot) out at right guard we could see Kenny Wiggins start in his place. He is experienced after starting all 16 games last season for the Chargers. The line — all five of them — have to play better than last week not just in protecting Stafford but opening up holes for the running backs.

3. That run game that has been talked about since the final snap of the 2017 season, needs to get in gear early. Let’s see more of rookie Kerryon Johnson and veteran LeGarrette Blount. Last week Ameer Abdullah was inactive (coach’s decision) and would expect the same at San Francisco. The Lions only had 39 yards rushing in Monday night’s loss to the Jets. They had to get away from the run in the second half because they fell so far behind. In the first half they managed just 18 rushing yards. It’s befuddling, that’s for sure. If it’s not corrected, their chances of beating the 49ers are diminished.

4. Detroit’s defense got off to a terrific start with Quandre Diggs intercepting Sam Darnold on the Jets’ first play from scrimmage. It was pretty much downhill from there with the defense giving up five touchdowns, 169 rushing yards and 48 total points. It doesn’t get easier. Coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense has plenty of weapons with Jimmy Garoppolo connecting on passes of 36 yards or more to three different receivers last week. Shanahan said he watched Patriots’ film from the Super Bowl to acquaint himself with Patricia’s defensive scheme. The line must get pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo to force him to throw interceptions. Last week he threw three, which is uncharacteristic for him. In six games last season he was picked off just five times. The Vikings made him uncomfortable (he was sacked three times) and it worked.

5. Special teams must get its act together after a lousy start against the Jets. They gave up a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown and Matt Prater missed two field goals (56 and 44 yards). Sam Martin’s punts averaged a healthy 50.7 yards but those were returned for a total of 137 yards. Special teams can be overlooked, but this unit needs to step up.

Lions Matt Patricia stresses hard work, execution on day after stunning loss

Jets’ defense knew the Lions’ plays

The day after the debacle, Lions coach Matt Patricia stayed on message. He’s moving on from the 48-17 loss to the Jets on Monday Night Football

Patricia, on a Tuesday evening conference call, said the team is working hard to get better every day.

Pure coach speak. With the way the Lions stunk up Ford Field, it seems Patricia would be a little more fiery and address the areas that failed (basically all of them).

Here are two concerns:

— Have the played bought in to his message?

— How come the Jets defense knew what was coming on Detroit’s offense?

If he’s worried that some of the players may have tuned him out, he did not let on.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

“The good thing about this game, one of the things we try to do is build mental toughness, that’s part of the game and what we’re all about,’’ Patricia said in a Tuesday conference call.

Really, it could have been any coach of any team in any sport uttering those same words.

This is an area that cannot be overlooked. If Patricia has lost the team — and it’s an if — one game into the season, it could turn into a four-month nightmare. Lions’ fans know the script.

Along with messaging, it certainly can’t be overlooked that Jets defensive and offensive players said they knew what plays the Lions were running and were able to adjust. This is the first game of the season so they must have gone back to last season for film — and maybe to Patriots’ film on defense. Afterall they intercepted Matthew Stafford four times and Matt Cassel once.

Patricia doesn’t seem fazed by this.

“I would say in general, there are a lot of things that go on in the games that are identifiable to the players on both sides of the ball through the course of the game and that happens at times. Those things come up,’’ Patricia said. “There are certainly very specific things that are used in the course of a game where guys do a good job of steering things or studying things and seeing stuff at that standpoint. We try to do the best we can to keep it moving on both sides of the ball. We certainly have the same situation from our side, we study opponents the same as everybody else does and you kind of, group, I would say, things into categories based on schemes and systems. And that’s really important to understand. So, if you do that, sometimes that’s helpful and sometimes it’s not.”

Got that?

The offensive woes on Monday night were possibly most worrisome since it’s basically the same offense that Jim Bob Cooter ran last year. It seems like he would have changed formations and signals, or maybe he did.

Patricia brought in a new defensive scheme. Do the Lions have enough talent and depth on defense to execute it? He didn’t really say.

“We have the players that we have that are going to help us try to get better. I think the biggest part of it for us, again I’ll start with myself, some of the coaching and some of that stuff has to be better and some of the execution of some of the things we were trying to do last night has to be better,’’ Patricia said. “I don’t think it was a situation where we were outmatched or out-manned , we just got out-executed, give credit to the Jets.’’

Veteran safety Glover Quin said it felt like the defense never was in control of the game.

The Lions finished 2017 with a 9-7 record. They’ve won at least nine games in three of the last four seasons. Patricia doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. This is not a rebuild. This is not a young team by NFL standards. These guys know football.

“I feel like we were right in the game in a good situation at the beginning of the third quarter and we let things spiral out of control from there,” veteran linebacker Devon Kennard said. “Like I said, being a defensive guy, I would’ve loved to get a stop after our offense scored and put them in position to maybe score again. But we didn’t do that and things got out of control.”

 

Lions, Matt Patricia had seven months to prepare for Jets; results inexcusable

Lopsided loss raises doubts

Seven months. Coach Matt Patricia and his staff had seven months to prepare for the N.Y. Jets. The results are shameful.

The Lions are coming off a 9-7 season which was not good enough to keep Jim Caldwell around. On paper it’s a decent NFL team. Not elite, but it should be at least an eight- or nine-win team.

This is not a rebuild. This is a team that should re ready to take the next step, a playoff win.

Then came a stinker like Monday when the Lions lost 48-17 at Ford Field to the Jets and their rookie quarterback Sam Darnold.

Color me befuddled.

It would be understandable if Stafford happened to have a bad day but the defense and special teams held their own. Or any variation of that – defense bad and Stafford and special teams good. Or, if one of the key players had been out with an injury it would have been a little less befuddling.

But it was all three phases that stunk in Monday night’s debacle. Even Matt Prater missed two field goals.

Stafford threw four interceptions and afterward several Jets defenders said they knew what play the Lions were going to run by their formations and Stafford’s hand signals, according to Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports.

How can that happen? Patricia is a defensive guru — he’s the guy who has been looking for tells on other offenses. How can he not see them in his own offense?

He took partial blame, but should have put it all on his shoulders. That’s what Stafford did – he told his teammates that loss was on him. That’s a sign of a leader.

Seven months.

Look back to 2009 when Jim Schwartz, also a first-year head coach, took over the Lions who had stumbled to an 0-16 record in 2008. That was a job no one wanted. The roster he inherited had more weak points than strengths (Calvin Johnson). Matthew Stafford was a 21-year-old rookie. The team culture was all about losing. The roster didn’t have near the talent or depth that today’s does.

The 2009 season opener was in New Orleans, a tough place for any NFL team to win except the Saints. Drew Brees threw six touchdown passes and zero interceptions while Stafford threw three interceptions and zero touchdowns. And, yes, the Lions lost, but the score was 45-27. Detroit had 33 rushing yards, even then it was a weak point. It was not a great start for Schwartz, but considering where the Lions came from, it was not that upsetting.

In 2014, Jim Caldwell won his first game as Lions coach on a Monday night against the Giants, 35-14, at Ford Field. Those Lions were coming off a 7-9 season that got Schwartz fired.

That was then, this is now. Patricia’s message has been “last year was last year.”

Well, last year is looking pretty good.