I will preface this article by saying there isn’t a lot of good to be shared, and if you watched on Sunday, I am sure you can understand why.
After watching what happened a week ago, I don’t think anyone on God’s green Earth would have picked the Detroit Lions to slow down a resurgent Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. If you did, then the rest of the world needs your optimism for the rest of 2020.
A majority of this will be criticism, but I don’t think the panic button needs to be hit yet.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The first quarter was everything we would expect out of this Lions team. Detroit started fast, established the run, and moved the ball through the air. T.J. Hockenson, once again, impressed by racking up four catches for 62 yards, and is continuing to establish a nice rapport with Matthew Stafford. Although D’Andre Swift did not do much damage on the ground, it was great to see him get involved in the passing game and shake off last week’s dropped pass. Swift lead the team in receptions with five catches for 60 yards. Stafford was getting him involved early and often, almost as if he was telling the rookie, “We are in this together.” Swift ran crisp routes, found holes in the zone, and showed incredible athleticism by hurdling a Packers defender. Kerryon Johnson had a decent game and led the team with eight carries, but only managed 32 yards on the ground. Granted, the game got out-of-hand and the rushing attack took a backseat; however, it was great to see Johnson get involved and Detroit try to establish the run with the three backs.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The sliver of a chance you have of beating a good team like the Packers on the road, goes away when you beat yourselves. The Lions committed seven penalties for 70 yards, including a holding call by Oday Aboushi that set Green Bay up with 40 seconds to go in the first half. This was, of course, followed up by two undisciplined personal-foul penalties that allowed the Packers to go down the field and take the lead off an Aaron Rodgers-to-Robert Tonyan connection. The Lions’ first two possessions resulted in touchdowns, but their next six-of-seven resulted in four punts; a missed field goal; a crucial pick-six where Stafford was just trying to make something out of nothing with the game, surprisingly, still in-hand; and a turnover-on-downs with the game out of reach. On the three drives where this team did score, they averaged 9.6 plays and just over 70 yards. These long drives are crucial for the chemistry of this offense, and to take the load off this defense that did not have an answer for Aaron Jones (who, rumor has it, is still running in downtown Green Bay).
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Detroit Lions are the first team in NFL history to surrender double-digit leads in losing four-straight games. This is their 11th loss in a row, and their longest since the infamous 0-16 season in 2008.
This game could be put on the players, but this season, so far, has absolutely been on the coaching staff, particularly head coach Matt Patricia.
Patricia was supposed to come in and bring discipline, defense, and a winning culture. He was supposed to have been the architect behind the suffocating defenses that helped the New England Patriots win championships. So far, he has displayed none of that.
The Lions and Patriots have led the league in running man-coverage over the last two years, so it’s an absolute shocker that Matt Patricia would try to imitate his old stomping grounds without the same caliber of talent. (Sarcasm.)
It’s hard to run a two-high, man-coverage look when you trade away a top-ten corner in Darius Slay and an incredible safety in Quandre Diggs for peanuts, when you haven’t had any production from Desmond Trufant, and a less-than-stellar start to third-overall pick Jeff Okudah’s career. You are asking too much for your rookie corner to guard a top-five receiver like Davante Adams with no help.
Any good coach recognizes the talent of his roster and adjusts the game to that roster. That is one lesson that Matt Patricia could have learned from his previous employer. The Lions had one sack on Sunday thanks to a sell-out blitz from Jamie Collins, but aside from that, there was really no pressure and Aaron Rodgers had all day to throw. It doesn’t take an defensive genius to know that, when you can’t generate a pass rush and you decide to play man-to-man all day, you are going to get picked apart.
Please, don’t get me wrong; I am pretty positive that, even if the Lions ran a combination of cover-3 or quarters coverage, Rodgers would have still had a great game. My gripe is the inability of this defensive-minded head coach to make adjustments with his personnel to make life easier for his team. Maybe, instead of making his team run laps like they were some JV team, Patricia and his staff should spend more time assessing the strengths and weaknesses of this squad.