Despite latest meltdown, Detroit Lions players insist they’re ‘200%’ behind Matt Patricia

Detroit Free Press

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Kerryon Johnson paused for a moment of silence.

The Detroit Lions’ third-year running back was demonstrating his answer to a question about what the locker room was like after Sunday’s demoralizing 42-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers, but he could have been paying respects to a season that, two weeks in, already looks dead.

The Packers capitalized on a slew of Lions mistakes late in the second quarter and early in the third, scoring 31 unanswered points to send the Lions to their eighth straight NFC North loss and 11th straight overall dating back to last season.

At 0-2, and with two losses in the division, they already are two games behind the Packers and Chicago Bears in the NFC North, and have shown little reason to believe a turnaround is coming.

[ Opinion: Two weeks in, Lions’ season essentially over after flop in Green Bay ]

Last week, the Lions melted down late in a 27-23 loss the Bears, and on Sunday they suffered through another comedy of errors: Matthew Stafford took a bad sack, Will Harris and Oday Aboushi committed costly penalties and the defense gave up an easy touchdown pass, all in the final 84 seconds of the first half. Then Aaron Jones broke a 75-yard touchdown run on Green Bay’s first offensive play of the third quarter.

“We can’t ride the wave of the game,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “We can’t go up and down and be really high and then something happens and then go really low and try to pick it back up, and then something good happens and go really high again. Just the ebbs and flows of the game, we’ve got to ignore that. We’ve got to stay consistent. We’ve got to not think about the end result before we get to the end result. We’ve got to think about that play at that moment and stay in that moment, and that’s something we have to do.”

The Lions are 9-24-1 in 34 games with Patricia as coach, and their 11-game losing streak is tied for the third longest in franchise history.

On Sunday, they became the first team in NFL history to blow double-digit leads in four straight losses, and after surviving last season’s 0-9 finish, Patricia’s future as Lions coach is once again in question.

Johnson and several other players the team hand-picked for postgame video conferences Sunday offered support for their coach. 

“Is 200% an option?” Johnson said when asked his confidence level in the staff. “That’s like the confidence I have in him. As hard as I work, as hard as my teammates work, they work the same. I mean, Matt Patricia stays up countless hours, Bev (offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell) stays up countless hours, all of our coaches stay up countless hours focusing on how we can win, how we can put ourselves in the best position to win, so I know it’s not from a lack of trying. It just doesn’t happen. At the end of the day, they can only do so much. At the end of the day, we have to go out and perform.”

The Lions have done that far too infrequently under Patricia.

[ Examining Matt Patricia’s hot seat after Lions’ latest ugly loss ]

They went 6-10 his first season in 2018 and 3-12-1 last year, and have given up 69 points in this season’s first two games.

On Sunday, the Lions got off to a hot start, scoring touchdowns on their first two drives, before their offense predictably sputtered and their defense turned into a sieve.

Johnson opened the game with a 1-yard touchdown run and after Stafford’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones gave the Lions a 14-3 lead, the floodgates opened on a Packers rout.

Aaron Rodgers threw his first of two touchdown passes to Jones early in the second quarter, then took advantage of a slew of Lions mistakes to build a 17-14 halftime lead.

On second-and-6 from the Lions 11 with 1:24 left in the first half, Stafford took a bad sack for the second straight week, leaving the Lions in third-and-long from their own 1. Last week, he took a sack in the fourth quarter that forced the Lions to try a long field goal that Matt Prater missed.

Trying to kill time with a run on the next play, Aboushi drew a holding penalty that stopped the clock. The Packers started their next possession at their own 38 with 60 seconds on the clock and gained 30 yards on the next plays on two Harris personal fouls.

Rodgers threw his second touchdown pass three plays later to Robert Tonyan, and Jones broke his long run through the middle of the Lions defense after the opening kickoff of the third quarter.

The Lions followed with a three-and-out, and on their next possession, Chandon Sullivan picked off an errant Stafford pass and returned it 7 yards for a touchdown.

“We looked up and the game’s a two-score game and that’s not how you want to play these guys with the pass rush that they have and the players they have on the back end,” Stafford said. “So just got to do a better job of staying close and making the game more friendly for us. Obviously, down 21 points late in the fourth quarter, that’s not a place you want to be.”

Stafford finished 20 of 33 passing for 244 yards and two touchdowns, but got little help from his supporting cast.

The Lions, playing without top receiver Kenny Golladay and two starters on the offensive line (Joe Dahl and Hal Vaitai) and in the secondary (Desmond Trufant and Justin Coleman), committed four personal fouls and gave up 488 yards of offense, including 259 rushing.

Jones had a career-day with 168 yards rushing on 18 carries and three touchdowns, including one receiving. He had 236 total yards from scrimmage.

Rodgers completed 18 of 30 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns for the Packers (2-0).

“We’re a good team,” Marvin Jones said. “We know what we have and we just haven’t been capitalizing. That’s pretty much it, so we can just look forward.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Lions content. 

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