GREEN BAY, Wis. — Thirty-four games into Matt Patricia’s tenure as head coach, the Detroit Lions still look lost on defense.
They can’t stop the run, they can’t rush the passer and they don’t force enough turnovers to impact games.
All three of those problems were evident in Sunday’s 42-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers, when the Lions gave up 259 yards rushing, totaled one sack and failed to create a turnover for the second straight week.
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“I mean, obviously you play a game like this today, it’s a bad game and it’s not good enough and we’re trying to get better and we’re trying to do better,” Patricia said. “I think our scheme has been really multiple. We’ve tried to just do whatever the best we could to fit the guys that we have to play at a high level. Certainly, there’s a lot of teaching and technique and fundamental work that’s involved with that. In the end, it’s just got to improve.”
Hired in part for his acumen as defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, Patricia’s defenses have consistently been a weakness in Detroit.
Heading into Sunday’s late game, the Lions ranked last in the NFL in rush defense (204 yards per game) and 30th in points allowed (69) through two weeks. They entered the week tied for last in takeaways (32) and 21st in sacks (78) since the start of the 2018 season, when Patricia replaced Jim Caldwell as coach.
On Sunday, the Lions played without three defensive starters in Desmond Trufant, Justin Coleman and Nick Williams, but first-round pick Jeff Okudah started and made his debut at cornerback. Jamie Collins had the Lions’ only sack, and the Packers had six plays of longer than 20 yards.
Patricia insisted he has the personnel he needs to run an effective defense, while safety Duron Harmon chalked the Lions’ struggles Sunday up to inconsistent play.
“I got all the confidence in the world in these guys, we just got to go out and do it,” Patricia said. “We got to stop doing things that hurt our team and hurt us and just make sure that we’re going to execute at a high level, coach and play well.”
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Okudah had an up-and-down debut after sitting out last week’s opener against the Chicago Bears with a hamstring injury.
He started at left cornerback and led the Lions with seven tackles, but gave up a 41-yard pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling and got beat on several other pass plays.
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The Lions did not make Okudah, the highest-drafted cornerback in 22 years, available by postgame video conference, and Patricia said little of note when asked about his performance.
“Obviously, we’ll go back and look at it,” he said. “I don’t think anybody on the field did well enough. I think all of us, coaches and players got to do better.”
After throwing five interceptions in eight games last season, Stafford already has two in two games this year.
Both of the turnovers have been costly ones.
In the opener, Stafford threw a tipped-ball interception that led to the Bears’ game-winning touchdown, and on Sunday he threw a pick near his own goal line that Chandon Sullivan returned for a touchdown.
“They brought the free safety off the slot, so it was technically a hot for me,” Stafford said. “I’ve got to feel (Sullivan) out there and just dirt it or try to slide around and find Marv (Jones). Obviously, a huge play in the game that I can’t make. I’ve got to find a way that we just, we’re not giving up points there. If I have to throw an incompletion that looks horrible or find a way to get around and just get the ball out, I’ve got to do that. Listen, there’s plays in this game I want back, there’s no question about that.”
Contact Dave Birkett at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.