Wojo: After latest Lions debacle, Patricia can’t escape inevitable demise

Detroit News

Green Bay, Wis. — If Matt Patricia has a single answer, we haven’t heard it. If he has any shot at fixing this mess, we haven’t seen it. If the Lions have any way of halting their latest sad spiral, there’s no evidence of it.

This was Patricia’s awful regime in ugly summation, and the Lions’ awful history in totality. The Lions again led by double-digits, again only to reveal who they really are. Poor composure, poor discipline, poor coaching, poor defense. Poor everything, excepting for punting. The punter is good.

The Lions are 0-2 and already in full free-fall after a 42-21 loss to the Packers Sunday. They’ve lost 11 straight overall and four straight after leading by double-digits, which has never happened in NFL history. The moment adversity hit, they wobbled and curled up. Matthew Stafford made a couple of bad errors and so did others, and when it’s that pervasive, you know where it starts.

I doubt ownership is prepared to make a coaching change this early in the season, but no one would argue if it  did. For sure, if the Lions are 0-4 at the bye in two weeks, Patricia’s firing has to be considered, pandemic or not. There’s simply nothing for Patricia and GM Bob Quinn to hang onto now. If there was one area that showed promise, one clear sign of improvement, you could justify a bit more patience. But no, nothing.

The players looked defeated at the first sign of defeat, then delivered their postgame confessions in somber snippets, with little emotion. That does not bode well for the leadership. Asked if he still had confidence in Patricia and the coaching staff, Stafford’s tone didn’t change.

“I’m confident,” he said. “We gotta go out and play better, that’s the biggest thing.”

But after a hot start — just like last week against Chicago — the Lions collapsed. Just like last week, Stafford forced plays, including an interception return for a touchdown that made it 31-14. In slightly more than two seasons, Patricia is 9-24-1, and the most disturbing element is the utter lack of discipline. Also, the pathetic run defense. Also, the horrible pass defense.

Once again, Patricia offered no real insight. Gotta play better, gotta coach better, etc. I truly don’t think he knows what has happened. The free-agent defensive acquisitions that were supposed to provide stability and savvy have been overrun. The Packers rushed for 259 yards — 168 by Aaron Jones — and piled up 488 total yards.

Short-lived success

The Lions grabbed a 14-3 lead after two sharp drives and then it was gone in a blink of penalties. Doesn’t take much for Aaron Rodgers to take over and he was in sidestepping, sidearming, sweet-slinging form, throwing for 240 yards and two touchdowns.

“Obviously, very disappointing game on our end,” Patricia said. “We can’t ride the wave of the game, we can’t go up and down and be really high and then something happens and go really low. Just the ebbs and flows of the game, we’ve got to ignore that. We’ve got to not think about the end result before we get to the end result.”

These things happen in Lambeau Field, even though there were no fans due to COVID. But they happen in all sorts of bizarre ways at all sorts of times to the Lions. During one particularly egregious stretch, they committed a comical series of mistakes, and finished with seven penalties for 70 yards. With starting cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Justin Coleman out with injuries, the secondary had little chance against Rodgers.

First-round pick Jeff Okudah made his debut and periodically looked lost. Second-year corner Amani Oruwariye committed two holding penalties, although one was declined. That led to a Jones 7-yard touchdown run, and almost immediately, you could see the Lions wilting.

The next drive was effectively ended by a ridiculous penalty by guard Oday Aboushi, who flattened the Packers’ Tyler Lancaster after the whistle. Still, the Lions got possession with the chance to preserve a 14-10 lead, and Stafford held the ball too long and was sacked at his own 1. For good measure, Aboushi added another holding penalty, which was declined but stopped the clock.

Green Bay took over at its 38 with one minute left in the half, and on consecutive plays, safety Will Harris committed two unnecessary-roughness penalties. Rodgers capped the quick drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Robert Tonyan with 14 seconds left, and the Packers were on top for good, 17-14.

I could bore you with the gruesome second-half details but I’ll be merciful. Suffice to say, the Packers got a defensive gift on the first play, and Jones raced straight up the middle for a 75-yard touchdown. Later in the quarter, Lions’ punt-returner Jamal Agnew committed a personal foul by calling for a fair catch and then blocking.

Just silly stuff, and naturally a whiff of adversity was followed by another whiff. Back at his own 5, Stafford fired a pass directly to the Packers’ Chandon Sullivan, who rolled into the end zone from 7 yards to make it 31-14.

Too many gifts, too many gaffes. The Lions’ offense can be competitive, and it obviously misses leading receiver Kenny Golladay. But it’s still a catch-all, with no discernible identity. Adrian Peterson rushed for nearly 100 yards last week and carried the ball only seven times in this one.

There are signs of frustration but no clear signs of fracturing, and it is only two weeks into the season. Kerryon Johnson, who started over Peterson, said he had “200%” faith in the coaches. But now comes a trip to Arizona, then a home game against New Orleans. When asked to measure up, the Lions keep falling short, with eight straight losses to NFC North teams.

This time, they didn’t wait until the closing seconds to squander it. This time, they looked legitimate for nearly a half, but there’s no such thing as halfway legitimate.

“It’s a mindset, being consistent,” safety Duron Harmon said. “Not being a front-runner when everything is good, and then when things get tough, kind of running away. We gotta be better on that standpoint.”

Sounds pretty fundamental in a sport like football, and also sounds like a function of leadership. Name one thing the Lions do consistently well. Name one person you always can count on. They still don’t have anyone that makes a significant difference, certainly not the head coach who was supposed to be that guy.


Twitter: @bobwojnowski

Lead disintegration

Date            Opponent       Lead      Time*                  Final

Sunday        at Packers       14-3       0:04 left in 1Q      L, 42-21

9/13/2020     vs. Bears        23-6       3:19 left in 3Q     L, 27-23

12/3/2019     vs. Packers    17-3       0:20 left in 2Q      L, 23-20

12/22/2019     at Broncos    10-0       10:52 left in 2Q   L, 27-17

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