| Detroit Free Press
Matt Patricia is asked why Detroit Lions haven’t gotten better in his 2.5 years
Lions coach Matt Patricia is asked why the team hasn’t gotten better under his watch in 2.5 years. Filmed Nov. 9, 2020.
It’s safe to say the Detroit Lions’ season hasn’t gone the way anyone hoped.
After winning two straight games and three of four, the Lions have lost two straight as they prepare for the second half of the season.
Yet the Lions have displayed modest improvement recently in a few areas. They finished the first quarter of the season 1-3. In the second quarter, they were 2-2.
Lions coach Matt Patricia would be among the first to admit the season hasn’t been ideal. But he has seen some bright spots recently.
LIONS GRADES: F, F, F of a season as Matt Patricia’s doom awaits
“I think we do try to look at them by the quarters of the season, and with the halfway point I thought there were definitely some things in the second quarter that got better,” he said Monday. “I thought the – just in each phase – the kickoff-coverage unit was one that got better and consistent, I thought, through that second quarter. Maybe here at the end of the second quarter, we kind of got a little bit something going with our punt rush team, too, which we’d like to carry that over into the second half of the season. We’ll try to build on those.
“Obviously staying consistent with our specialists. I think Jack (Fox has) done a great job punting the ball, really has been able to flip field position for us there, so we know those are strengths for us.”
After last season, Patricia fired special-teams coordinator John Bonamego and replaced him with Cincinnati Bengals assistant special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs. The Lions have been strong on special teams. Fox is the NFL’s net-punting average leader and the punt-cover unit has three blocks in the past two weeks.
In the first four games, the Lions allowed a kickoff-return average of 22.5 yards and a punt-return average of 6.5 yards. That lowered to 19.8 yards and 4.5 yards respectively in the past four games. Overall, the Lions rank 11th in punt-return average allowed (six yards) and 12th in kickoff-return average allowed (20.9).
On offense, Patricia said he wanted to see a reduction of turnovers. In the past two games, the Lions have turned over the ball five times on four interceptions and a fumble.
“Certainly offensively, I think for us we know how important it is to take care of the ball,” he said. “We have to do a good job of that, but trying to really do a good job here game-planning every single week, putting players in positions to make plays, and had a couple injuries that I think the guys have responded well to and been able to kind of adjust in to different positions, which is always positive from that standpoint.”
Patricia noted some improvement in the run game. The Lions ran the ball slightly more effectively in the first quarter, when they averaged 4.11 yards per carry. In the second quarter, they averaged 4.02 yards. But Patricia noted how the run game rebounded from rushing for 29 yards against the Indianapolis Colts the previous week to gaining 129 yards against the Vikings on Sunday.
“We’ll continue to just work on our run game,” he said. “I thought that was better yesterday. I thought we were able to move the line of scrimmage a little bit compared to the previous week, hopefully back on track there as far as that’s concerned. We’ll keep improving.”
After Dalvin Cook ran over them on Sunday, it’s hard to believe the Lions improved their run defense in the second quarter. But they did. They allowed 681 rushing yards and a 5.16 average per carry in the first quarter, and 504 yards and a 4.38 average in the second quarter.
“Defensively, I think for us in the second quarter we were able to get some of the run stuff settled down,” Patricia said. “Obviously that did not work yesterday, and we have to get back to that and get that back to where we need it to be.
“Yesterday, third down was better than what it has been, which is good. But certainly the red-(zone) area is an area where we have to improve on a lot. Kind of some stuff that’s carried over through the second quarter, some stuff we’ll hopefully build on through the third quarter, some things there that we have to fix that we know we’re going to be challenged as we go forward.”
Contact Carlos Monarrez at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.