Tue, 29 Sep 2020

Mike OHara

Head coach Matt Patricia didn't exempt many people, including himself, in distributing the blame for the Detroit Lions' 27-23 loss to the Chicago Bears.

It was a loss that seemed unimaginable for most of Sunday afternoon at Ford Field. The Lions steadily built a 23-6 lead, then saw it disintegrate just as steadily under a blitz of three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter by Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

"Certainly, we can't do things that hurt ourselves, which we did in the fourth quarter," Patricia said in his postgame press conference.

"I mean, you can't win when you do that stuff. It's just a bunch of plays that came up that we didn't do a good enough job with."

This week's Monday Countdown looks at the challenge the Lions face - including the immediate schedule - if they are to be contenders in the NFC North, which they expect to be the case.

There's a look at Patricia's demeanor after Sunday's game - wanting to look ahead rather than compare the loss to others - a pattern that continues to haunt the Lions, takeaways on offense, defense and special teams, and what's trending for the Lions.

We start with Patricia's postgame comments:

1. Looking ahead: I imagine that there are few things a head coach would rather not do than answer questions about comparing losses. I also imagine Matt Patricia likes it less than most others after knowing nothing but success in his tenure as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator with the Patriots before coming to Detroit in 2018.

The Lions had an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter of last year's opener with the Cardinals and wound up with a tie that felt as ugly as most losses.

Patricia was asked about using last year's game as a teaching point.

"Last year is last year," he said. "It's a totally different team. I think we know that all of the games are different.

"Obviously, we can put in mind whatever scenarios we want, but it's a different team in this game and we've got to go and execute. The bottom line is, there's no excuses.

"I've got to coach better, and we've got to play better there in those instances. We've got to finish. That's where we're at.

"We're not looking back. We're looking forward."

2. Looking back: The Lions were outscored by a 117-59 margin in the fourth quarter of their 12 losses last year, and by a margin of 18-7 in the overtime tie with the Cardinals.

On Sunday against the Bears, it was 21-zip in the fourth quarter.

Bottom line: With the game on the line, the Lions still couldn't score and couldn't defend.

NOTEBOOK: Injuries pile up in loss to Bears FOUR DOWNS: Lions struggle in fourth quarter in loss to Bears O'HARA'S BURNING QUESTIONS: What led to Lions' loss in season opener?

3. Giveaway: What hurts most is that the Lions had Sunday's game won, just like they had the Cardinals beaten in last year's opener. Some how, some way, you have to close out those games.

Give the Bears some credit for winning, but that loss was largely self-inflicted. The Lions were the better team for about 48 of the 60 minutes and didn't win.

A terrible interception on a throw into double coverage by quarterback Matthew Stafford turned into an interception. A great throw by Stafford on the final possession was dropped in the end zone by rookie running back D'Andre Swift in the end zone. A catch would have won the game.

Those are plays that have to be made, whether it's by a 12-year vet or a rookie playing his first NFL game.

4. Looking ahead again:

In the next three weeks, the Lions are facing their toughest three-game stretch, as follows:

Week 2, at Green Bay, a 43-34 winner on the road over the Minnesota Vikings.

Week 3, at Arizona, a 24-20 winner on the road over the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers.

Week 4, at home vs. the New Orleans Saints, a 34-23 winner at home over the Tampa Bay Bucs.

5. Takeaways, offense:

Mixed emotions for the run game. Good that it produced 128 yards on 29 attempts. But Adrian Peterson had 93 on 14 attempts in his first week with the Lions. Kerryon Johnson had 14 yards on seven carries in the first game of his third season, and Swift carried three times for eight yards. Not all one-yard TD runs are equal. Swift was nimble in picking his way through blockers and defenders to get to the end zone in the final minute of the first half. He can produce in short yardage without being a power runner. The fourth quarter remains the dead zone. In the 12 losses last year the offense scored 59 points in the fourth quarter. It did not get on the board against the Bears.

6. Takeaways, defense:

Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky made the fourth quarter look like a training camp passing drill, when the quarterbacks wear red jerseys to make them off limits. He completed eight of 10 passes for 89 yards and all three of his TDs. And there was some speculation in the press box that he'd be benched for the second half in favor of Nick Foles. Big defensive plays -- sacks and turnovers -- are still a problem. Defensive end Trey Flowers had the Lions' only sack, and he forced the Bears' only fumble on a sack of Trubisky that lost 28 yards. Trubisky did not have an interception, and the Bears did not have a turnover. Linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. was signed because of his familiarity with the defense and proven record as a playmaker. Getting ejected in the first half for head-butting the referee - however lightly - was not on the resume.

7. Takeaways, special teams:

Rookie punter Jack Fox had a good debut, averaging 49.3 yards on four punts, with two inside the 20. He also did well as a holder on kicks. It's an underrated, but vital skill. Jamal Agnew had a big day on returns, averaging 33 yards on two kickoff returns with a 16-yard punt return. Second thought: Patricia's decision to have Matt Prater attempt a 55-yard field goal is pretty much a coin flip. I would have punted, but don't have a strong feeling about it.

8. Trending:

Up: Peterson. He ran for 93 yards and caught three passes for 21. Down: The defense. It gave up 149 yards on the ground and got shredded in the fourth quarter by Trubisky. New starters, last year's results. Even: T.J. Hockenson. Five catches, 56 yards, one TD. Nothing eye-popping, but a good start to his second season.

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