Sunday, Sep 23, 2018
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David Briggs

Go ahead, write off the 2018 Lions — and maybe Patricia, too

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DETROIT — As far as first impressions go, we’d say Matt Patricia was like the crackpot who shows up late for a job interview wearing ketchup-stained jean shorts, then tells the boss, “Mind turning down the lights a bit? Rough night.”

Except that is not true.

Monday night was much worse.

What was supposed to be a breezy orientation day for the new Lions coach — we’ve all been there: you set up your work email, attend a few training sessions, meet with HR ... and beat the Jets — turned into anything but in a 48-17 disembowelment.

Where’s Jim Caldwell when you need him?

Ouch.

It took all of seven minutes for the first boos of the year to rain down from the rafters, and they never stopped, the Lions outclassed all night by a reigning last-place team starting a first-year quarterback.

Throughout a bleak preseason, we were told everything was fine. They were only exhibition games and not a representation of the real Lions.

Patricia was right. The actual Lions aren’t half that good.

The rocket-scientist former Patriots defensive coordinator inherited an improved-on-paper Detroit team coming off consecutive 9-7 seasons, and bippity boppity boo, turned them into something worse than the 2017 Browns.

After Jets rookie Sam Darnold threw a pick-six on the first play of the night and Lions fans made their Super Bowl plans accordingly, Ford Field became the world’s largest sinkhole, the bottom falling out entirely. The Lions were outgained 101 to minus-2 in the first quarter. Then things got bad.

Matthew Stafford was terrible. The offensive line was terrible. The running game was terrible. The defense was terrible. The special teams were terrible. Patricia and his staff were terrible.

Other than that, all was just swell.

If this is the team to which Detroit fans are hitching their hopes, our condolences.

For the past seven years, the Lions had been the Joe Schmoe embodiment of a league defined by parity, neither bad nor particularly good. They were just sort of there. Late Monday, as a few thousand fans chanted, “J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!” in an otherwise empty stadium and even the in-house TVs had already switched to the second game of ESPN’s NFL doubleheader, those felt like the glory days.

And should we mention again this was the easiest game on the schedule?

I don’t want to overreact after just one game and say this looks like a five-win Lions team. No, that’s too generous.

Not only is Detroit in a deep NFC North division but six of its remaining nine non-division opponents had winning records last season. [Next up here: New England!] That’s a slight problem when Stafford — who slung four interceptions and was benched to a Bronx cheer in the fourth quarter — is a career 6-52 against winning teams and Matt Foley — sorry, Patricia — is running the show.

The only bright side was the Lions’ biggest questions — their lack of a run game or a pass rush — proved to not be their biggest questions. Only two of 100 of them, headlined by Patricia and his staff, who spit out a team alarmingly overmatched in every area despite having better — or, at worst, even — talent.

It may be too soon to cast Patricia as the latest snapped branch of the Bill Belichick coaching tree, along with Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels, Romeo Crennel, and Charlie Weis, just to name a few coaches who were given little autonomy by the imperious legend, then failed in the big chair themselves.

OK, it definitely is too soon.

But it is not too soon to wonder.

There are unfortunate first impressions, and then there was this dud. 

Are you ready for some football? A Monday night funeral. 

Detroit, you deserve so much better.

Contact David Briggs at dbriggs@theblade.com419-724-6084, or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.

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