Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia spoke to reporters Monday following Detroit’s 42-30 loss to Minnesota Sunday, the team’s third straight loss that dropped their record to 2-3-1 on the season.
Here are the key questions to come from Patricia’s Monday press conference:
There were a number of players along Detroit’s defensive line that missed a lot of training camp. How much is that playing a factor with some of the poor play we’re seeing upfront?
Defensive tackle Damon Harrison Sr. missed most of training camp and hasn’t been himself through the first six games. The same could be said for defensive end Trey Flowers, who didn’t play at all in the preseason.
Defensive tackle Mike Daniels missed time in camp, and he was rather quiet the first two weeks of the season before suffering a foot injury Week 3 that has kept him out of the lineup.
The Lions are still missing defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand, who missed most of training camp and the first six games of the season with an elbow injury.
“I think it’s probably a really good observation from that standpoint,” Patricia said. “Obviously, I have to make sure that when those guys miss those reps, I have to coach it properly to make sure that they understand exactly what we’re doing. That is one of the things I talk about all the time, how important training camp is – those reps in training camp.
“The cumulative amount of reps that we get in camp far outweigh the Wednesdays or every other Wednesday (in pads) kind of repetition that we get. It makes it really difficult to catch up and unfortunately, we have to do it every single way we can possible. I think training camp is really important, I really do. It helps us as coaches get better, and I think it helps the players really kind of lay the foundation for what they need to do because we just don’t have enough time during the season to do that.”
Are the problems plaguing Detroit’s defense right now correctable?
The Lions' defense doesn’t rank better than 26th in any major statistical category on that side of the ball right now. They’re 26th in points allowed (26.7), 31st in total defense (428.7), 30th against the pass (289.5) and 28th against the run (139.2).
“Yeah, I’m going to coach my butt off,” Patricia said. “We’re always going to coach, and work, and try to improve and get better. Certainly, that’s happened many times in the years past where teams have gotten better as the season has gone on.
“Defenses or offenses or special teams have improved those fundamentals and really kind of gotten everyone on the same page with what they’re doing and gotten it to work. We obviously have some work in front of us to do here and get that right. I certainly believe that’s what we can do.”
What is Patricia prioritizing to make sure this defense performs better?
He pointed to the communication, or lack thereof right now, being one of their major issues on that side of the ball. There’s some new players on defense, and for whatever reason there have been times at critical moments in games where everyone hasn’t been on the same page.
He also pointed to a lack of good, consistent fundamentals.
“That’s where we’re going to start,” Patricia said. “We’re going to start with the communication, we’re going to start with the coaching, we’re going to start with the teaching to make sure I just give that one more time to them, so they’re hearing it again.
“It’s not really a scheme thing. We can play any scheme we want. I’ve coached more defense probably than anybody in the league as far as scheme is concerned. We have to start somewhere, and you start with your foundation, and your foundation has to be good fundamentals. If you don’t have that or you’re not consistent with it, then it becomes really hard to fix everything else.”
Is Patricia shocked with some of the lapses they have had defensively?
“I don’t think there’s anything in the NFL that really shocks me,” he said. “ I’ve been in the league long enough to see a lot of different things through the course of the years, a lot of different teams. A lot of different teams do things well and then not well, do things not well and then do things well.
“I do know this. I know it’s about just being consistent, and that’s where we have to start. We just have to start to be consistent, so we can improve. If it’s not consistent, it’s really hard to build on.”