Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia addressed the media Monday following Sunday’s 27-27 tie in Arizona to the Cardinals.
Here’s a look at the key questions to come out of that media session:
What can T.J. Hockenson expect from defenses moving forward?
The rookie tight end can expect a little more focus from opposing defenses, that’s for sure, starting with Chargers Sunday at Ford Field.
Hockenson was terrific in his NFL debut, catching six passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. The 131 yards are an NFL record by a tight end in his debut.
“Obviously, he had a big night,” Patricia said of his rookie tight end. “He had some really good plays and I think he did a good job in both the run and the pass game. There are a couple good blocks in there too, which is good for a player like that.
“It’s the first game and we certainly know that goes through the course of the NFL season and guys take a look at it, and defensive coordinators will obviously recognize that. It becomes more difficult as the season goes on and we’re going to have to do different things to keep him productive from that standpoint”
How disappointing was the play of Detroit’s special teams Sunday?
Jamal Agnew muffed a punt late in the first half that turned into Arizona’s first points. Arizona got a hand on a punt in the fourth quarter in a crucial situation where the Lions were trying to pin Arizona deep, clinging to a lead. Detroit averaged minus-two yards in punt returns and 16.0 yards on kickoffs. They were also flagged four times on special teams.
“I think there’s true statements there as far as special teams, some plays in there that we need to do a better job of overall,” Patricia said. “Penalties were a big part of last night in all three phases, special teams included. The return game for us – we have to do a better job with that. We had the turnover in the red (zone) area, which we were fortunate to keep that to a three point situation there, then obviously the blocked punt, which is a pretty critical situation in the game.
“We want to try to go down and pin them and put them on a long field and make them have to drive and go score with minimal time. Certainly those are areas that – we can’t have plays like that and expect for the outcome to be the way we want it.”
After dissecting the 4th quarter on tape, what went wrong in allowing the Cardinals to come back from an 18-point deficit?
Patricia said the Lions didn’t back off from a play-calling perspective with a big lead. Instead, he credited Arizona with simply making the better adjustments.
“We definitely didn’t back off from a standpoint of play calls or anything like that, not at all,” he said. “We know how dangerous he is. He’s obviously a great player, was a great college player and finished off the game really well last night.
“From that standpoint though, they made some good adjustments. We tried to adjust and match some of the things they did – give credit to them, give credit to Larry Fitzgerald. He’s a Hall of Fame player for a reason. He made some pretty amazing plays and catches and that’s what he does.”
Patricia said for them it comes downs to coaching and execution, and all of it has to be better than what they showed in the fourth quarter Sunday.
How would Patricia assess the play of the offensive line?
Detroit did amass 477 yards of total offense, 385 of which came through the air, but Detroit averaged just 3.6 yards per carry on 32 attempts on the ground. Coaches like to see that average closer to 4.0.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked three times, one being a strip sack and turnover. There were also five penalties on the offensive line (three holds and two false starts).
“They have two really good edge players. (Terrell) Suggs has been doing it for a long time and Chandler Jones is one of the best in the league if not – he’s top one or two guys in the league in its entirety,” Patricia said. “Thought for the offensive line that was a big task in front of them.
“We just have to – it’s a full unit effort up front with the five offensive linemen. There were a lot of blitz packages last night especially late in the game that they went to that created some different sort of one-on-one matchups that we had to deal with. All of that is part of the game, but part of the process of, I think I talk about it all the time, getting the offensive line to see everything through the same set of eyes so that everyone is on the same page.”
Tracy Walker vs. Larry Fitzgerald
Lions second-year safety Tracy Walker got matched up a couple times deep down the field with Cardinals veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who caught passes of 41 and 45 yards, respectively, with Walker in coverage.
“We tried to mix some of the different coverages there and not make it always the same so that they could not get a beat on it,” Patricia said. “We had a couple different guys on him throughout the course of the night that did a good job of finding him in those situations and obviously those were big plays downfield.
“I have a lot of confidence in Tracy. Tracy has done a great job through training camp and if you watch a lot of his one-on-one coverage drills as you guys have seen through camp and through the competition that we had with some of the players, some of the other teams that we brought in, he did a really good job on that stuff.
“Larry just does a great job of being able to bend to the ball, find it, and extend his arms, extend his hands. He’s got amazing hands, and just being able to just pluck some of those balls out of the air. Those are hard situations, those are tough plays. We just have to keep working at them, but we did try to keep it moving from that aspect of it so it wasn’t always the same look.”
What was the message to the team Monday?
“When you don’t win everything else really doesn’t feel the same,” Patricia said. “I think the biggest thing for our guys was just to understand that we had a great opportunity to win the game. We didn’t finish that off. We have to finish the game better.”