Head coach Matt Patricia had it right with his "ride the wave" assessment of the Detroit Lions after a road loss to the Packers had made their record 0-2.
Two weeks later, it still applies.
Sunday's 35-29 loss to the Saints at Ford Field was another example of riding the wave. The Lions were on top with a 14-0 lead in the first five minutes, then crashed under a 35-point binge by the Saints.
This week's Monday Countdown looks at the Lions' first four games and what has been a theme that has left them with a 1-3 record. There's a review of Patricia's comments, along with a little evidence that the Lions have played good football and a lot more that they haven't.
There's also a look at why this is a good time for the bye for the Lions, even though most teams think having it after four games is too early, and takeaways on offense, defense and special teams and what's trending.
1. Riding the wave: Patricia's comments came after the Lions had given up 31 straight points in a 42-21 loss to the Packers after opening a 14-3 lead on their first two possessions.
"We can't ride the wave of the game," Patricia said. "We can't go up and down and be really high and something happens and then go really low, and then try to pick it back up ... We've got to stay consistent."
I don't question the Lions' effort and desire. I think they play hard. That's how they've gotten leads – riding on top of the wave.
But they've seemed almost clinical at times in the first four games. No one knows what's in the hearts and minds of athletes, but looking in from the outside, they don't seem to play with an edge.
2. The good Lions: By my count, they played enough good ball to be in position to beat the Bears, Packers and Saints. Note, I said "in position." They had a 17-point lead on the Bears going into the fourth quarter, a 14-3 lead on the Packers in the first quarter, and a 14-0 lead on the Saints in the first quarter. That's a combined 42 points of leads, or seven touchdowns.
3. The bad Lions: By my account, the Bears scored 21 straight points in the fourth quarter to win, 27-23. The Packers scored 31 straight in their 42-21 win. And freshest in our minds, the Saints scored 35 straight in Sunday's 35-29 win.
That's 87 straight points combined to three teams – more than twice as many as the 42 points of leads the Lions had in the three losses.
Think about the Lions riding that wave – 42 points in leads to 87 in their opponents' comebacks.
That's called a wipe out.
4. Bye: Having it after four weeks is about two weeks sooner than most coaches and players prefer. The later the better, so players can rest up to make a finishing run.
This could be an exception to that preference for the Lions. A 1-3 start – and the way it's come about – is not what they expected, and not the way this team was built.
5. Takeaways, offense:
- Sunday's game was another example of how offensive lapses have been a problem in the first four games. The Lions scored their first two TDs in the first 4:37, and they didn't score again until there was 4:19 left in the third quarter. That's a span of 36 minutes, 4 seconds.
- Just my opinion: I thought the offense huddled up too often between plays in the fourth quarter. Going with the no-huddle attack would have been better to save time.
- Rookie D’Andre Swift had a solid game – four carries for 22 yards, and four catches on four targets for 20 yards and a TD.
6. Takeaways, defense:
- The defense had Drew Brees' number on his first play of the game. Defensive tackle Danny Shelton deflected a pass that was intercepted by cornerback Darryl Roberts. That set up the Lions' second TD for a 14-0 lead. After that, Brees had the Lions' number – 19 of 24 for 246 yards and two TDs.
- Double trouble: The defense gave up 13 first downs and 164 yards rushing and 15 first downs and 246 yards passing. Whatever the Saints chose to do – run or pass – worked.
- The Saints won a test of wills on their final TD. On third and six, their offensive line cleared the way for Latavius Murray to score on a six-yard run. It was a statement play – getting a TD rather than a field goal – and the Saints won it, with no doubt.
View photos from Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints Week 4 game at Ford Field on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020 in Detroit
7. Takeaways, special teams:
A quiet game, with little of note. Jack Fox had a gross average of 54.5 yards on four punts, and a net of 46.3. The Saints broke a 22-yard punt return, long of the season against the Lions.
- Up: Wide receiver Kenny Golladay. Another TD catch, his second in two games.
- Down: Giving up 36 straight points. Some falls on the defense for not making stops. Some falls on the offense for not scoring.
- Even: Not something to brag about, but it was another loss at home. The Lions are 9-17 at Ford Field since opening day of 2017.