What I’m Hearing: AZ Central’s Bob McManaman details what Cardinals teammates were saying about Kyler Murray’s debut in the desert. USA TODAY
One day after the Detroit Lions blew an 18-point fourth-quarter lead, coach Matt Patricia looked like a familiar character playing the leading role in the remake of a classic movie we have seen way too many times.
New year, new version, new details, new scooter, same crappy ending.
“Certainly, we all had opportunities last night,” he said, sounding like one on the long list of Lions coaches after a long list of losses. “It starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job in those situations, making sure we execute better.”
The Lions collapsed in every way — stop me if you have heard this before — making a series of blunders. There were penalties, bad coaching decisions, major mistakes on special teams, blown coverages, missed blocks, missed tackles, bad decisions (calling Danny Amendola) and an epic defensive meltdown.
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Patricia is in charge of all of it. This is his fault and he hasn’t done anything to convince me that he’s the right coach to lead this team.
“We have to finish games better,” said Patricia, whose team has won just six of his 17 games as the coach. “There were a lot of plays in there, starting with myself, to do a better job to win the game.”
Well, at least he realizes it.
If he is this defensive genius, how did Kyler Murray, a rookie quarterback making his NFL debut, engineer this comeback?
“We definitely didn’t back off, from a standpoint of play calling,” Patricia said. “Not at all. We know how dangerous he is. Obviously, a great college player.”
And the Lions made him look like a great NFL player late in the game. “They made some good adjustments,” Patricia said. “We tried to adjust to match some things they did. Give credit to them. Give credit to Larry Fitzgerald, he’s a Hall of Fame player for a reason.”
It took a whole bunch of “Pure Lions Moments” — I refuse to use that other phrase — to pull off this collapse.
Amendola looks like a great addition, but he became an official Lion with a Pure Lions brain-freeze moment when he didn’t step out of bounds to stop the clock late in the fourth quarter.
Trey Flowers has never had a face-mask penalty in his entire career, according to NFL Penalties.com. Not until Sunday. And off his first, Murray found Fitzgerald for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Welcome to the Lions, Danny and Trey. That strange feeling you have, and those uncharacteristic mistakes, start to happen once you walk in Allen Park.
Here’s the crazy thing. There are things to like about this team.
The Lions have all kinds of passing threats. Rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson made plays all over the field. Amendola looks like he can produce, and Kenny Golladay is a stud.
I appreciate the way Stafford was screaming, “Trust me!” after the Lions’ coaching staff called timeout and wiped off what would have been the game-sealing play in regulation.
I admire that fire. And I liked the way Damon Harrison tweeted: “This ones on me…I got dominated today. Hats off to the Cardinals. 100% on me.”
I admire that accountability. And it was encouraging how the Lions’ defense totally shut down Arizona for three quarters. But what happened after that?
You have to wonder about the offensive line, especially Taylor Decker, who had four penalties and missed some blocks. You have to wonder about how that defense melted in the fourth quarter.
Maybe it was conditioning, as Murray suggested. “Late in the game, I think they were just tired,” he told reporters.
It is foolish to overreact after the first game. But you can’t view this in a vacuum. Historical perspective is needed. And we have seen something far too similar. In 2015, the Lions raced to a 21-3 lead against San Diego in the season-opening game, only to blow it, 33-28.
That team went on to lose seven of its next eight games. The complaint was the Lions’ toughness and not knowing how to close out a game.
This time? This was a must-win game, but they blew it. And the failure was in every phase. That feels like a coaching failure.
And Patricia has done nothing to prove he can turn this team into a winner.
All he did was give another reason why he can’t.
Follow Jeff Seidel on Twitter @seideljeff.
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