NOVAK: Sunday’s loss sums up Patricia’s career

Published 12:17 pm Monday, November 23, 2020

One game does not make a career. But if there was one game that perfectly summed up a career, the Detroit Lions’ 20-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers summed up Matt Patricia‘s head coaching career.

The Lions dropped to 13-28-1 overall under Patricia’s tenure. In his third season, the defense “guru” from New England has never seen his team even come close to being a contender for the postseason. In fact, Detroit has become a punch line in the National Football League.

What bothers me the most are not the blown leads, which the Lions and Patricia have established new National Football League records for. It is not the fact that they have never played a meaningful game in the final month of the season. It is not the fact that other teams that have been bad are not at least competitive.

No, what bothers me the most, is that Detroit fired Jim Caldwell three years ago, saying that being 9-7 was not good enough. Caldwell’s teams were competitive. They were not perfect, but you could turn on the television and expect Detroit to play hard and compete.

The same cannot be said about Patricia’s Lions. They roll over more often than not. After two l years of that, he and General Manager Bob Quinn were given one more season by ownership to the right the ship and compete for a playoff spot, which Detroit could have been doing had it not laid another egg, this time, against one of the worst teams in the NFL.

The Lions were in a position to keep their playoff hopes alive, although slim, by beating a Panther team that was 4-7 and had lost five straight games. They were playing without standout running back Christian McCaffrey and starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Carolina was also down two starting offensive linemen.

The Panthers are not good defensively, and yet Detroit could not generate any type of offense. The Lions threatened to score just twice, once on a 51-yard touchdown pass that was called back by an illegal formation, the other late in the game when it really did not matter.

Just how bad were the Lions?

In October, the Panthers allowed an average of 439.5 yards per game. Detroit had 185 on Sunday. Carolina allowed 4.6 yards per carry and 8.0 yards per reception. The Lions did not have a single run that was longer than their average on the ground and Matthew Stafford averaged 5.4 yards per throw.

The Panthers could set an NFL record for the worst third-down defense. In the past four games alone, Carolina opponents were 31-of-50 on third-downs. Detroit was a dismal 3-of-13. The Panthers sacked Stafford five times. Coming into the game, they only had six sacks in the previous month.

I wrote a column after the Lions started the season 1-3 and had an upcoming bye week when they could have fired Patricia and installed an interim coach to finish out the year. Of course, the Fords, owners of the Lions, did not pull the trigger. Instead, Detroit beat Jacksonville and Atlanta coming off the bye and giving fans hope that perhaps things had turned around.

Unfortunately, Detroit is now 1-3 after the bye week and have been blown out by Indianapolis, Minnesota and Carolina. The lone win was against a 3-7 Washington Football Team, which had to be won on a last-second field goal.

There is no chance that Detroit is going to make a late-season run at the playoffs. The Lions have Houston on Thanksgiving before playing at Chicago, against Green Bay, at Tennessee, and the wrap up the 2020 season with home games against Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

Those teams are a combined 33-20. Only Houston and Minnesota have losing records, while the Bears are currently 5-5.

I do not have the answers as to why the Fords cannot find a head coach that can turn this franchise around. I wish I did. Perhaps it is because they are unwilling to spend the kind of money that would be needed to hire a new, quality head coach and general manager, and then given them the purse strings to bring in some free agents at key positions to get the team into a position to compete for division championships, the postseason and then perhaps somewhere down the road in for a Super Bowl.

I doubt that will ever happen, but we all need some hope right now and something to dream about. My hopes and dreams are pinned on Detroit cleaning house and putting together a team we can all be proud of.


Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at