Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia speaks to the media after the 27-9 loss tot he Vikings on Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, at Ford Field.
Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
While Ricky Jean Francois was musing publicly Sunday whether enough Detroit Lions bought into first-year coach Matt Patricia this season, some of the defensive tackle’s veteran teammates said the locker room does indeed support its under-fire coach.
“Come on, man,” safety Quandre Diggs said. “That’s not a natural question. You see guys still going out there and playing when it’s time to line up, man. I just feel like that’s an awful question. Terrible question. So I’m not even going to answer that.”
The Lions are 5-10 entering next week’s season finale against the Green Bay Packers and have lost six games by double digits this year.
They’re guaranteed to finish with their worst record since going 4-12 in 2012, and of the league’s six other first-year head coaches, only two — Jon Gruden and Steve Wilks — have worse records than Patricia.
On Sunday, the Lions dominated the first 26 minutes of a 27-9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, but allowed two touchdowns in the 1 minute, 32 seconds of the first half and did not score a point after halftime.
Patricia, who’s often blamed himself for his team’s struggles this year, offered no answers when asked what’s prevented the Lions from being more successful this year.
“I don’t know,” he said. “There’s, again, a few plays here or there. We’ve got to do a better job of execution. Whatever it is in those situations, I think it’s different, but it is a tough squad, they’re mentally tough, physically tough, they work hard every single day and we just got to find a way to win. That’s the biggest thing for us right now. But I give them credit for the way they approach their job every day.”
Both Lions cornerback Darius Slay and safety Tavon Wilson said they remain in Patricia’s corner, and Diggs said he believes in Patricia “because he’s been a winner his whole career.”
“At the end of the day, we’re going to get things right and we’re going to play hard,” he said. “Y’all know I don’t like dumb questions. Don’t even bring those questions to me.”
Patricia pulled Matthew Stafford with 4:10 left in Sunday’s game to cheers from the Ford Field crowd.
Asked about the fans’ reaction after the game, Stafford said, “it’s frustrating that that’s the way the game went.”
“Coach makes those decisions,” he said. “I always want to be out there. I understand where he’s coming from with it. He knows what I’m dealing with and going through, so as far as fans’ reaction, it doesn’t make any difference to me.”
Stafford has been limited in practice by a back injury for three straight weeks, though he’s declined to divulge details of the injury.
On Sunday, Stafford completed just 18 of 32 passes for 116 yards and averaged a paltry 3.6 yards per pass attempt. It was the second time in three weeks he’s thrown for less than 120 yards.
Patricia did not mention Stafford’s back when asked why he pulled his quarterback and played Matt Cassel for the Lions’ final two series.
“Just at the end of the game there with the score, and the situation and the clock and where it was, I thought that was the right decision,” he said.
The Lions placed four players on injured reserve last week — running back Kerryon Johnson, defensive tackle Da’Shawn Hand, wide receiver Bruce Ellington and safety Charles Washington — and they could have more IR moves coming before next week’s season finale.
Tight end Luke Willson (concussion), defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson (knee) and cornerback DeShawn Shead (knee) all left Sunday’s game with injuries and did not return.
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