Matt Patricia had a message for his team when it returned to work Wednesday: The Miami Dolphins, the Detroit Lions’ opponent Sunday, will be the best team the Lions have faced all year.
At 4-2, the Dolphins do have the best record of teams the Lions have played so far (or tied with the New England Patriots, at least), but few consider them among the NFL’s elite.
The Patriots, who the Lions beat in Week 3, have won nine straight AFC East titles and are coming off a Super Bowl appearance, and the Green Bay Packers, who the Lions’ beat before the bye, have the best quarterback in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers.
So why does Patricia consider a Miami team that might be playing a backup quarterback, “our toughest opponent to date?”
“Cause it’s one more week in the season, and another week in the season everyone gets better,” he said. “That’s what it is. That’s the philosophy. Everyone’s improving and they’re undefeated at home, so that’s obviously a big challenge for us. It’s difficult.”
The Dolphins and Patriots are tied atop the AFC East, two of just six teams in conference with a winning record, but the Dolphins have played mostly sub-par football in recent weeks.
After a 3-0 start in which they beat up on teams like the New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans, the Dolphins lost at New England, 38-7, then allowed 24 fourth-quarter points in a 27-17 Week 5 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Last week, they beat the Bears in overtime, 31-28. Brock Osweiler started in place of an injured Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, and Jason Sanders made the game-winning 47-yard field goal as time expired, one series after the Bears missed their own potential game-winning kick.
The Dolphins are undefeated at home this season, and the organization has mostly had its way with Patricia-led defenses in Miami in recent years, so Patricia said Wednesday he warned his team “we’re going to have to do a good job going down there and executing at a high level for 60 minutes.”
Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia speaks to the media on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Allen Park.
Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
“As the season goes on, I think what you saw maybe last weekend is you see some teams separate a little bit,” Patricia said. “The first part of the year is always a little bit interesting as far as teams that win and lose, but as the season goes on, you’ll see through the course of October and into November different teams start to kind of emerge in those areas and especially the mentally tough teams. Those teams that can just grind through those difficult games for 60 minutes, and I think that’s certainly something that the Dolphins showed they can do on Sunday.”
Wide receiver Andy Jones returned to practice off the physically unable to perform list on Wednesday. Jones now has a 21-day practice window, after which the Lions can either move him to the active roster, waive him or place him PUP for the rest of the season. Jones played in two games and did not catch a pass for the Lions last year.
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