The Detroit Lions had been beaten up and down the field for the first few weeks of the season, and their defense was taking plenty of heat.
Coming into Week 3, the team knew they had to step up in a big way, and according to Jeff Okudah, the team heard all the trash talk, were sick of hearing the negativity and wanted to make sure they put an end to it with a solid performance on the field.
Jeff Okudah: “Coming into the game, for me personally, I was tired of being disrespected by everyone. I think the whole defense was tired of being disrespected and the whole team tired of being disrespected, so it’s a game we took personal.”
— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) September 28, 2020
After the win played out, safety Tracy Walker hopped on Twitter and said that he hopes the Detroit detractors keep the same energy, because the team feeds off of it.
For all the people always doubting us.. keep that same energy‼️
— Tracy Walker #21 (@TracyWalkerIII) September 28, 2020
Detroit’s defense struggled badly in Week 2, and in Week 1, they folded in the second half. It was a big change in Week 3, however, with major plays helping to drive Detroit’s major last second win to help save the season for the moment. Detroit only allowed 377 yards to a tough offense and 109 rushing yards while grabbing 3 interceptions.
If the team’s defense takes the rest of their games personally in such a way, that might help them turn things around.
Cory Undlin Urged No Panic for Lions Defense
Even on the heels of one of the ugliest performances by the team in recent memory in Week 2, Cory Undlin says there’s plenty of football and time left for the Lions to turn things around on his side of the ball. As a result, he’s not panicking a bit about where the team is currently at.
Lions defensive coordinator Cory Undlin: "No panic right now in our room with any position group. We are all aware of the fact that we haven’t played great in the first two weeks and we’re 0-2."
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) September 22, 2020
Such an explanation will likely not sit well with Lions fans, who’ve been panicking since the fourth quarter of Week 1 on. Undlin is right, however, in that there is plenty of football left to be played and the Lions have also been dinged up a bit on the back end.
Still, urging folks not to panic after the team has started 0-2 and is seemingly staring down the barrel of 0-4 is a difficult proposition. His defense would be wise to heed his words and try to keep a level ship at this point.
Lions Defense Ripped Over Performance
Why has the Lions defense been so bad under Matt Patricia? Finding an explanation for these anomalies has not been easy to do, but analyst Doug Farrar from Touchdown Wire has taken perhaps the best possible step in explaining why the Lions continue to struggle in their scheme while it works in New England. As Farrar said, it’s a matter of personnel in Detroit, even as the Lions have tried to take steps to improve their roster in recent years.
“So… why are the Lions so bad at man coverage, and why do they insist on doing it more than any other team? Personnel is a big part of it. If your secondary personnel isn’t matched to your schematic concepts, you’re going to get eaten alive — even if the opposing quarterback is Mitchell Trubisky. Before the 2019 season, the Lions signed former Seahawks slot defender Justin Coleman to a four-year, $36 million contract, making Coleman the highest-paid slot defender in NFL history. But Coleman had excelled in Seattle’s zone-based defense, and he wasn’t used to playing man as much as the Lions asked him to. The numbers played out as you might predict: Coleman allowed five touchdowns to just one interception in man and combo coverage last season,
Patricia, on the other hand, seems to have made the worst mistake a game-planner can possibly make: He’s subscribed to the idea that no matter what kinds of players he has on his roster, he’s going to run what he runs, and to heck with reality.”
In Farrar’s mind, the Lions still don’t have the right kind of personnel to be able to run the type of man defense that has become Patricia’s bread and butter during his time in the league. As he admits, the Lions do have Jeff Okudah on the roster perhaps coming to help aid in this, but the team still doesn’t have the types of players to run their scheme successfully. Worse, they don’t have the commitment of the coaching staff to switch things up when their stated plan doesn’t work.
Detroit’s had some tough injuries at cornerback to start the season which has prevented them from feeling completely comfortable, but if Patricia continues to struggle on defense and the year spirals out of control, it will be bad news for the former super genius coordinator turned head coach.
After Week 3, Patricia might be in better footing thanks to his players stepping up.