As wins go, this one will keep the coach around. For another week or two, or three. Who knows, really, with the Fords?
They’re the ones who employ Matt Patricia and his 4-5 record. They’re the ones who have been reluctant to fire a coach midseason.
What we do know is that the Detroit Lions needed a 59-yard field goal from Matt Prater to beat Washington, a nickname-free squad based in the nation’s capital, apparently more likely to self-destruct than even the team from Detroit.
What we also know is that Patricia’s defense was abysmal once again, giving up nearly 400 yards passing to Alex Smith, who wasn’t good enough to start the season in Washington, but is plenty good enough to pick apart the Lions.
So, in a sense, Sunday’s 30-27 win didn’t change much. Or shouldn’t change much.
Are they a playoff team, someone asked Patricia?
“We’re just happy to get the win here today,” he said, avoiding the question, not wanting to bring added pressure on his team. “I mean, we’re just going to keep it in the world of one week at a time here right now. Really great job by our team today. The players executed when they had to at the end and we know we have another tough opponent this week.”
True, it’s just one week. Sunday’s result doesn’t change much beyond that. It also doesn’t change this: The Lions can’t beat the good teams and struggle to beat the bad ones.
We knew that before Sunday.
That’s twice now they’ve won on the final play of the game this fall — the other came three weeks ago in Atlanta.
You may remember that. You danced when Matthew Stafford found T.J. Hockenson in the end zone to tie the game with no time left.
Stafford wasn’t quite as heroic against the nickname-less group from D.C. Though he was much sharper than he was a week ago against the Vikings, when he couldn’t practice because he’d been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and he had to quarantine.
And before you say, ‘Yeah, well, it’s Washington … they stink,’ let me respond by saying: the Football Team (official nickname) is a solid defensive team and one of the better pass-defending units in the game.
So, yes, Stafford was better. The passing game was better. The run game was much better, thanks to D’Andre Swift, who got the start, hit the edge, found the corner, spun, ran between the tackles, caught balls leaking into the flat and hit the hole without fear or worry.
Swift was terrific and should be the featured back the rest of the season. He gives the offense some juice.
“The dude is a crazy playmaker,” said receiver Marvin Jones. “We’ve known that ever since he’s been here. When the ball is in his hands, even like with somebody like me, I have to keep blocking. I have to keep blocking because you know somehow he’s going to come out of it by making a move, or running somebody over, or jumping over somebody. He’s electric and he’s great to watch, but I have to do less watching and more blocking. You never know.”
Credit Bob Quinn, who drafted Swift in the second round, despite having Kerryon Johnson on the roster, despite a defense that needs help.
Lots of help.
Still, if we’re going to rip into Quinn for his whiffs, let’s give him props for his wins. Swift is a win. And his presence helped the Lions win Sunday.
Now, no matter how good Swift is, he’s not near enough to make up for the defense, which squandered a three-touchdown lead in the second half. Smith used his legs to give himself extra time and then picked apart Patricia’s soft, bend-but-don’t break zone.
Drive after drive, Washington had its way in the second half, until its final drive, when it managed a field goal to tie the game when it had the chance to win it with a touchdown. Then, and only then, did Patricia amp up the pressure.
If he has an aversion to the big play, that’s fine. But at what cost? His defense collapsed and it nearly cost the Lions the game.
Lose instead of win and it’s hard to imagine Patricia finishes the season, even though the Lions organization rarely changes coaches until the offseason. Not that Patricia is thinking about any of this when he is coaching.
He can thank Washington for extending his stay with the Lions. He can thank Washington for acting like … well, Detroit.
It was the “Football Team” that committed a personal foul on the Lions’ final drive, giving Prater a chance, allowing the Lions to eke out a win against one of the worst teams in the NFL.
What does it mean?
That the Lions won. That if they beat Carolina next Sunday, they’re back at .500. That playoff talk will resurface again, which is hard to believe.
Then again, you were dancing a few weeks ago after Atlanta. Are you dancing now after this?
I wouldn’t blame you. Winning is supposed to be fun.
For Patricia, though, it’s surely a relief. He job is likely safe. Thanks to a 59-yard-field goal.
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