The Detroit Lions must find a way to salvage the season

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 03: A Detroit Lions helmet lies on the field before their game Oakland Raiders at RingCentral Coliseum on November 03, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 03: A Detroit Lions helmet lies on the field before their game Oakland Raiders at RingCentral Coliseum on November 03, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions are unlikely to make the playoffs this season after dropping another game on Sunday. So, what’s left to accomplish?

The Detroit Lions have dropped four out of their last five games, and have been nothing short of a disappointment. The worst thing about this team has been a defense that has continued to regress.

Instead of being at their peak at the halfway point, the defense has been less aggressive, more unlikely to force turnovers, and easier to push around (especially by opposing rushing attacks) as the season has progressed.

The offense has been quite the opposite. The passing game has looked good with steady improvement. It would have been nice to complete that final play this past Sunday, but overall it is hard to complain about that side of the ball.

The only issue on offense has been a less than impressive (but at least avoiding nonexistent) run game. And the highlight of the offense has been quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has played pretty well and erased memories of his awful 2018 season.

On Tuesday’s Pro Football Talk Live, host Mike Florio believed the Detroit Lions still have a chance to make good on the season. Although the playoffs are a long shot, Florio thinks the team has taken steps in the right direction (11-05-19, “#3”):

"“You may need to go seven and one [to make the playoffs]. And I don’t have faith that they’re going to do it. But when you consider that it’s a little push here. It’s just one big game, where they can bust through… I just don’t want to overlook the Lions because they’re on the fringe.”"

When Florio speaks of being “on the fringe,” it feels like this isn’t just about the playoffs. The Detroit Lions, at times, look like they are getting closer to being a good team. But every time this team loses, it is hard to defend their progress in terms of rebuilding their culture.

The Detroit Lions compete every week. And, to be fair, the three teams that lost to the Lions this season – the Los Angeles Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles, and New York Giants – would all feel like they competed and could have won those games.

So when the Lions say they could have won a few more games, it’s a hollow argument. Most teams can keep it close. So, while it’s good, it isn’t all that impressive. All that matters is getting the win. Not leading in the fourth quarter, not bad calls by the officials – just wins.

But watching the offense hum along is what makes this team so frustrating to watch. Stafford has truly stepped up his game and adjusted to being the kind of leader the team wants (and needs for that matter). But no one has done that on the defensive side of the ball, and it shows with awful performances for five straight weeks (even in their win against the Giants).

Head coach Matt Patricia is supposed to make his mark with defensive schemes. But nothing seems to be working. Opposing backs are running effectively (if not stupendously) against the Detroit front.

No matter how many players are committed to stopping the run, it just doesn’t work. And as the game continues, play-action passing is outstanding because players get out of position in the secondary to support stopping the run.

Is Matt Patricia not equipped to teach his defense to this group of players? If that’s the case, then Patricia should be fired. It would be great for a young and smart defensive coach to put his stamp on this team, but it hasn’t happened. Some guys are just incapable of being a head coach.

Then there is the other side of the argument – the defense of Patricia’s defense. Does he have the wrong players?

If it is the wrong players, then does that mean general manager Bob Quinn is doing a terrible job? Or is it just a matter of acquiring a few more pieces this upcoming offseason to fit Patricia’s needs?

It is hard to know whether or not the current regime and trajectory of this team is worthy of a longer commitment. Staying the course could mean a jump in wins once everything is in place. But are these the guys to make that happen? The reality is that if the second half of this season plays out like the first half, both Quinn and Patricia’s jobs are in jeopardy.

Playoffs are out of the question. The Detroit Lions don’t have what it takes to go seven and one. Honestly, five and three would be impressive at this point because that would put the team above .500 for the season.

And that is the best-case scenario. With five more wins this season, the team will at least have something discernible in terms of improvement. They will have gone from six wins last season to eight (and a half) wins this year. Short of that, what’s the point?

No playoffs. No improvement defensively (and, in reality, a worse defense overall). A running game that is average at best. Is it time reset again? Or is investing another year going to pay-off with some tangible results?

Next. 5 potential coaching replacements for Matt Patricia. dark

It sucks to be in the middle of the season and to know this team has nothing to play for the rest of the year. But that is exactly where we are now. And it is unlikely to change.