GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Matt Patricia era in Detroit started with a nighttime debacle against the Jets at Ford Field. The team looked unprepared and hapless.
Just wait, we were told. Patricia is a teacher and a taskmaster, and he needs time to rebuild a loose culture and instill his New England brand of technique and fundamentals.
That was two years and 24 losses ago.
Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field, it was hard to see that much had changed. And in the span of 117 nightmarish seconds, the Patricia tenure was laid bare in a sequence of mistakes.
With 1:54 left in the second quarter and the Lions up 14-10, Green Bay punted. The ball sailed out of bounds at the Lions’ 7-yard-line.
On first down, Matthew Stafford handed off to D’Andre Swift for a 4-yard gain. On second down, Stafford dropped back to pass, felt pressure, looked up the middle of the field, failed to throw the ball away, and took a sack at the Lions’ 1-yard-line.
With little chance of a first down and 1:24 left on the clock, Patricia called for a run play to run the clock down – Green Bay had no timeouts left. Stafford handed the ball to Adrian Peterson and he ran for four yards, enough to give Jack Fox room to punt from the back of the end zone.
But during the play, offensive lineman Oday Aboushi was called for holding. Green Bay declined it. The clock stopped.
Fox blasted a punt high and deep to the Packers’ 38. It was a great punt, a bright spot amid calamity.
Still, Rodgers had exactly a minute to engineer a drive.
On first down, he dropped back and misfired a pass. Before the play was finished, though, safety Will Harris was flagged for a personal foul for unnecessary roughness. That gave Green Bay a first down at the Lions’ 47.
On the next play, Rodgers dropped back to pass again. He rifled it to Davante Adams for four yards. On the tackle, however, Harris grabbed the Green Bay receiver by the inside rim of his shoulder pads. He was flagged for a horse-collar tackle.
The referee marched the ball another 15 yards forward.
From the Lions’ 24, Rodgers handed off to Jamaal Williams, who ran up the middle for 13 yards. (That Green Bay was calling a run play with 46 seconds left and no timeouts shows the level of disrespect it had for the Lions’ front seven. And they were right.)
The next play began from the 11-yard-line, with 22 seconds remaining.
Rodgers threw an incomplete pass, then completed his next throw to tight end Robert Tonyan for an easy touchdown.
The Packers took the lead. That was basically the game.
But … wait.
After a touchback on the kickoff, the Lions began a drive with 14 seconds left. Usually, teams in that spot take a knee and head to the locker room to regroup. But Patricia, to his credit, got aggressive.
Stafford hit Swift for 12 yards.
Stafford hit T.J. Hockenson for 19 yards.
With 3 seconds left, Stafford stayed on the field to attempt a Hail Mary. Before the snap, Green Bay jumped offside, gifting the Lions 5 yards, and giving Matt Prater a chance to tie the game at 17-17 with a 57-yard field goal.
He missed wide right.
Prater is a very good kicker. His miss wasn’t the problem. The issue was how the Lions returned to the field in the second half, failing to build on that somewhat successful drive with 14 seconds left.
After Fox kicked off to begin the third quarter, Green Bay took over at its own 25. Rodgers handed off to Aaron Jones on first down, and Jones ripped through a hole in the line, leaned right, and sprinted 75 yards for a touchdown. Both linebackers in position to make a play couldn’t shed their blocks.
Harris, who was in position to cut off Jones, got fooled into thinking it was a pass. He tried to recover, but took a bad angle and had no chance to run him down.
This isn’t to pick on Harris. He wasn’t the only one to make mistakes. Aboushi had a personal foul along with a couple of holding penalties. Stafford threw a pick-six along with taking the sack just before halftime.
All of them hurt.
But the mistakes within those 117 seconds is what flipped the game. The Lions were leading, 14-10. Less than two …