New-look Lions have turned tables after decades of Packers' dominance
Sixth in a 13-part series on the opponents the Green Bay Packers will face during the 2019 regular season.
GREEN BAY – Seven new head coaches were hired in the NFL in 2018, including Matt Patricia in Detroit.
Four of them had losing records. One has already been fired (Steve Wilks, Arizona). Pat Shurmur is feeling heat in New York. Oakland’s Jon Gruden signed a 10-year deal, so he’s safe. Then there’s Patricia, who went 6-10 in his first season.
It opened shakily, with some players complaining about how hard he was pushing them just weeks into the regular season. Then they practiced outdoors in the snow despite having four indoor games next on the schedule. After the season, Patricia let offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter (whom he had kept on staff after taking the job) depart and hired former Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell as the play caller.
No doubt Patricia is hoping his mindset and manner of instilling his culture, along with the offensive coaching change, help get the Lions back to where they were just a year before he was hired — with a winning record and in the playoff mix. After Jim Caldwell went 36-28 in four years with two playoff trips, the Lions felt they needed a “B to C” coach and hired Patricia away from New England. But the club took a step back last year with its worst record since 2012.
A rocky first season is worth watching as Patricia enters year two because owner Martha Firestone Ford reportedly "has a lot less patience and a lot less tolerance for mediocrity,” team president Ron Wood said in May. It will be interesting to see how Patricia changes in his sophomore season on the sidelines — and if the coaching and roster amendments bring about more success in a competitive division.
Here are three things to know about the Lions:
Stafford’s seat getting hot?
Did you know Aaron Rodgers has started just 17 more games than Matthew Stafford? It feels like Stafford is still that cherub-faced quarterback out of Georgia, but he’s 31 years old and entering his 11th season. In that time the team has been to just three playoff games, all losses. This offseason it was revealed the Miami Dolphins inquired about trading for him and prior to this year’s draft there were rumors the Lions might look at picking a quarterback high. But, Stafford has four years left on a five-year extension he signed in 2017. There’s no real way the Lions could have moved him this year, but usually where there’s smoke there’s a flame regarding how a team feels about a player – and Patricia was not the head coach when that extension was signed. After 2020, the Lions don’t owe Stafford any guaranteed money, so it may be fair to say that Stafford has to perform at a high level in 2019 or the Lions’ desire to look for their next QB truly heats up.
Former Patriots Trey Flowers and Danny Amendola were signed this offseason to add not just talent to the defense and offense, respectively, but to help Patricia to continue to install his New England-like culture in Detroit. And while tight end TJ Hockenson is just a rookie out of the University of Iowa, Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz coached under and is a good friend of Patriots coach Bill Belichick and has used some of the same principles in running his college program. Patricia clearly believes in his Patriot-like methods, and general manager Bob Quinn felt his head coach needed players who could follow such methods without issue — so it will be interesting to see if the coach has more game-day success in 2019 by adding these players to the locker room and practice field.
The dominance is over
Remember when the Packers could basically circle two wins on their schedule when it came to the Lions? It wasn’t that long ago. After all, Rodgers owns a 13-5 career record against Detroit, including an 11-3 run from 2008-14. But since 2015 the Lions are 5-3 against the Packers, including the last four straight and two straight at Lambeau Field. Sure, fans might point out Rodgers missed both games in 2017 and was knocked out of the season finale a year ago, or that Mason Crosby missed five kicks in 2018. But as the Lions get ready for this season and try to improve in Patricia’s second year, they won’t care about that. They’ll talk about the recent success and play with confidence — especially at Lambeau Field.
Packers schedule glimpse
Oct. 14 vs. Lions, 7:15 p.m., ESPN.
Week before: at Dallas, Oct. 6.
Week after: vs. Oakland, Oct. 20.
On the horizon: at Kansas City, Oct. 27.
Coach: Matt Patricia (6-10 overall, second season with Lions).
2017 record: 6-10, fourth in NFC North.
Scoring offense: 20.3 points per game (25th in NFL).
Total offense: 327.3 yards per game (24th).
Scoring defense: 22.5 points per game (16th).
Total defense: 335 yards per game (10th).
Series: Packers lead, 100-72-7.
Last meeting: Detroit won the 2018 season finale between the two at Lambeau Field, knocking Aaron Rodgers early from the game with a concussion and winning 31-0. The Packers mailed it in under interim head coach Joe Philbin, giving up a touchdown on a fake field goal, and earning just nine first downs and 175 net yards on offense. Backup quarterback DeShone Kizer accounted for 172 yards of total offense (132 yards passing, 40 rushing). It was the second straight victory for the Lions at Lambeau Field and fourth in a row overall against the Packers.