Lions stumble to midway point at 3-5 after loss to Vikings

There’s a certain repetitiveness right now to Matt Patricia’s news conferences.

He’s constantly saying the Detroit Lions need to play better — and need to be coached better.

Unless the second half of the season goes better than the first, Patricia might not be doing the coaching next year.

The Lions lost 34-20 to Minnesota on Sunday, stumbling to the midway point with a 3-5 record. Even though Detroit is in the middle of a comparatively easy stretch in the schedule, the Lions haven’t been able to make a real push, and Patricia’s third season as coach isn’t going much differently than his first two so far.

“We certainly know that we have to coach the game better, and we have to play the game better out on the field,” Patricia said Monday. “We know how dangerous Minnesota could be and certainly they got off to a fast start. We put ourselves kind of behind the game there to get going.”

Earlier this season, Detroit’s problem was holding leads, but the past two weekends, the Lions haven’t had much of an opportunity. They fell behind 20-7 against Indianapolis, then allowed Minnesota to score the game’s first 13 points. Sunday was the first time all season Detroit didn’t score first.

“Everybody’s just, they’re just trying to figure it out — what they can do better,” safety Duron Harmon said. “I think it just starts with just everybody looking at themselves in the mirror, looking at the film, and asking yourself, ‘Am I consistent?’”

One thing Detroit has done consistently is lose to its division opponents. The Lions haven’t beaten an NFC North team since Dec. 30, 2018.

“We’re going to take a good look at what we did for the first eight games, and obviously we need to improve on the second eight as we go forward, and that’s what we’ll do,” Patricia said.

WHAT’S WORKING

Matthew Stafford’s season was cut short by injury problems last year. He’s been mostly healthy in 2020 and has generally played fine. His passer rating of 92.4 isn’t spectacular, but it’s hard to find bright spots for the Lions these days, and there have been some in the passing game. Second-year tight end T.J. Hockenson has a team-high 34 catches for 360 yards and five touchdowns.

Stafford left Sunday’s game in the fourth quarter for concussion evaluation but was cleared.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The Lions are allowing 148 yards rushing per game, a mark that puts the team near the bottom of the league. There have been times this season when the defense looked better, but Sunday was a setback. Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook ran for 206 yards and two touchdowns.

“We know Minnesota, and we know what they do really well, and they run the ball really well,” Patricia said. “No surprise there. I think there’s certainly things that we have to fix to get that better.”

STOCK UP

Patricia was asked where he’d seen recent improvement on his team, and he began by mentioning kickoff coverage and the punt rush — not exactly the type of areas likely to turn around a season. Punter Jack Fox has been impressive, averaging 52.8 yards per attempt.

STOCK DOWN

Sticking with special teams, kicker Matt Prater has been surprisingly erratic. He’s just 6 of 12 on field goals from beyond 40 yards.

“I have the highest amount of confidence in Matt Prater,” Patricia said. “He is one of the mentally toughest guys I know. He’s physically tough. He works extremely hard. He’s a true perfectionist.”

INJURED

The Lions put cornerback Tony McRae on injured reserve and activated linebacker Jarrad Davis from the reserve/COVID-19 list. McRae hurt his right knee while blocking during a punt return Sunday.

KEY NUMBER

62 — that’s how many points the Lions have been outscored by this season after the first quarter. Detroit is actually outscoring opponents 55-36 in the first, but it doesn’t take long for things to take a turn for the worse.

NEXT STEPS

Detroit hosts Washington this weekend, then the Lions face two more sub-.500 teams in Carolina and Houston. The Lions may need to make the most of this upcoming stretch, because matchups with Tennessee and Tampa Bay — plus the remaining division games — loom later on.

“I’m going to keep doing everything I can to try to just get one win,” Harmon said. “Let’s get one, and then regroup and try to get another one. That’s what this league is built on. We can’t do that unless we get one win.”

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Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister

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