CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Matthew Stafford tried to sound upbeat after the Detroit Lions latest debacle, a 20-0 road loss to the Carolina Panthers.
“It’s one game,” Stafford said. “It doesn’t define us as an offence , or us as a team.”
Or maybe it does.
Coming off a promising 30-27 win over the Washington Redskins, the Lions lost a game they had to have to stay in playoff contention — and one that could ultimately lead to costing coach Matt Patricia his job if they don’t find a way to quickly turn things around.
The Lions (4-6) managed just 185 yards and were 3 of 14 on third downs, failing to score against a Carolina defence that had allowed its last four opponents to put up a combined 131 points while scoring on 27 of 36 possessions. The Panthers, who had forced only two punts during that four-game span, got the Lions to punt six times.
“We have to go out, and we have to coach a lot better and get things right, and we have to go play better,” Patricia said.
Patricia, who is 13-28-1 in 2 1/2 seasons as Lions head coach, was peppered with questions about his future after the loss, but refused to take a big picture look at the situation.
“We’re going to go to work every day and try to do the best that we can to improve, and that’s the bottom line. It’s what we do," Patricia said.
He said his confidence as a coach isn't shaken.
Asked if the Lions are still responding to their coach, Stafford said, “Absolutely.”
“We have really good guys here,” Patricia said when asked if he feels like he’s losing the locker room. “We have guys who are fighting every day and working really hard. That’s the one thing – I just love this locker room. These guys are strong; they want to win. They’re trying to compete. They’re trying to do everything right.”
Granted, the offence was without running back D’Andre Swift and wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola due to injury. But the Lions were also facing a Carolina team that was without starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, running back Christian McCaffrey, offensive linemen Russell Okung and John Miller, and cornerback Donte Jackson.
And the Panthers outgained the Lions 374 to 185.
Given the Lions have a Thanksgiving Day game against the Houston Texans on Thursday it's expected things will remain status quo this week. But the loss certainly doesn't help Patricia's long-term prospects.
The Lions looked disinterested at times and made silly mistakes like an illegal alignment that negated a 51-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to Marvin Jones. The offensive line couldn't protect Stafford and the defence struggled against a former XFL quarterback in P.J. Walker, who was making his first NFL start.
As for his future, Patricia said, “I’ve had a philosophy for a long time. I go to work every day to try to earn my job, that’s just what I do. That doesn’t matter if it’s coaching, doing engineering – I don’t care if I’m in school. Look, I’m just going to go to work and work hard.”
Still, things aren't good in Detroit. Suddenly, going 34-28 and making the playoffs twice in four seasons under former coach Jim Caldwell doesn't sound so bad.
The last time the Lions failed to score in a game was Oct. 18, 2009 when Stafford was an injured rookie.
“I got here in 2009 and from where we were then to where we are now, we’re a better organization, more talent," Stafford said. "At the moment, we don’t have as many wins as we wished we had this year.”
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Steve Reed, The Associated Press