Matt Patricia's biggest selling point was his ability to bring a Bill Belichick-ian defense to Detroit. There was a belief that some of the genius rubbed off on the bearded protege. Patricia very much leaned into that narrative, bringing a confident air of intellectual and schematic superiority with him to the Motor City on Day One.
Twenty-six games into his tenure, the stark reality of the situation has been laid bare. The quest for defensive excellence has been a failure, yielding no gold and plenty of pyrite. Patricia's defensive system, which can only be played by guys who fit the system, has crashed in beta phase. Troubleshooting involves chasing the problem with more pieces that can only fit this puzzle, potentially hamstringing future efforts to change regimes effectively.
Yesterday the Lions allowed 35 points to the Dallas Cowboys in yet another loss. Dak Prescott threw for 444 yards. He joins an esteemed committee of Daniel Jones, Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, and Mitch Freaking Trubisky in quarterbacks who have carved up the hapless Lions secondary in recent weeks.
Detroit is 27th league-wide in points allowed per game (27.2). It is 30th in yards allowed/game (412.1). Sunday was the fifth time this year the Lions have scored 24 points and still failed to win the game. And things are trending in an even worse direction as the wheels fall off.
Patricia's complete lack of blitzing has caused much consternation. Prescott had enough time to film a mattress commercial in the pocket as he waited for receiver after receiver to fly into open space. Though, to be fair, the Lions allowed a crucial late touchdown to Ezekiel Elliott on a perfectly-timed screen against the blitz. When it rains, it pours.
This season was dead and buried the moment Matthew Stafford injured his back, if not before. The perpetual beatdowns will serve the purpose of improving Detroit's draft position. Maybe they can find another Patricia-approved piece there.
It's probably too early to move on from the second-year coach. And team brass is far too committed to him to do it anyway. Remember, they ran Jim Caldwell out of town after two straight 9-7 years.
Patricia will continue to be tested. Maybe he'll change his study habits and learn to pass a few. But don't hold your breath. There is no Detroit tradition more time-honored than repeated failure.