DETROIT -- New coaches are supposed to have an advantage. There isn’t much film on what they’ll do, what they’ll call. Especially when it’s a first-time head coach, such as Matt Patricia was Monday night.
Yet, somehow, the New York Jets seemed to know everything that was coming. They did it on the field in a 48-17 drubbing. And then they explained exactly how they pulled it off.
That’s just ugly for the Detroit Lions. Sure, offenses and defenses never want to be predictable. But if it happens in Week 8 or 9 or 10, it’s more understandable. There’s film. Tendencies. If a team scouts you that well, you say OK, make tweaks and move on.
But in Week 1 of Year 1 of a new regime, it’s almost unfathomable.
“We were calling out their plays as he was getting up to the line,” Jets linebacker Darron Lee said after the game. “... We knew his signals. We knew everything. That’s just preparation as a defense.”
Lee, who had two interceptions, wasn’t the only Jets player to echo that sentiment -– on either side of the ball. Jets cornerback Morris Claiborne called New York’s preparation “one of the best I’ve been around” and that they figured out a lot of things the Lions ran on offense.
It was evident on Lee’s first interception, where he basically sat and waited for Lions running back Theo Riddick to run one of his most-used routes -– the angle route. Lee waited, waited and stepped in front of Riddick to pick off Matthew Stafford and return it for a touchdown.
“One of the big things, us as a defense, we want to talk, and when we were out on the field, certain guys were seeing certain things that showed up in reports and stuff like that,” Claiborne said. “They are calling it out and got everybody on the same page, so we at least have an idea of what’s about to happen or where they are trying to beat us or how they are trying to hurt us.”
The Lions couldn't hurt the Jets' defense -– except when they went to a tempo-based offense, something Stafford has usually thrived in. But when they avoided tempo, the Lions couldn’t really fool New York at all.
Claiborne, when asked if they were predictable -– a shudder-inducing description for opposing coordinators -– wouldn’t go that far. But did he know more than a typical Week 1 game he has played in years past? “I feel like you can say that,” Claiborne said. Which, more than anything, is a problem.
It wasn’t just the Lions' offense, though, that had some level of predictability -– something that was clearly true. The defense did, too.
Take Isaiah Crowell’s 62-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. A complete game-ender for the Lions, putting New York up 48-17. New York’s offense had seen what would happen before.
“The play that was a touchdown run, we actually saw that play against the Oakland Raiders early in the preseason,” Jets offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum said. “It was the same exact front, almost the same exact play, ran to the same exact side, honestly.
“It worked for us. It worked for Oakland early in the year.”
If you’re supposed to be pretty basic in the preseason -– something most coaches and players admit to -- what does that say about the regular season, when you’re supposed to be game planning and scheming?
For the Jets, it was an extra layer of understanding -– and considering who the next two opponents are for the Lions, this might be devastating, because San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo knows Matt Patricia’s defenses very well from his time in New England and then the Lions face the Patriots in Week 3.
Beachum, like Claiborne, stopped short of using the “P" word, but ...
"You kind of knew," Beachum said. "The thing is, it’s the same defense that New England ran. You know where they are going to be. The thing is, we out-executed them tonight. It’s a week-to-week type of game.
"We were able to thrive and win in that particular situation."
The Lions couldn’t. In any way.
Patricia’s message to his team Monday night was to look in the mirror and find ways to do jobs better. It’s a sentiment many players echoed. That should –- and will –- start with the head coach, who couldn’t do anything right.
There were indicators this might happen. A month ago, defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois sat at his locker after the second preseason game and lamented the team’s lack of technique and that they needed to get it fixed. Fast. Otherwise “it’s going to be a long season.”
A month later, he stood in front of the same locker. Said similar things. Had no real answer for why it appeared progress had not been made.
“There wasn’t,” Jean Francois said. “But like I said, we got 16 games so what can’t be made then damn sure gotta be made now. Because everything counts now.”
It does. If those corrections don't come, that long year Francois was talking about in August will stick around all fall long.