MINNEAPOLIS -- It looked like so many of the Detroit Lions' other losses this season: They believe they have a good week of practice, then they come out on Sunday and it doesn’t go nearly as planned.
A blowout against the New York Jets in the season opener. Three quarters of poor play a week later against the San Francisco 49ers. Then more of the same two Sundays ago while facing the Seattle Seahawks and again on Sunday versus the Minnesota Vikings.
Consistency, or lack thereof, has been the theme of the Lions' season. And yeah, a lot of teams in the NFL are afflicted with it on a year-in, year-out basis. It’s what has built parity in the league and why unlike the NBA or Major League Baseball, there’s more turnover in the playoffs from year to year.
But with this team, it just seems extreme. For as good as the Lions looked in wins against the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins, they looked equally bad -- or worse -- in losses to the Jets, 49ers, Seahawks and now the Vikings.
“A lot of it, again, is we just have to learn how to be consistent all the way across the board in everything that we do," first-year Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "I think there’s been some weeks that have been consistent from the start of the week through to games and all the rest of it and some weeks that haven’t been consistent.
“You know, things change on game day pretty quick depending on the opponent and what they’re doing and being able to handle some of those changes effects that, certainly from that standpoint. But there’s a couple different variables that go into effect there when those things happen and you look at them and it’s just different game by game.”
And within those games, adjustments seem to be something with which the Lions have been struggling. In the first eight games, the Lions have outscored opponents 52-20 in the first quarter. In the second quarter, they’ve been outscored 71-45.
The biggest gap of all is in the third quarter, after adjustments are made during halftime. Detroit has been outscored 80-26. Even if you take out the season opener against the Jets, when everything unraveled for Detroit in the third quarter, they still have been outscored 49-19 coming out of halftime.
Detroit gets better in the fourth quarter, outscoring opponents 54-39, but that number can be skewed because in at least a couple of games the Lions were playing catch-up with a slim chance of winning.
In whole games, at least offensively, it has been getting worse by the week as far as putting up points. Since scoring 32 points against Miami -- the fifth straight game the Lions had put up at least 24 points -- Detroit has scored 23 points total over the past two weeks, including failing to score a touchdown in the loss at Minnesota. So there has been some regression.
“I’d say so by today,” offensive lineman Frank Ragnow said Sunday. “It definitely wasn’t a step forward, and if you’re not taking a step forward in this league, you’re taking a step back, I feel like.”
For the second straight week, the Lions didn’t respond to any sort of push from opponents. When things went south against Seattle, the Lions compounded their issues with mistakes. When things had a similar feel Sunday at Minnesota, Detroit never really found a way to be competitive, allowing 17 straight points from the second to fourth quarters along with 10 sacks of quarterback Matthew Stafford.
One thing on defense they can point to is their run stopping -- or lack thereof. In Detroit’s three wins, the Lions have given up 110 rushing yards or less; in their five losses, it has been 128 yards or more.
“All the games we looked bad, we didn’t stop the run,” safety Glover Quin said. “So defensively, we’ve got to stop the run.”
It comes down to single plays too. Entering Sunday, there had been 15 runs of 50 yards or more this season; the Lions had allowed three of them, then added another Sunday when Dalvin Cook had a 70-yarder to set up a Vikings touchdown.
The players and coaches, though, stopped short of saying they need to prepare differently. They instead pointed to the same things they have for weeks: They need to “execute” better, and they need to be more consistent.
Those two things are obvious, as after the past two weeks, Detroit is doing neither one of them well enough to win a game.
“This is the NFL. Week to week you never know how it’s going to be,” running back Kerryon Johnson said. “You could come out and look the same every game and nobody would ever lose. It’s just how it goes.
“The past few weeks we haven’t been on our A-game. We have to get it going next week. Teams in our future don’t care how we look week to week. They care about winning. We care about winning. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”