Ask Matt Patricia, and he'll tell you just about every NFL game is decided by a couple of key plays. He'll also tell you the Lions have been on the wrong end of these plays through his first two seasons.
In other words, they're on the verge of breaking through.
It appears Patricia has relayed this belief to Jamie Collins, the former Patriots linebacker who signed a three-year deal with the Lions last week.
"Me and Matty P we got a little bit of history behind us. I think the Lions are an up-and-coming team," Collins said Tuesday on a conference call with local media. "They always been in the running. It’s a play or two or three away from doing big things, so I feel like I can help with that."
And maybe he will. Collins thrived in Patricia's system in New England, making the Pro Bowl in 2015, and he had another strong season with the Patriots in 2019 following a three-year stint with the Browns. Question is, will Collins' arrival be enough? The Lions have nine wins over the last two seasons, and last year had one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
Asked what he sees to suggest they're a team on the rise, Collins said, "When you’re a player, you look at the game different than outsiders or fans. We break down the game, we process the game, we digest the game different than the average person. Yeah, it’s this, yeah, it’s that, but it’s one play. When it boils down to it, it’s always one or two plays that’s the difference in the game.
"Like I said, I just feel like me being a veteran now, I can bring some veteran, professional little things to get us over the top. And I’m definitely up for the challenge."
Detroit paid him accordingly, $30 million over three years. It's a lot of money for a player who will turn 31 next season. But Patricia has a specific blueprint on defense, and Collins is the type of linebacker that fits it. He comes to Detroit from New England along with safety Duron Harmon and defensive lineman Danny Shelton, the most expensive piece of a substantial defensive makeover.
So what kind of player are the Lions getting?
"I would say they’re getting a pro," said Collins. "They’re getting a winner. They’re getting a leader. They’re getting a guy that you can hold accountable. They’re getting a guy with great energy. Definitely a fun guy, you just gotta get to know me first. And I would say I’m determined, man. They’re getting a determined player, because there’s things that I went through, man, I could have shut it down but I kept pushing and doing what I had to do to come up and succeed in life.
"So they’re definitely getting a smart, head-on-straight, down-to-earth, fun winner -- and we’re definitely gonna start winning right now."
Collins won two Super Bowls with the Patriots, before he was traded to the Browns in 2016. He had an up-and-down career with Cleveland, then returned to New England last season and posted 7.0 sacks and three interceptions, both career highs. Back in Patricia's defense, he has the opportunity to make a big difference for the Lions.
The up-and-coming Lions? Let's see.