Matt Patricia's message to D'Andre Swift was ultimately his message to his team. After a season-opening win slipped through Swift's hands on Sunday, Patrica put his arm around the rookie and told him, It's not on you. It's not about one play.
"Honestly, we should have done a lot more as a team," Patricia said Monday. "He shouldn’t even have been in that position."
Before Swift dropped the potential game-winning touchdown with six seconds to go, the Lions blew a 17-point fourth quarter lead. And before that, they blew several chances to put the game out of reach.
So despite his team's well-documented issues in closing time, Patricia emphasized the mistakes that preceded Sunday's meltdown as the Lions broke down the film a day later.
"I would say we focused on a lot of the plays that happened in the first three quarters. I think we understand the plays that happened at the end of the game that we have to do a better job of. But the first three quarters we certainly could have put ourselves in better position to not leave that door open at the end, even if it’s cracked just a little bit," Patricia said. "In the NFL we certainly understand the things that turn a game, especially late in the game, and statistically all that stuff shows up again."
For example, the Lions took two of their first four drives inside Chicago's 15-yard line, but failed to come away with touchdowns. Their third drive ended in a punt when Adrian Peterson was stuffed on third-and-1. And that's just on the offensive side of the ball. A seven-point lead at halftime could very easily have been more.
Patricia said he had his team focus on the first three quarters "just to understand opportunities that we have, whether it’s down in the red area where we gotta capitalize, whether it’s third down plays that we gotta stop, early-down run game and how that affects control of the game.
"Some of the plays were just, first time out there and we were doing some things that weren’t really how we practiced or coached it. We just tried to settle some things down to be more productive early in the game."
Patricia was pleased with the way the Lions went into and came out of halftime. They scored on three straight drives in the middle two quarters to build a 23-6 lead. Then the wheels came off.
"We came back to that third quarter and then start of the fourth, there’s some plays in there that I think really could have changed the scenarios at the end of the game," he said. "Some of the two-minute to four-minute type back-and-forth situations that we were in that maybe would have just nailed it down to a two-minute situation all the way through for the other team. Some of those plays that I think are really important to capitalize on, so you don’t have to be in those constant back-and-forth situations at the end."
Those are the situations in which the Lions keep coming up short. No wonder Patricia would rather avoid them.