Lions, 49ers hoping for different outcome in Week 2
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First-year head coaches typically have a grace period with their new teams. For Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia, that grace period expired quickly in Monday's ugly 48-17 loss to the New York Jets.
The Lions (0-1) were booed in their own stadium amid a slew of turnovers and sloppy play, and with a trip west to San Francisco (0-1) to face the 49ers looming Sunday, Patricia already is facing questions about whether players are buying into his Belichickian coaching methods.
"Look, these guys work really hard every single day," Patricia said. "I give them a lot of credit for everything they try to do. And they come in, they try to do it the right way and we're obviously pushing forward and trying to learn and grow and get better at everything we're doing right now, so I don't see any issue there whatsoever."
There might not be an issue yet, but the Lions will need some on-field payoff to keep it that way.
Against the Jets, the Lions gave up 31 unanswered points in the third quarter -- the final points of the game -- and allowed touchdowns passing and rushing on defense, and in the return game. Players seemed dispirited, even as they acknowledged the long season ahead.
"We lost," defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois said. "It's only Week 1, the world's not over with. We just lost one game. ... We got (15) more (to go)."
When they face the 49ers, the Lions might find some respite from their skeptical fan base in an opponent that's dealing with its own problems, including some of a health nature.
The 49ers lost one of their top offensive weapons, running back Jerick McKinnon, to a torn ACL in the preseason, and will be without linebacker Reuben Foster for a second straight week because of suspension.
Of all the games within Sunday's contest, however, the most intriguing one may be Patricia versus 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Garoppolo spent his first 3 1/2 seasons with the New England Patriots, where he went against Patricia's defenses every day with the scout team in practice. The 49ers quarterback certainly knows Patricia and what he likes to do, and Patricia likewise has the book on Garoppolo's strengths and weaknesses.
If coach or quarterback can force the other out of his comfort zone, it could be the difference in the game.
"There's a couple of little things you remember from over the years," Garoppolo admitted. "But Matty P's a smart coach and I'm sure they'll have something game-planned for us."
Surely something different than what Detroit schemed in Monday's blowout loss to the Jets in which the Lions gave up 349 yards, 14th most in the league.
Maybe he was just being kind to his old coach, but Garoppolo insisted he was impressed with what he saw of the Lions' defense on film.
"They're a game-plan team," he observed, "They're talented ... across the board: Good D-line, they get penetration, they set the edge, fast linebackers and talented secondary. They're good at every level."
The Lions, meanwhile, have a deep group of skill players who match up well against the 49ers' secondary.
"We don't ever want to go out there and play poor football," said quarterback Matthew Stafford, who threw a league-high four interceptions in his season opener Monday. "We're disappointed and frustrated with our own performance. We want to be better than that, we are better than that. We have just to go out there and play better than that."
The question is: Will Stafford borrow from Kirk Cousins' playbook and do all he can to avoid the Niners' four-time Pro Bowl corner Richard Sherman?
Sherman was in on all 71 defensive snaps in his San Francisco debut, a season-opening loss at Minnesota. That means he was on the field for all 36 passes Cousins threw.
Only three went in Sherman's direction. And just one -- a Cousins scramble on which Sherman lost track of Stefon Diggs -- was completed, that for 21 yards.
"It's a mental game just as much as it's a physical game," Sherman insisted following his successful return to the field after suffering the season-ending injury in a game last November. "The concepts they were running were relatively simple. I just put myself in a position to be successful."
The teams will be meeting for the first time at Levi's Stadium. The Lions haven't won at San Francisco since November 1975, losing 12 straight (including a 1983 playoff game).
Updated September 13, 2018