DETROIT -- The Detroit Lions were in shock, and how could they not be? For months they prepared and believed they would be a team on the cusp of the playoffs. Their former coach, Jim Caldwell, was fired after back-to-back winning seasons because the Lions' front office believed their roster was underachieving.
So nobody inside the Lions' locker room Monday night expected the season opener to go the way it did, a 48-17 crushing by the New York Jets in coach Matt Patricia's debut.
“Nah, I didn’t expect it to go this way. I don’t think nobody did,” safety Glover Quin said. “That’s why you go out, you got to play, you got to execute and we didn’t do that.”
No, not at all.
The offense sputtered as Matthew Stafford threw four interceptions. The defense couldn’t stop the run and made Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, in his first career NFL game, look more like a 10-year pro than Stafford.
Even special teams joined in the misery, with usually reliable Matt Prater missing a 44-yard field goal. The entire night could be considered a meltdown.
Maybe this could have been seen from the distance. The Lions struggled all preseason. After all, Patricia said after the final preseason game that this would be “a long journey.” But nobody thought the journey might start at a place so low. Patricia looked like he had a honeymoon period after Quandre Diggs intercepted Darnold’s first pass, returning it for a touchdown.
The honeymoon was over after halftime. By the end of the third quarter, with about half the stadium emptied and "J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS" chants echoing inside Ford Field, all Patricia could hear for his team was boos.
His club deserved every single one of them.
“I’m going to be most disappointed in myself,” Patricia said. “I think that’s where I always start. I have to do a better job and that’s always where I’m going to take it.”
Patricia is the first coach since the Raiders' Tom Cable, on Oct. 12, 2008, to lose by 31 or more points in his head-coaching debut, Cable's being a 34-3 defeat at New Orleans. And Cable took over only after the Raiders fired Lane Kiffin following the fourth game that season, so he was an interim guy. Patricia, the former New England defensive coordinator, was the coach the Lions were excited to hire last offseason.
The Lions looked unprepared in every phase and especially on offense, which was supposed to be the strength of this team. The Lions had negative yards in the first quarter (minus-2) for the first time since Week 7 of 2011. And while they found positive yards after that, it didn’t really matter on the scoreboard.
Consider this: Stafford is the first Lions quarterback to throw four interceptions in a season opener at home since Frankie Sinkwich, who accomplished that feat of ineptitude in 1943. Stafford's backup didn’t fare much better, as Matt Cassel was intercepted in the fourth quarter, too.
“Just a poor performance. Poor execution, you know, on my part,” Stafford said. “Everybody was ready to play, including myself. I just didn’t make enough good decisions and enough good throws and that’s going to cost you.”
Beyond every bad thing that happened on the field Monday night -- and there were too many to count, from dropped passes to blown tackles to injuries to important players such as Ezekiel Ansah and LeGarrette Blount -- the biggest issue going forward for the Lions is this: The schedule does not get easier in the coming weeks.
They now go cross-country on a short week to face San Francisco. Then they face Patricia’s mentor, Bill Belichick, in Week 3 in another nationally televised game on a Sunday night. And if the Lions can’t find some way to improve -- and soon -- this season might go from a long night to a long month or more.
Because the start of it was about as bad as could have possibly been imagined.
“Well, we got to do something about it so it’s not a long road,” Quin said. “Because nobody wants to deal with that.”