DETROIT – Justin Coleman had to be accompanied to the locker room in the first half. Desmond Trufant went in a similar way in the second. The team already was without rookie Jeff Okudah, inactive due to a hamstring injury.
What had once been one of the deepest position groups on the Detroit Lions had been broken down to three guys. Of the team’s top four cornerbacks, only Amani Oruwariye would finish Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the Chicago Bears.
That’s a valid concern moving forward. Not only because Detroit surrendered a 17-point fourth-quarter lead as Mitchell Trubisky beat a Matt Patricia-led team for the fourth straight time, but because of who is next on the schedule.
The Lions are entering a stretch where they will see three of the Top 10 – maybe even Top 5 – receivers in the NFL. They’ll also see two of the top quarterbacks and another who could end up being there soon enough.
It starts with Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams on the road. Then Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins in Arizona. It’ll finish with Drew Brees and Michael Thomas and the Saints at home. That would be tough for any healthy group of cornerbacks.
For a group dealing with hamstring injuries to Coleman, Trufant and Okudah, that’s going to be an even tougher test after Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller combined for nine catches and 150 yards against the Lions’ started-strong-then-fell-apart group Sunday.
“It’s obviously hard when you’re down some guys, especially in one area, and you have a couple injuries at one position and you’re trying to do the best you can,” Patricia said. “Guys that are going in there, getting ready to go, we have confidence in all those guys when they got to go play.”
Darryl Roberts and Tony McRae, the two replacements for Trufant and Coleman with Okudah inactive before the game, were OK. Roberts had consistently good coverage and a nice pass breakup. McRae played well on special teams and his coverage on the go-ahead touchdown to Miller wasn’t terrible – it was just a well-placed throw by Trubisky.
But if the Lions continue to be without their top group of corners, they’ll need their backups to get better fast. Rodgers threw for 364 yards and four touchdowns Sunday against Minnesota and looks like the version of Rodgers the Lions are used to seeing. Now, typically, Matt Patricia has game-planned well against the Packers. Last year, in the midst of a dismal season, the only time Green Bay led was when both games against the Packers ended.
He’s had success figuring out Rodgers in the past. But it could be trickier if they are down a bunch of their top corners.
“We know it doesn’t stop,” Patricia said. “You know we’ve got challenges every week and certainly at the skill positions, the DB position, we know how important it is to have all of those guys out there and to have them be healthy.
“So we’re going to fight through that.”
They’ll have to. After losing a fourth-quarter lead to either a loss or tie for the 10th time in 33 games under Patricia, the Lions are going to have to find their defense fast to avoid the start of another potential tailspin.
“I believe in the team. I believe in the coaching staff,” safety Duron Harmon said. “I believe in what we do. I believe in the process that we take. Obviously it didn’t end the way that we wanted to, but we know what we need to do to fix it, and we will fix it.”