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Despite 0-2 start, I’m buying in on Matt Patricia and the Detroit Lions

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Why the Lions are right there and we should all just calm down.

NFL: Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody wants to hear this right now, and I’m fully certain that I’m the only one willing to say it right now, too. After all, our leader Jeremy Reisman said I was insane for alluding to these thoughts in Sunday’s What Just Happened piece. But the Lions are right there on the edge of putting everything together.

I know, I know. I am crazy. The Lions are 0-2 and according to Lions fan law, the sky is now required to fall. Maybe I’m just seeing things differently, but in these last two games, I see a team that is really bad, but is also onto something. That something is their identity. That something is what this team is trying to be, and they’re right there.

Perhaps this is on all of us. Maybe it’s because we overhyped the hiring of Matt Patricia from the get go. He was supposed to bring instant rocket science to the Lions and they were going to win immediately. I’m not sure we were all thinking clearly back then.

Now I’m seeing things a little more clearly. It took me a blowout loss and and a heartbreaking defeat to buy in. That’s right, I said I bought in. There are a few reasons why I’ve bought in. There are few reason why I still think there’s a winning team here.

The offense started to click, even when it wasn’t clicking

The Lions offense was a couple of missed opportunities away from beating the 49ers and possibly winning a shootout against the Jets. Missed opportunities aren’t cool. They really suck. But the chances of those misses turning into hits are pretty good.

When they do turn into hits, that’s when you see the high-powered offense the Lions could have. History is on the Lions’ side here. In 2017, only Alex Smith threw a better deep ball than Matthew Stafford. Marvin Jones had a lot to do with that. I have a hard time believing that either of them have truly lost a step. What I can believe is that there needs to be some rust shaken off.

As far as the rest of the receiving unit, Kenny Golladay is having a heck of a season already and Golden Tate looked like Golden Tate on Sunday. It certainly would be nice to see a tight end do something too, though.

The Lions might have a run game

The Lions running backs didn’t do anything spectacular on Sunday, but they did rush for 98 yards. The Lions have been able to rush for 98 or more yards just five times in the last two years. That’s really bad.

The Lions might finally be onto something with the combination of Kerryon Johnson, Theo Riddick and LeGarrette Blount, but most specifically with Kerryon Johnson. The rookie averaged 5.4 yards per carry on Sunday. He only ran for 43 yards, but looked impressive in his limited opportunities.

What was definitely apparent on Sunday is that the Lions will probably go to Johnson more as the No. 1 back. He’s put in work and shown what he’s capable of. If he becomes the guy that so many thought he would be, he’s going to be trouble for opposing defense.

The Lions have a pass rush?

Who would have thought the 2018 Lions would rack up six sacks this season, let alone in one game. How is this happening? It’s all about the scheme. If anything has shown that Matt Patricia’s scheme can work, it’s this right here.

There’s still some concern from me that a lot of the pass rush has come from the linebackers as opposed to the defensive line. It feels like the Lions could live or die on the idea that their linebackers are going to be rushing the passer so often. You can see already the possibility of the Lions getting burned this way.

The Lions run defense is god awful. I’m not sure they can get better there, but they have a pass rush and they have a secondary. The Lions defense could make some noise once they put it all together.

In conclusion

In the end, I don’t think the Lions are team that can win the division or even a playoff game at this point. This team is still a work in progress. But I see a team that can clean up the little things and possibly make the playoffs or at least finish the year with a winning record. Ultimately, I feel like this team is the 2015 Lions, who started out 1-7 but made a furious comeback to 7-9 by the season’s end. But I think this team will wind up figuring it out faster.

I might be wrong about everything. This all might be a hunch that winds up blowing up in my face. It’s okay, I’m used to being the guy that has odd take. Until then, I’m going to stay bought in. I’m going to continue to trust the process and all that stuff. Even if the Lions do get destroyed by Patricia’s former team on Sunday night.