The Detroit Lions defense has been one of the biggest disappointments of the season. Going into Week 12, the Lions ranked 29th in yards per game, 25th in points per game and 26th in DVOA. For Lions head coach Matt Patricia—once billed as a defensive guru—that has to be a major hit to his credibility.
However, it looks like Patricia may be taking on a more hands-on approach to the defense going forward. According to several of the beat writers on hand for Sunday’s loss to Washington, Patricia appeared to be making several of the play calls while the team was on defense.
From the press box, definitely looks like Matt Patricia is calling the defensive plays today, at least so far.— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) November 24, 2019
“Patricia held what appeared to be a laminated defensive play sheet close to his mouth, covering the microphone on his headset, and talked regularly into the microphone when the defense was on the field,” according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
Defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, on the other hand, “appeared to talk much less frequently into his headset.”
After the game, Patricia refused to reveal the specifics about gameday duties.
“I’m very active in the communication from all phases of the game—all three phases—and so there’s going to be plays out there that I can call,” Patricia said. “There’s going to be plays Coach P’s calling. There’s going to be plays out there that certainly are just automatic for us.”
When asked to specify what percentage of play calling he’s making on defense, Patricia decline to answer.
“I don’t know. I’m not going to get into that stuff,” Patricia said. “Again, I’m not really going to get into details. It changes week by week.”
The Lions’ defense certainly looked improved on Sunday against Washington. They allowed just 12 points—and two of those four field goal drives were aided by good field position given up via an offensive turnover. Detroit also forced two turnovers of their own, including their first interception since Week 6.
But they were also facing one of the worst offenses in the league. Washington ranked dead last both in points scored and yards per game. And when the Lions needed a final defensive stop, they allowed two scoring drives in the final five minutes.
Still, Patricia taking over at least some of the play calling could speak to the future of Pasqualoni with the team. If this trend continues, the 70-year-old defensive coach could be on his way out.