The Lions continued their preparation for the New England Patriots today with a practice in shorts at the team’s headquarters and training facility in Allen Park.
The Lions will play their second consecutive home game on prime-time when they take on the Patriots in Week 3. The game marks Detroit’s only appearance on Sunday Night Football in 2018.
New England leads the all-time series, dating back to 1971, with a 7-4 record against Detroit. The last time the two teams met, the Patriots topped the Lions, 34-9, in Foxborough on Nov. 23, 2014.
Matt Patricia on his relationship with New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Josh McDaniels and how he is preparing for the Patriots’ offense:
“Josh and I are really close. Josh and I worked together for a long time from the moment I arrived in New England. He and I were on the offensive side of the ball together really trying to figure a lot of things out, he as a young position coach, myself as a quality control coach. And then after Coach (Charlie) Weis had left, Josh and I spent a lot of time together trying to figure a lot of things out on offense just to try to keep that thing going over there. So, great guy. Obviously, a real close personal friend. I think the two of us leaned on each other quite a bit, helped each other out a lot as young coaches and developing into wherever we are right now. So, utmost respect for him out of, just anybody. I’d say preparing—look, it’s a game. This game is going to be about the players. It’s not about me, it’s not about him, it’s not about Coach (Bill) Belichick and I. It’s about us doing a good job of coaching our team. They’re trying to coach their team. Us, (we’re) going out and hopefully executing at a high level and playing a good football game. That’s the most important thing right now. When you know each other like that as far as the schemes and things, I think the biggest thing for us is to just try to make sure we do a good job with our assignments. Make sure we do a good job with just understanding what we need to do to win and executing that at a high level. I think if you get too much into the other stuff you’re going to lose some details that are critically important to the game. And then something’s going to go by you and you’re going to miss it, and then something big’s going to happen. So, we really just have to stay focused on the game itself.”
On how he translates information from his experience in New England to his players in Detroit to prepare them for the game: “I’d say that’s kind of a difficult conversation to have because, I would say with New England, the thing that they do so well is that they change week-in, week-out, year-in and year-out. They’re always going to play to their strengths, they’re always going to use the people that they have available to them to help themselves win. They’re going to put those people in good situations or good positions. They do a great job of coaching that up. I think the biggest thing for me is I have to make sure I don’t almost give too much information to our players, where, I obviously know that team on a very intimate level where I kind of overdo the information with our players where we almost paralyze them to an effect. They still have to go out and they still have to play. They have to be able to function, they have to be able to communicate, they have to be able to execute. And that’s really the biggest thing for us is to go just play a good game, have a good game-plan, go out and execute at a high level and be ready to compete for 60 minutes. That’s the biggest thing with this team. They’re obviously a very physical but also a mentally tough team and it’ll be a game that’s going to take all 60 minutes to do that.”
On if he’s still learning the balance of how much information is too much information for the players: “I always kind of tend towards the—our players want to know as much information as possible. I think I learned that as a young coach from players. There are going to be players that can handle different amounts of the information, but you certainly don’t want to under-give information to a player that can handle a large amount of it. So, sometimes it’s individually based. You have to deal with each guy to whatever their strengths are and handle it that way. But certainly from a standpoint of—the biggest thing for me is to make sure these guys are prepared and ready to go. And that’s probably the thing that keeps me up at night the most, is just making sure I’m doing everything I can to give them all the information they can have to go play the game. I can’t play the game. Certainly no one wants any of you guys playing the game. So, we just want to go out there and make sure that the players can play at a high level.”
On what he’s noticed that the Patriots have had more success with over the last two years: “I would say from this year’s point of view, there are a little bit of different personnel groups that they’re using on offense and they’re trying to use some of their players in different ways. A lot more specific formations, motions, shifts out of singular personnel groups maybe than in the past. But Josh (McDaniels) does a great job of mixing that all in there and really keeping things moving from that standpoint. So, that’s really difficult. I would say on the other side of the ball, definitely some changes over there, too. Definitely a more vertical style of front. The players have kind of changed a little bit. There were some players that came in a couple years ago that were a little bit more D-line specific and do a good job with the pass rush, so really trying to get those guys vertical a little bit more in the front, which is good for them. I think the coverage and stuff like that, obviously they have the guys back there that do a great job of getting on the receivers and doing a good job adjusting. Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, they have a cast of characters over there that they know how to do a real good job with in the coverage part of it. So, I think the front may be the biggest part of it on the defensive side of the ball. And then on special teams, they do a great job with mixing the different units out there. They’ll have different players that they’ll put in situationally out on the field, whether it’s a punt rush unit versus a punt return unit. They do a great job with substitutions. They’re going to handle the plus-50 punts different than when you’re backed up. So, you have to really be able to adapt and adjust to all those. And they’ll try to gain an edge in special teams from that standpoint, too. Very fundamentally sound across the board, technique, hand placement, footwork, the fundamentals of throwing, catching, tackling, all those things, they’re doing a really good job.”
On what advice New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Josh McDaniels gave him about making the transition to head coach and installing his own culture with the Detroit Lions: “Josh and I had a lot of conversations about his opportunities that he’s had. And really I’ve done the same with a lot of the coaches or even former players that I’ve had that are now coaches in the NFL. We have open conversation about it. I think the good thing is that we’re all really individually our own guys, we’re our own individual leaders and coaches and things like that. And I think that’s the biggest part of it, is just to make sure that you’re always true to who you are. And that’s something that Josh and I talked a lot about in his experience and my experience here and just making sure that everybody understands. The players will always respond to you just being you, they have to just learn who you are first before anything and that’s the biggest part of it before you get into the installation of how you want to do things or what you want it to look like or what the importance is of some of the details that you think are critical to having a successful team.”
On if being a head coach is a constant evolutionary process: “There’s no doubt. And I think that’s who everybody is. As people just in jobs no matter where you are, I think you constantly grow and you constantly learn. Part of it is the old adjective, ‘You have one mouth two ears, so listen twice as much as you speak.’ And I think the big part of that is even as a coach, where you do a lot of speaking, you really have to do a lot of listening, too, in certain points and say, ‘Hey, what do you think about this?’ Or, ‘What does this look like?’ Or, ‘How do you guys feel about this?’ There are going to be certain situations where you’re like, ‘No, that’s not what it is.’ And there’s going to be a lot of situations where you’re like, ‘Yeah, that’s a really good idea. Why don’t we try that?’ Or, ‘Why don’t we look at that?’ And I think you have to do that as a coach. You have to do it as a player. You have to do it in this game just in general so that you can continue to improve.”
On if he’s learned a lot since the beginning of the preseason: “Hopefully. I think I learn a lot every day. So, I would say that there’s no doubt from wherever we were preseason, sort of spring, through the Draft process, through all of it. You’re continually evolving into hopefully whatever fits best for those situations.”
On if there is something he realizes New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick did well that he did not realize until he took the head coach position in Detroit: “I would say the only thing that you can’t really get a perspective on until you sit in this seat would be, and I think I’ve mentioned this before, is just how much time that he would give me in particular and the other coaches. You walk in his office and he might be doing a thousand things. You have no idea. And your question is the most important question in the entire world, so you have to get it answered right away. And he would just stop and explain it, teach it, coach it. And I’d move on, I’d go handle my situation. And I’m sure that he just got stockpiled with everything else that was walking through his door, I slowed him down a little bit, I’m sure, at that point. Which you think you kind of realize, but you really don’t realize just how much is coming at you.”
On if it easier to instill his teachings in rookies with no previous NFL experience in comparison to those who have already learned and played at a professional level: “I think we try to approach them all the same. From that standpoint, I think with young players when you make the transition from college to the NFL, there’s so much from just an awareness that you have to learn. The game’s different, there’s a lot of different dynamics to the game at this level than maybe at college, and that’s the biggest thing you’re trying to teach them, along with the technique and all the rest of it. But I think from a technique standpoint, everybody wants to learn, everybody wants to get better. All the players, they want to be coached. And that’s the best part about it. So, that’s kind of standard across the board. I think it’s just the—catching up on the knowledge and the information for those guys is probably the biggest challenge coming out of college to the NFL.”
On the improvement he’s seen in DL Da’Shawn Hand and DB Tracy Walker: “I’m going to be, most importantly, looking at the entire team right now (rather) than individual players. And we have to do better as a team in all three phases and go out and try to win. But I would say those guys are definitely trying to do what we want them to do from that facet and I’ve seen improvement from those guys week to week, which is really what you’re looking for. And I think that’s kind of the fundamental bottom line for us, is that if you can improve individually week to week, we can improve collectively week to week. We’ll get better. And that’s what we need to do.”