Lions hoping coaching change can make difference in playoffs

LARRY LAGE (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit Lions made some renovations in and around their locker room perhaps trying to turn some little changes into big ones that really matter under Matt Patricia .

The Lions gave Patricia, the former New England defensive coordinator, his first head coaching job earlier this year in the hopes he could bring some of what he learned from the Patriots to Detroit.

Patricia probably picked up at least a thing or two from Bill Belichick about how to keep as much about the organization private as possible.

In a hallway at the Lions' training facility, doors are closed where there used to be openings allowing people passing by to peek in on position groups while they met or watched film.

Inside the locker room, an area some players relaxed in recliners or played video games out in the open is now an extension of the training room behind a door.

When players leave the locker room in the other direction, they pass through another door where there wasn't one last year.

''Coach is keeping the inside in,'' Detroit tight Michael Roberts said. ''And, the outside out.''

The Lions have been on the outside looking in for decades during the playoffs.

Since winning the 1957 NFL title, Detroit has one postseason victory and that lone win was on Jan. 5, 1992.

Patricia was New England's defensive coordinator the previous six years and was on Belichick's staff for 14 seasons, a stretch that included three Super Bowl victories. He was hired in Detroit to replace Jim Caldwell, who was 36-28 over four seasons and 0-2 in the playoffs.

Detroit general manager Bob Quinn, in his third season with the franchise, knows Patricia well because they worked together in New England for a dozen seasons.

Long before he hired him, Quinn had already been talking up Patricia to team president Rod Wood.

''I kind of always thought, 'You know what? If I ever get my chance, Matt and I could probably work together,''' Quinn recalled.

If the Patricia-Quinn reunion pans out and produces postseason success, the duo will be hailed in Michigan for pulling off a feat. If not, they will join a long list of general managers and coaches who failed to build an NFL winner in the Motor City.

Here are some other things to know about the Lions:

STAFFORD SAYS

Detroit drafted Matthew Stafford No. 1 overall in 2009, desperately hoping he would become the franchise quarterback with enough talent and leadership to lead the team to playoff success.

It hasn't happened.

Stafford is 60-65 in the regular season and 0-3 in the playoffs.

''I don't hear about many people talking about a running back, or a receiver, or a defensive end's playoff career record, but it's understandable,'' Stafford said. ''We touch the ball on every single play and make a lot of critical plays and decisions. Whether it's fair or not is not up to me to judge.''

RB ROTATION

The Lions will lean on multiple running backs this season, including three-time Super Bowl winner LeGarrette Blount, who signed as a free agent. Detroit drafted Kerryon Johnson in the second round and he looks ready to get some snaps on any down. Speedy and shifty Theo Riddick still appears to be one of the NFL's best pass-catching running backs.

''We have so much talent in our room,'' Johnson said. ''And there great thing is no one will have to do it all.''

THROUGH THE AIR

Passing is Detroit's strength with Stafford throwing to veteran receivers Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and second-year pro Kenny Golladay.

''The sky is the limit with us because we know we are good,'' Tate said. ''The only thing that can stop us is us.''

LINE PROBLEMS

On both sides of the ball, Detroit appears to have potential problems.

The Lions' offensive line did not create holes in the running game or protect Stafford well last year and there's no evidence the unit will be better. Detroit ranked last in rushing offense last year and Stafford was sacked a career-high 47 times.

First-round pick Frank Ragnow is being counted on to start at guard or center. Guard T.J. Lang, who turns 31 early in the season, is showing signs of being a banged-up veteran and may not even be able to match the 13 games he played last season.

Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah is playing with a franchise tag and seems to be slowing down because of injuries. Elsewhere on the line, Detroit appears to lack game-changing players that will command attention from opponents.

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