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Matt Patricia exceedingly complimentary of Lions toughness despite loss to Bears on Thanksgiving, Nov. 28, 2019 at Ford Field.
Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
Matt Patricia looked and sounded like a beaten man.
The Detroit Lions lost their fifth straight game Thursday in frighteningly familiar fashion.
They got off to a decent start, had a lead late in the fourth quarter, couldn’t stop a struggling quarterback from completing clutch passes and limped away from their annual Thanksgiving Day affair, 24-20, losers to the Chicago Bears and officially eliminated from playoff contention before Black Friday sales began.
After it was done, Patricia walked into his post-game news conference more somber than angry and praised his players for the fight they showed in losing to another bad football team.
“Obviously, I think everyone was disappointed,” Patricia said. “But I’ll say this: I think that team, our team, it’s one of the toughest teams I’ve probably ever been around. This team fights like probably no other team I’ve ever seen.
“We got to find a way to win. We got to find a way to kind of break through that thing that’s stopping us right now and smash that so we can get this thing going. But you want to talk about a tough team, you want to talk about a team that fights, you want to talk about a team that’s going to try to do everything they can to win, that’s what we got right now.”
No one has ever accused the Lions of mailing it in on the football field, not this year at least. And they certainly put forth a game effort Thursday with undrafted rookie David Blough making his first start at quarterback.
But three-quarters of the way into the season, the Lions have sunk to a depth rarely seen in the last decade, even for a franchise known for its failures.
At 3-8-1, the Lions are guaranteed a losing record for the second straight season and all but locked into last place in the NFC North.
They’re on their way to another top-10 draft pick — maybe even top-five. And they’re 9-18-1 in 28 games with Patricia as head coach.
“It’s rough,” cornerback Darius Slay said. “Like I said, we keep finding a way (to lose). We just got to break down the wall, man. That wall is right there and it’s just not moving, so we just got to find a way to kick the wall down.”
On Thursday, the Lions squandered a big day from Blough in his first career game and let Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky have his way with their defense once again.
Blough threw touchdown passes of 75 and 8 yards on the Lions’ first two possessions and finished the day 22 of 38 passing for 280 yards. He had 136 yards passing in the first quarter, the most yards by a quarterback in the first quarter of his first game since at least 1991, according to the Associated Press.
“This is what you dream about as a kid,” Blough said. “I’m thankful for it all, the ups and downs, and I knew there was going to be some. I wasn’t going to be perfect. I just wanted to give everything that I had and the guys lifted me up.”
For all of Blough’s success, it was Trubisky who starred with the game on the line.
Under fire for his sub-par play all season long, Trubisky completed 29 of 38 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns and led the Bears (6-6) on a 90-yard game-winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.
Down 20-17 with 6:40 to play, the Bears started their final drive at their own 10-yard line after a 51-yard punt by Sam Martin.
Trubisky found Anthony Miller for a 35-yard gain on third-and-4 on the third play of the drive, and Miller beat Justin Coleman a second time for a 32-yard gain on third-and-5 later in the series.
Replays showed that Miller may have been out of bounds before he had full control of the ball on his second catch, but Patricia did not challenge the call because he said he never saw a clear replay.
Two plays later, after a delay-of-game penalty, Trubisky threw his third touchdown pass of the day, from 3 yards out to David Montgomery.
“It was a quick tempo play for us,” Trubisky said. “Everyone just overflowed to the right, so just moved on across the board and got the ball to David. So they weren’t expecting that, and we didn’t even practice that all week. Sometimes it just happens, you go out there and make a play and trust that your guys will be in the right spot and we found it.”
Trubisky, the second pick of the 2017 draft, has six touchdown passes in two games against the Lions this season, and seven in nine games against the rest of the league.
His 300-yard passing day Thursday was his first since throwing for 355 yards against the Lions last November.
“I mean, look, he’s a good player,” Patricia said “He makes some good plays, and obviously made some great plays against us. So we’ve got to do better in that, to get off the field. But, from that standpoint, that guy has started a lot of NFL football games for a reason. He goes out and he plays hard, so they rally around him and they do a good job.”
Blough, acquired in a late-August trade with the Cleveland Browns for a potential swap of 2022 seventh-round draft picks, said he learned he was going to start during Wednesday night’s team meetings, when the Lions decided Jeff Driskel’s hamstring was too sore to play.
Matthew Stafford, the Lions’ regular starter, missed his fourth straight game with a back injury.
Blough threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Golladay on the Lions’ third offensive play, but the Lions offense sputtered twice inside the Bears’ 10-yard line in the final three quarters.
Patricia, who’s job status is in question given the Lions’ major regression since 2017, said he plans to spend the weekend working but declined to say if he’s been given any assurances about his job for the rest of 2019 and beyond.
“I mean, again, for me, we’re just pushing forward every single step of the way,” Patricia said. “So, go back to work next week and try to do a good job at building on this week, and try to go win. Everything we can. We’ve got a big one coming up, Minnesota, obviously it’s a big game.”