Coach Matt Patricia couldn’t deliver a playoff berth in his first season with the Detroit Lions, but he gave his players the next best thing on Monday.
A day off.
It was Victory Monday without the victory in Allen Park, as the players didn’t have organized meetings the day before their regular day off Tuesday for Christmas Day.
Patricia has had a rocky start to his tenure in Detroit, but Monday’s day off was another signal of his attempts to build rapport with players.
“It’s different than a normal week,” Patricia said Monday on a conference call. “With the holiday, we’re trying to do the right thing with that and be respectful with everybody. It’s a little bit of a different day for us today, but that’s OK. We tend to handle schedule change each year a lot.”
It’s the latest sign of Patricia trying to gain the respect of his players despite a rocky rookie season.
After Sunday’s 27-9 loss in the home finale against Minnesota, the Lions are 5-10 and clinched last place in the NFC North for the first time since 2012. Only draft positioning is on the line Sunday at Green Bay (6-8-1).
The Lions are slotted at No. 5 in the draft order heading into the finale — not exactly what fans expected after former coach Jim Caldwell was fired after going 9-7 last season.
Two of Caldwell’s four regular seasons as head coach ended with games against Green Bay that had playoff positioning on the line.
As the long season winds down, linebacker Jarrad Davis said after Sunday’s game that Patricia had a personal message for him in the locker room.
“He just told me to enjoy my family. It’s the Christmas season, we’re in the Christmas spirit,” Davis said. “This is a piece of life right now. It’s my life, but at the same time, it’s just a little small piece. So, just enjoy my family, have a good time and we’ll get back to work next week and move forward.”
Patricia has often talked about how much he cares about his players, particularly when asked about injuries, which piled on his team this season at key spots.
“The guys in that locker room and us as coaches, we all care about each other a lot,” Patricia said Sunday. “We certainly at least try to keep that in perspective. When you’re in situations where you have an opportunity to kind of — you just make sure everybody’s doing OK and check in.”
The defense was solid for the most part on Sunday, but gave up a desperation pass to close the first half as tight end Kyle Rudolph caught a 44-yard heave from Kirk Cousins for a touchdown.
The struggles for the Detroit offense continued Sunday with the Lions failing to score more than 17 points for the fifth straight game under maligned offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.
The Lions are missing wide receiver Marvin Jones and running back Kerryon Johnson down the stretch because of injuries, and leading receiver Golden Tate was traded midseason to Philadelphia.
At 3,511 passing yards with one game left, quarterback Matthew Stafford will likely fall short of 4,000 for the first time since 2010, when he played three games because of an injury. Stafford averaged more than 4,500 yards over the previous seven seasons and had fallen short of 4,000 twice in his first nine seasons.
Stafford was 18 of 32 for 116 yards Sunday and was replaced with 4:10 left by Matt Cassel, who was welcomed by cheers at Ford Field.
“I just want to win games,” Stafford said. “And when you don’t do it, it’s frustrating. We put a lot of work into it. The coaches, the players, all the support staff, we put a ton of work into this. We don’t just roll the ball out there on Sundays and hope for the best.”
NOTE: Former Lions general manager Matt Millen underwent a heart transplant early Monday, according to multiple reports.
The 60-year-old Millen underwent the procedure in a New Jersey hospital after waiting nearly three months for a transplant. Millen has been suffering from amyloidosis, a rare disease where an abnormal protein can attach and deposit into organs, tissues, nerves and other places in the body.
Millen was with the Lions from 2001 until 2008 and presided over an 0-16 season in Detroit.