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Patricia: Stafford, Lions Are "Blue-Collar" Bunch -- Just Like Detroit

One stat, at least, is finally beginning to prove it.

November 28, 2018 - 3:08 pm

Every football team fancies itself blue-collar. The sport is founded on a hard-nosed, hard-working ethos. 

Matt Patricia believes the Lions embody that ethos midway through his first season as head coach -- and believes Matthew Stafford is a perfect example.

"Stafford is one of the toughest guys we have. I mean, this guy just comes to work every single day," Patricia said Wednesday. "It’s great as a coach because you just (say), ‘Hey, look, we have to get better. Here’s this, let’s look at this, let’s talk about these plays, let’s talk about these players. What do you think about this from a game-plan standpoint? How do we want to attack this?’ 

"When you have that and you can go to work that way, that’s what you want to do.”

It's been a disappointing season thus for Stafford, just as it has been for the Lions. The two are not unrelated. Stafford has his lowest passer rating since 2014 and his highest interception rate since 2013. He's thrown as many picks (10) through 11 games as he did each of the three prior seasons. The Lions, meanwhile, are 4-7 and last in the NFC North. 

There are more factors holding the team back than an underperforming quarterback, of course, but that's the most obvious place to start. Such is the nature of Stafford's position, not to mention his paycheck. 

Despite the frustration of a season gone awry, Patricia sees a group of players resolute in their goal to get better. And that says a lot to the rookie head coach. 

"Those guys are just determined to be tough and go work harder and understand that they have to improve," he said. "It’s not always going to perfect, but we have to try to make it right more than not so we give ourselves a chance to win. That’s definitely something that this team, like I’ve said many times, is a tough team now. This is a mentally tough team, it’s a blue-collar team. That’s what we want to be. I think that’s what this city is and I think that’s what we’re trying to be."

If there are measurable attributes that define a "blue-collar" team, running the ball and stopping the run are two that stand out. In the former department, the Lions have been okay this year, and much better than in years past. They rank 16th in the NFL in yards per carry. They were awful in the latter department early in the season, but, much to Patricia's point, they've begun to improve. 

Naturally, the acquisition of run-stuffer Damon Harrison has helped. Prior to Harrison's arrival, the Lions were allowing the most yards per carry and the third most yards per game. Since then, they're surrendering just 3.8 yards per carry and 90.4 yards per game, which would rank sixth best and third best, respectively, over the course of this season. 

A blue-collar team? Depends how you look at it. But from Patricia's vantage point, the term rings true. 

"It may not be perfect, and we understand that. We have a long way to go and we’re trying to get better every single week and we have to try to string it together with a little bit more consistency. But the one thing for sure is, these guys will grind it out every day," he said. "As a coach, that’s what I’m looking for."