DETROIT (AP) — The booing began early. The Detroit Lions scored on a touchdown on the game’s first snap, but it wasn’t long before the fans at Ford Field sensed trouble.
An anemic first quarter of offense set the tone. By halftime, Matthew Stafford and the Lions were trailing, and in the third quarter, they unraveled completely.
“Just a poor performance,” Stafford said. Poor execution on my part. Everybody was ready to play, including myself. I just didn’t make enough good decisions and enough good throws, and that’s going to cost you.”
The 48-17 loss to the New York Jets on Monday night was a dreadful debut for new coach Matt Patricia and a nightmare for Stafford, who was intercepted four times in a total debacle for Detroit.
“There’s not a lot to be happy about,” Patricia said.
The Lions fired coach Jim Caldwell after going 9-7 last season. The hope was Patricia could come over from New England’s staff and lift Detroit to the next level, but expectations in Motown seemed a bit tempered after an unimpressive preseason.
Monday’s rout brought little reason for optimism.
It actually began with a flourish for Detroit when Quandre Diggs intercepted rookie Sam Darnold on the first play from scrimmage and went 37 yards for a touchdown.
“You get a pick-6 on the first thing,” defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said. “You’re on a high and you think everything else is going to go.”
There were boos from the crowd later in the quarter, though. It was tied at 7 after one, and the Lions had minus-2 yards of offense.
Down 17-10 at halftime, Detroit responded by going 75 yards in only four plays, tying the game on Stafford’s 24-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate.
Then the Jets reeled off 31 straight points before the end of the third.
Darnold found Quincy Enunwa for a 21-yard touchdown, quickly restoring New York’s seven-point lead. Then Darron Lee intercepted Stafford and went 36 yards for a touchdown. Just 67 seconds later, the Jets scored again on a 78-yard punt return by Andre Roberts. New York capped the quarter when Isaiah Crowell scored on a 62-yard run with 54 seconds left, making the score 48-17.
Lee said the Jets had a read on Detroit’s signals. Stafford went 27 of 46 for 286 yards, but it was his first four-interception game since 2013.
“I told those guys in there, ‘I’ll take this one,'” Stafford said. “Hope I never have to say that again.”
Matt Cassel came in at quarterback briefly in the third when Stafford was crunched between two defenders while attempting a pass. The crowd cheered when Cassel went in again with 8:15 left in the fourth, but he threw an interception shortly thereafter. Meanwhile, fans clad in green and white began a chorus of “J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets!” chants that echoed around an otherwise deflated stadium.
“I’m going to be most disappointed in myself. That’s where I always start,” Patricia said. “I’ve got to do a better job, and that’s always where I’m going to take it.”
Patricia is the first NFL coach to lose by 31 or more points in his head-coaching debut since Tom Cable of the Oakland Raiders in October 2008.
There was almost nothing for the Lions to feel good about. Kenny Golladay had seven catches for 114 yards. The pass rush managed a couple early sacks after a listless preseason.
But the offense couldn’t build on Diggs’ early touchdown. Rookie Kerryon Johnson had only five carries, and Detroit ran for just 39 yards. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah left with a shoulder injury.
By the end, Jets fans had set up a celebration in the mostly abandoned sections behind New York’s sideline. There weren’t many Detroit fans left. At least the empty seats couldn’t boo.