Lions block out dissatisfied fans, fo­cus on 49ers

The Detroit News - - Sports - BY JUSTIN ROGERS The Detroit News

Allen Park — Maybe it’s for the best, but many Lions play­ers and coaches try to be tone deaf to the crowd’s re­ac­tions dur­ing a game.

The crowd made it dif­fi­cult Mon­day night, as the boos re­peat­edly rained down from the stands at Ford Field — at least un­til the New York Jets faith­ful, easily iden­ti­fi­able by their green and white at­tire, gath­ered in the mid­dle of the lower bowl in the clos­ing min­utes to chant, “J-ET-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, Jets!”

Coach Matt Pa­tri­cia and quar­ter­back Matthew Stafford had lit­tle to say about the home­town un­rest in the min­utes af­ter the game. Stafford, who had thrown four in­ter­cep­tions in the blowout loss, fo­cused on his own frus­tra­tions.

“You know, what­ever is go­ing on out there is go­ing on out there. It doesn’t change my de­meanor or the way I ap­proach the game,” Stafford said. “I can tell you, no one in that sta­dium was more frus­trated than I was. I was mak­ing poor de­ci­sions and poor throws and that’s frus­trat­ing to me.”

Pa­tri­cia, as he of­ten does when he doesn’t want to an­swer a ques­tion, re­verted to a string of cliches — a sen­tence or two about his team’s tough­ness, an­other about need­ing to get bet­ter, and fi­nally mak­ing sure to credit the Jets for be­ing the bet­ter team.

Maybe it was just eas­ier not to ac­knowl­edge the un­for­giv­ing sound­track in his head coach-

ing de­but.

But not all Lions are bury­ing their head in the sand. Wide re­ceiver Golden Tate heard the fans, and while each round of boos stung, he gets it. He re­ally gets it.

“It was tough,” Tate said. “The boos just got louder and the Jets fan base just got louder. To be at home and for that to be the case, it def­i­nitely hurts. I can’t say we didn’t de­serve it. We didn’t put a great prod­uct out there.

“I def­i­nitely un­der­stand it. I specif­i­cally un­der­stand it in Detroit, just be­ing here for five years and know­ing the his­tory of the Detroit Lions. I def­i­nitely un­der­stand it. Our fans get so ex­cited each year, and have so much con­fi­dence in us that we’re go­ing to win our di­vi­sion, that we’re go­ing to go to the play­offs, win a play­off game, de­spite what his­tory says. We def­i­nitely ap­pre­ci­ate it.

“I just say, don’t give up on us yet.”

The Lions’ his­tory is ugly. The team last won a cham­pi­onship in 1957 and has just one play­off vic­tory in the six decades since. This sea­son marks 25 years since the last di­vi­sion crown. It’s a stag­ger­ing level of in­ep­ti­tude.

Tate isn’t re­spon­si­ble for the team’s his­tory. No one on the cur­rent ros­ter or coach­ing staff is cul­pa­ble be­yond the years they’ve been here.

All things con­sid­ered, Tate has been a suc­cess story. In his first four sea­sons, the team had a win­ning record for three, in­clud­ing two play­off spots. In­di­vid­u­ally, he’s caught at least 90 passes each of those four sea­sons.

But his will­ing­ness to un­der­stand the fan base’s deep-rooted pain, ac­knowl­edge it and em­pathize with it is ad­mirable.

Mon­day’s wounds are still fresh. Get­ting em­bar­rassed at home, on na­tional tele­vi­sion, by a rookie quar­ter­back, that sting doesn’t go away overnight. But the Lions don’t have time to lick their wounds. They have to move on, and do so quickly.

“We’ve got 15 more op­por­tu­ni­ties, at least, to go out there and paint this pic­ture,” Tate said. “And I have no doubt, with the com­peti­tors that we have that we’re go­ing to get this fixed.”

This week’s turn­around has been ac­cel­er­ated, in part be­cause the team played on Mon­day night and be­cause they have to travel to the West Coast for a Week 2 matchup with the 49ers.

Al­though his ex­pe­ri­ence as a head coach is lim­ited to the past eight months, Pa­tri­cia likes the way the ros­ter has re­sponded.

“Ob­vi­ously, the fi­nal eval­u­a­tion is al­ways on Sun­day, but I would say over the course of the week, as a coach, I think these guys have done a great job,” Pa­tri­cia said.

“They’re a men­tally tough group now. This group is a tough group. They push through, they grind it out.”

And while home is where the heart is, Tate is grate­ful the team is head­ing out on the road this week. Not be­cause the fans booed the Lions out of their build­ing, but be­cause he be­lieves a change in scenery might be what the doc­tor or­dered.

“Per­son­ally, I can’t speak for ev­ery­one in the locker room, I’m glad we’re hit­ting the road, hav­ing a chance at a dif­fer­ent scenery, a dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment, to get this taste out of our mouth,” Tate said.

And a win in San Fran­cisco can recharge ev­ery­one.

“Per­son­ally, it’s been tough be­cause we showed up in April and put a lot of work in, a lot of hours in, a lot of ex­pec­ta­tions. And the first op­por­tu­nity you get, to do that, it hurts” Tate said. “Like I said, it’s a new week, it’s a new op­por­tu­nity. Our time, on Sun­day, we have a chance to write this story a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ently.

“We come back to Detroit 1-1, it doesn’t mat­ter what we did in Week 1.”


Jeff Haynes/As­so­ci­ated Press

Golden Tate, right, said he heard the boos at Ford Field dur­ing Mon­day’s loss to the Jets, and he un­der­stood the rea­sons for them.

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