Lions coach Matt Patricia addresses the media Monday in Allen Park after the team's 26-24 loss in Dallas. Detroit News beat writer Justin Rogers asked about the running back rotation after Kerryon Johnson got nine carries in the loss. Matt Schoch, The Detroit News


Allen Park — Jamal Agnew, a 100-meter league champion in his San Diego high school, is known for his sprints.

But he talked Monday about how the Lions need to keep an eye on the long race after early struggles.

“It’s a marathon,” Agnew said Monday after the Lions fell to 1-3 in a 26-24 loss at Dallas. “We didn’t get out the gates the best that we wanted to. But that’s the best thing about a marathon is you’ve got the long haul.”

The Lions are done with the first quarter of Matt Patricia’s first season. The results are discouraging, but the Lions were favored in one of four games, and have won one. The second quadrant features a bye next week and the first two divisional matchups in Patricia’s career, Sunday against Green Bay and Nov. 4 at Minnesota.

In New England, Patricia’s teams had relatively slow starts in his six seasons as defensive coordinator. In the first four games of those seasons, the Patriots went 17-7 for a .708 winning percentage, below the overall regular season mark of 75-21 (.781).

Patricia said breaking down the season in quadrants is a useful evaluation, and the degree of difficulty is higher earlier.

“In the first quarter, really the month of September, it’s always the trickiest,” Patricia said. “Really try to push that second quarter to improving as much as you can.

“You start to settle maybe on a couple more players and a couple more schemes just to see, kind of, what fits better for your team at that particular time.”

Agnew and rookie defensive tackle Da’Shawn Hand appear to be two young players the coaching staff will lean on.

Agnew, a Pro Bowl returner last season as a rookie, is getting consistent snaps covering slot receivers on defense and played two offensive plays, including a 17-yard gain on a sweep in the second quarter.

Hand had three tackles, including two for a loss, and a sack. He also forced a Dak Prescott fumble that the quarterback recovered to preserve the winning drive.

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The game hung in the balance on that recovery, just like a close loss in Week 2 in San Francisco that could’ve meant a 3-1 start with a few calls and bounces Detroit’s way.

“It just took a bad bounce,” Hand said. “All that stuff is irrelevant thoughts to me. If you think about what ifs, then that’s all you’re relying on. If you think about irrelevant things, you’re going to get irrelevant results.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Hand is ranked among the top 20 qualifying interior lineman and the league’s best first-year player in that position.

But numbers like that weren’t comforting Monday in a solemn locker room after another disappointing weekend.

“1-3,” safety Tavon Wilson said, when asked to evaluate the first quarter of the season. 

“That’s what it is.”

Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.