Allen Park — Trust might be a loaded word around the Lions fan base with Sunday’s season opener just another cautionary tale.
But coach Matt Patricia, when asked about his trust in Matthew Stafford after a disappointing 27-27 season-opening tie in Arizona, backed his quarterback up in a way perhaps contradictory to his mathematics background.
“To sum it up, like 1,000 percent,” Patricia said Monday when asked about his trust level with Stafford. “Everyone knows how much I think of, how highly I think of him and trust him. There’s no issue.”
If only the fans felt so secure headed into a tough stretch of games going forward: Against the Los Angeles Chargers in Sunday’s home opener, at Philadelphia after that and then home for Kansas City before the bye week.
The question was asked of Patricia after Stafford was caught by television cameras appearing to twice say “trust me” after the sideline called a timeout as the play clock was winding down before a crucial third-and-5 play in the fourth quarter.
Though the play was blown dead, Stafford found running back J.D. McKissic on a screen pass that would’ve put the game further out of reach for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. Instead, Stafford threw an incomplete pass, the Lions punted, and Arizona scored to force overtime.
New offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell made the timeout signal, but Patricia said after the game that he calls the timeouts. Patricia insisted Monday there’s no trust breakdown with the 11th-year quarterback.
“I don’t think any of that is really an issue,” Patricia said. "We have a great trust relationship so I don’t think that’s kind of a story. It’s a raw emotion of probably the situation.”
Stafford had it rolling throughout most of the opener, completing 20 of his first 29 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns. However, after going up 24-6 early in the fourth quarter, the Lions ran the ball eight times and passed three times on two straight empty possessions.
The quarterback finished 27-of-45 for 385 yards, leading the team on an overtime drive to salvage the tie.
Second-year safety Tracy Walker was a bright spot on Sunday, playing every down defensively and making his second career interception.
But down the stretch, veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald found rhythm with Arizona rookie Kyler Murray, often on plays with Walker in coverage.
“It definitely showed me that I could play with the best of the best,” Walker said. “But it definitely showed me that I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Fitzgerald beat Walker for a 41-yard reception on a third-and-14 in the fourth quarter. Third all-time in receptions with 1,311 in 16 seasons, Walker called it a valuable learning experience.
“He’s a Hall of Fame player for a reason,” Patricia said. “He made some pretty amazing plays and catches and that’s what he does.”
The 36-year old, 11-time Pro Bowler, who caught the touchdown to set up the tying 2-point conversion, finished with eight catches for 113 yards and a touchdown.
“I took a lot of good things from it, I made a lot of plays, but I learned a lot from it, I left a lot of plays out there,”
“The main thing for me is I have to learn from the mistakes and get ready for Philip Rivers and the Chargers.”
The last six teams to tie a game in the NFL did not make the playoffs that season.
Seattle tied Arizona on Oct. 23, 2016, and made the postseason.
But since then, Washington, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Green Bay and Minnesota have tied games and missed the postseason that year.
The Lions last tie was Nov. 4, 1984 against Philadelphia at the Silverdome. Detroit finished that season 4-11-1.
That was the franchise’s only tie since the NFL added overtime in 1974.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.