Give Lions coach Dan Campbell credit. While his coaching ability was being questioned after a 1-6 start this season, he remained steadfastly confident that his team was close. He said it repeatedly, loss after loss. He did not waiver.
On Sunday the Lions (4-6) won their third straight game with a 31-18 drubbing of the New York Giants (7-3) on the road. It’s the first time since 2017 the Lions have won three straight.
In the last three weeks, the offense and defense have worked together to find ways to win. The offense was golden from the get-go when the defense was stumbling. The offense has recovered after a downfall and the defense, which started three rookies, has grown from week to week.
“This is the same team it’s been. It’s the same team that showed up after the Washington game and the week after that,’’ Campbell said in a postgame media session. “They put in the same amount of work, but when you bank the reps and you continue to talk about these things and you clean up a few things and you know that you’re really only one play away literally and you can’t look at anything outside of that, you just say, ‘Look, for all the errors or things we made a mistake on the opponent did too, but we made the error that killed us. Now we’re making the plays that are helping us win these. But nothing has really changed as to what we are or what we do. We’re figuring things out.’’
With the win they moved into second place in the NC North. They face the Buffalo Bills (7-3) on Thanksgiving at Ford Field.
The defense, which was ranked 32nd in the NFL entering the game, was in beast mode, The offense came up with key plays.
“Everything that we said we had to do and needed to do to beat this team, we did that for almost all of the game, there were a couple of spots in there,’’ Campbell said. “These guys are playing their asses off and they are starting to figure out a way to win – we all are – it’s a credit to these guys and the coaches.’’
Five of many keys that contributed to the win:
1. Win the turnover battle, win the game. The LIons forced three Giants’ turnovers while the offense never turned the ball over.. Aidan Hutchinson and Kerby Joseph intercepted quarterback Daniel Jones who had gone six games without an interception. Then in the fourth quarter when the Giants were trying to claw their way back Charles Harris forced a fumble and Hutchinson recovered it. In these three straight wins the LIons have created seven turnovers. It’s a focus and they are making it happen. “It becomes contagious. When you’re able to get a couple and you get a couple more. Pretty soon it becomes second nature,’’ Campbell said. “It’s hard to explain but it always starts with effort.’’
2. Giants running back Saquon Barkley, who averaged 103.4 yards per game this season entering the game, was held to 15 carries for 22 yards. His longest scamper was 4 yards. The Lions defense turned him into a nonfactor. “We knew he was the key, we could not let him get going and we did that. … That was huge because everything did run through him,’’ Campbell said. “That was the main focus of our defense this week, they performed it perfectly.’’ Barkley never got going – in the first drive he had six carries for 6 yards.
3. With three rushing touchdowns, Jamaal Williams was the key to the offense. That makes it a dozen for the season for him which is equal to the total rushing touchdowns the Lions had last season. “Look, his production speaks for itself and everything you see and know about him is who he is. He’s all heart — he’s emotion, he’s heart — he just is a steady productive, hard-running, hard-working smart football player,’’ Campbell said. “ If you listed your most consistent players, most dependable consistent players he would definitely be at the top of that list.’’ Williams finished with 17 carries for 74 yards.
4. Again, it was a game won in the trenches. The defensive line including Hutchinson and Alim McNeill, who was in Daniel Jones face early and often. McNeil and John Cominsky were credited with sacks. McNeil and Isaiah Buggs were credited by Campbell for clogging up the middle making it tough to get anywhere on the ground. The offensive line created holes for Williams, D’Andre Swift (5 carries, 20 yards) and Justin Jackson (9 carries, 66 yards) especially late in the game when the Lions had a big enough lead that they just wanted to literally run time off the clock. “That’s another credit to this offensive line. It’s not the easiest thing in the world now when you choose to run the ball and the defense knows you’re going to run it and they probably have an idea where they’re going to run it when you get late in the game,’’ Campbell said. “The offensive line finished that game out for us.’’
5. Quarterback Jared Goff and the offense took advantage of Hutchinson’s interception in the second quarter with an 18-yard effort finishing with Williams’ 4-yard touchdown run which gave the Lions a 10-6 lead. While the defense will get much credit for the win, the offense was in gear through all four quarters. They didn’t play perfectly but also did not shoot themselves in the foot. Goff finished 17 of 26 for 165 yards and zero interceptions. The Lions finished with 325 total net yards.
(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)
BY THE NUMBERS: DeShon Elliott and Will Harris led the defense with 8 tackles each. … Aidan Hutchinson had an interception, a pass defense, a fumble recovery and three tackles. … The Giants were 5 of 13 on third downs while the Lions were a bit better at 6 of 13. The Giants were 2 of 3 on fourth downs while the Lions never attempted one. .. The Giants missed on all three point-after attempts – two bad kicks and an incomplete pass.