Lions Dan Campbell on Packers game: ‘Let’s have the time of our life and find a way to win’

ALLEN PARK — Often coaches won’t buy in — at least publicly — that one game in the 17-game NFL season is bigger than any other.

Lions coach Dan Campbell stands apart. Instead of just another week, he is pounding home the importance of the Lions’ Sunday night matchup at Green Bay. After all, it is not just another week.

A win over the Packers (8-8), along with a Rams win over the Seahawks, gets Detroit (8-8) a wild-card playoff berth. From a 1-6 record to the playoffs is quite a storyline and is one reason the NFL flexed the schedule to put the Lions on the national stage for just the second time all season and in prime time for the first time.

The Lions will know at their kickoff if the Rams won. If the Seahawks win, the Lions can play spoiler and knock the Packers out of the playoffs.

Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown doesn’t foresee a letdown if Seattle wins.

“I think for us whether Seattle wins or not, for me personally I want to have a winning season, last year we only won three games, to have a winning season is huge for this organization as a whole, for this team moving forward,’’ St. Brown said. “Whether we’re winning to go to the playoffs or winning to not let the Packers make the playoffs, either one is huge for us. We want a winning record at the end of the season.’’

A win would give the Lions a 9-8 record after going 3-12-1 last season 

“Our guys one way or another, I think they’re going to embrace it, I really do, no matter what happens,’’ Campbell said.

The coach’s message to the team was basically to enjoy it.

“You say what it is, you say the reality of it, you say the reason why, that’s where they want you at. Then you say, ‘Hey man, we’ve got nothing to lose. We go in, we’ve got nothing to lose, we cut it loose. Let’s have the time of our life and let’s find a way to win this game,’’ Campbell said. “The bottom line is I can just gauge the room and you can feel it. We get to be on the big stage and our guys are excited about that …’’

Quarterback Jared Goff has been through the playoffs all the way to the Super Bowl with the Rams. But he also lived through Campbell’s first season last year.

“It’s big man, it’s really big. We’re excited for it,’’ Goff said. “It’s something we’ve earned, we’re playing for a playoff spot, we’ve been through a lot this year.‘’


Facing Packers, not just another game for Lions; playoffs on line for both

ALLEN PARK — Dan Campbell was pumped on Monday, more so than all season.

This is not just another week for the Detroit Lions. A win at Green Bay on Sunday (plus a Rams’ win over the Seahawks) would earn the Lions  a wild-card playoff spot,

For most of the season, not being too high or low is the mantra.

However, this is NFL Week 18. The Lions-Packers game has been flexed to the 8:20 p.m. slot on Sunday night. The Rams and Seahawks play at 4:25 p.m. so the Lions will know if they’re playing for a playoff spot or as a spoiler for the Packers.

“We tell them the magnitude. This is big, that’s what we do. This is big. It’s going to be fun. Let’s go. The intensity is up, this is a playoff game and they’re going to know that,’’ Campbell said. “That’s how we’re going into it.’’

The Lions (8-8) have won seven of their last nine, including a 41-30 thumping of the Bears on Sunday at Ford Field. Detroit’s winning stretch started with a 15-9 win over the Packers on Nov. 6 at Ford Field. In that game, quarterback Aaron Rodgers passed for 291 yards but was intercepted three times (Kerby Joseph for two, Aidan Hutchinson for one). 

Since that Nov. 6 matchup, the Packers (8-8) have also won seven of nine, including a 41-17 dismantling of the Vikings (12-4) on Sunday.

“This defense is a very good defense, the special teams you saw it, they have the ability to make plays in their return game. Offensively, they’re playing better. They are. We talked about it as a staff, this is a better football team than we played the first time,’’ Campbell said. “Then the’ve got Aaron Rodgers, we all know he’s one of the best to play the game.’’

Campbell said the key to Green Bay’s recent success is they are clicking in all three phases and that’s what makes them dangerous.

However, the Lions are not the same team either.

“We’re better too, we’ve made a jump as well. We’re better too, there’s not question. The win started us in the right direction the last time we played them and we really haven’t looked back,’’ Campbell said “This is one of those games you look forward to being a part of, as a player, as a  coach, the fans are going to love this.I just think it’s great.

Even if the Lions don’t get that playoff berth, playing a meaningful game in Week 18 is part of the growth of this young team.

“I think this is what you want them to taste. They need to feel this. They need to understand what this is because this has got to become the norm. This has to become the norm, and then once you get – you start to understand this. Then, it becomes – you’re playing for the Division, you’re playing for where your seeding is going to be. That’s coming,’’ Campbell said. “But right now, to get a taste of all this right now and be in the hunt, be in the run, I think is huge for our guys.”

Even with a win over the Packers, the Lions need the Rams to beat the Seahawks on Sunday to get into the playoffs. If the Rams don’t come through, the Lions can play spoiler to the Packers who just need a win over Detroit to make it to the postseason.

(Next up: Lion at Packers, at 8:20 p.m. on Sunday.)

Lions keep playoff hopes alive with 41-10 win over Bears; 5 reasons why they won

DETROIT — In a key game to keep the Detroit Lions’ playoff hopes alive, they didn’t just win, 41-10, they dominated the Chicago Bears for three quarters.

Coach Dan Campbell said all week that his team would be ready after the humiliating 37-23 loss at Carolina the previous week.

“We bounced back, I knew we would because of the guys we have on this team. They went to work, they trusted us. We went full pads on Wednesday, saying we’re going to get our identity back, recalibrate and those guys did that,’’ Campbell said after the win. ”They trusted us, they came out and looked like they were ready to go. I was proud of them.’’

The LIons improve to 8-8 and are in the wild-card mix. First they have to beat the Packers (8-8) at Green Bay next weekend. (Game day and time to be announced.) That won’t be enough. They also will need the Rams (5-11) to beat the Seahawks (8-8) at Seattle.

It’s been quite a stretch for the Lions winning seven of nine after a 1-6 start.

“This is big. It just verifies what we are, what we know, what we’re capable of. And here we are,’’ Campbell said.

The tone was set from the Lions team introductions at a sold-out Ford Field, giving the spotlight to the defensive and offensive lines. Usually it’s either offensive or defensive starters who get the introductions

“I wanted to do that because everything coming out of Carolina was about that. And for us, to be our identity to be a physical, tough, hard-nosed, relentless, resilient team, it all starts with the O-line and D-line so I wanted to make sure they got acknowledged for the last one here,’’ Campbell said.

Five reasons the Lions won:

1. It was a bit of a slow start for the Lions’ defense allowing a 75-yard touchdown drive on the Bears’ first possession with quarterback Justin Fields running for 45 yards. The Lions matched that touchdown on their first possession with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Jared Goff to tight end Brock Wright. The Bears took the 10-7 lead with a 23-yard field goal late in the first quarter. They were held scoreless for the rest of the game. “All in all I think we snapped back on defense,’’ Campbell said.

2. Jared Goff is on fire. In the last eight games he’s thrown 14 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. “He has a ton of confidence right now and he’s had this for a while. He’s played pretty well all year, there’s been a couple here and there and the turnovers were early – he’s got a real good feel of the game plan,’’ Campbell said. “You can tell he’s in this mode that you feel like any time you dial up a pass, he’s going to find somebody, he’s going to find a throw and he’s going to get it to the guy who is open that’s a great feeling to feel your quarterback is in that mode. That’s a great feeling. When your O-line protects like it’s protecting, that helps everything. Here’s what we know about Goff you give him just a minute to see it he’ll put it on the spot.’’ Plus, Goff had a big issue with a non-working headset early in the game and had to run to the sideline to get his plays, It was eventually fixed.

3. It’s not like Goff is doing it alone. In the first half he threw to 10 different pass-catchers. Even he seemed surprised when asked about that number. “It’s part of how our offense works. There isn’t really a feature guy and there isn’t really like forcing it to one guy to get him the ball. It’s whoever’s open gets the ball,’’ Goff said. “Ben (Johnson, offensive coordinator) does a good job of keeping us in rhythm and on the same page. … Tight ends again showed up big today.’’ Tight end Brock Wright had a pair of touchdown receptions. Goff completed 21 of 29 passes for 255 yards, three touchdowns and a 133.5 passer rating (158.3 is perfect).

4. Defensively it’s a team effort but three rookie defensive linemen were standouts. James Houston, playing in just his sixth career game, had three sacks and a forced fumble. Aidan Hutchinson had half a sack, an interception, a fumble recovery and a pass defense. Josh Paschal had two sacks, the first of his career. “You know it’s great. We got a lot of talented rookies on the team. It’s a good foundation for us, too,’’ Hutchinson said. “And yeah, man, it’s very exciting being out there and being a part of games like that.”

5. Offensively the run game has been an issue in recent games, but not in the win on Sunday when the Lions finished with 265 rushing yards. Jamaal Williams had his most productive game of the season with 144 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown. D’Andre Swift also had his biggest rushing game this year with 78 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. He also had four catches for 39 yards and a TD catch.  Williams and Swift became the first two running backs in team history to have eight or more touchdowns in the same season.  “I think that’s our success right there, is just having different weapons and just to have so many weapons on the field. It just makes the defense more cautious about what’s happening and makes it unpredictable about what we’re doing,’’ Williams said. “ I think today Swift went crazy. He just had a tremendous game. Proud of him because of the way he works, and he deserves all the chances he gets. I’m just grateful for the way he came out, played for the team, and to get the juice going, the goods going.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

(Next up: Lions (8-8) at Green Bay Packers (8-8). Game will be Saturday or Sunday. The NFL should announce  a decision on time and day by Monday.)