Lions defense makes one more play, solidifies 15-9 win over Packers

DETROIT — One more play, that’s what Lions coach Dan Campbell always preaches. Apparently the team was listening because on Sunday, against the NFC North division rival Green Bay Packers, the Lions dug deep and did just that.

It led to a 15-9 win that broke a five game losing streak for the 2-6 Lions. It was the fifth straight loss for Green Bay (3-6).

“I’m proud of our guys. They just don’t go away. They just, they believe they can win every week. They put it in and we made one more play today,’’ Campbell said. “We made one more play than they did to win the game.’’

Campbell gave defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn the game ball.

While the offense scored enough to win, it was the defense that forced three turnovers that was the difference.

“(Glenn) coaches his heart out and he put everything into it, as he always does, and those guys responded,’’ Campbell said.. “We knew we needed takeaways today. A minimum of two is what we talked about, and  Kerby Joseph came up big. Hutch (Aidan Hutchinson) got one. But as a whole, that defense, man, they rose up. You know, I thought we played aggressive. I did think we challenged on the perimeter.’’

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (3-6) had no answers. Rodgers, who had four interceptions in the first eight games, had three on Sunday and all were in the Red Zone. Two were by rookie safety Kerby Joseph and the other was by rookie defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson.

The Packers had other chances to score. With two minutes left in the fourth quarter Green Bay got the ball back at their own 43 after the Lions failed to convert on a fourth-and-3. Two minutes is a lifetime in the NFL so time wasn’t an issue, the Lions defense was. After converting a fourth-and-2 with a 32-yard pass to Samori Toure, the Packers were at Detroit’s 17-yard line. Four incomplete passes later — again, thanks to sterling defense —, Lions quarterback Jared Goff took a knee for the win.

“Well look, I just think it’s – look, I felt like we had a good plan for (Rodgers). And just how we wanted to play, look, you have to disguise. I mean you have to. And he’ll take it all the way down to the wire to get a bead on what you’re doing. And then, if you have an opportunity, you have to make the most of it, and we did that today,’’ Campbell said.

Leading up to Sunday, Campbell had fired defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant on Tuesday and Brad Holmes had traded tight end T.J. Hockenson for draft picks. Still Campbell was able to get his guys to focus on getting the win.

The Lions got on the board first just before halftime when Goff connected with tight end Shane Zykstra, who was wide-open, from one yard out for a score. Jamaal Williams ran it in for the 2-point conversion. 

Rodgers connected with Allen Lazard for a 20-yard touchdown play, but the two-point conversion failed thanks to a pass breakup from Lions corner Jeff Okudah. So the LIons held an 8-6 lead. 

Early in the fourth quarter, on a third-and-goal from the 3-yard line, rookie tight end James Mitchell caught his first career touchdown. That gave Detroit a 15-6 edge. The Packers’ Mason Crosby kicked a 25-yard field goal. And that was it.

After the win on Sunday, the workhorse Campbell looked emotionally drained.

“Of course it feels good. I’ll be honest with you, I’m exhausted, so like I want to go home, put the feet up, drink a beer. So it feels real good. I’m just proud of them. I really am. I’m proud of our coaches. I’m proud of the players,’’ Campbell said. “I’m proud of everybody because everybody puts a lot of work into it. I know it’s only two (wins), but my gosh man. And there again, to see, end of the game, man, one stop, our defense comes through. I just think we need that, we needed that.’’

NOTES: Safety Kerby Joseph, who ended the game in concussion protocol, had a breakout game with 10 tackles (five solo), three pass defenses and two interceptions. He became the first Lions rookie to produce a two-interception game since S Devon Mitchell in 1986 and the first Lions safety to record a two-interception game since S Louis Delmas in 2013. … Linebacker Derrick Barnes had a career-high 12 tackles (four solo), one tackle for loss, one pass defense and one  sack. He is the first Lions linebacker since Julian Peterson in 2010 to produce a game with at least 10 tackles, one pass defense and a sack. … Rookie defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson logged two assisted tackles, one pass defense and one interception. The first-round pick became the Lions’ fourth rookie defensive lineman to record an interception, joining Ndamukong Suh (2010), Jim Doran (1951) and Thurman McGraw (1950). He joins Suh as the only Lions rookies to produce at least 4.5 sacks and one interception in a season. … The Lions now have 1,073 rushing yards through the first eight games of the season. This marks their most rushing yards through the first eight games of any season since 1998.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions.)

(Next up: Lions (2-6) at Bears (3-6), at 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 13)

Five things to watch as the Lions host Packers; plus prediction

When the NFL schedule makers scheduled the Green Bay Packers at the Lions this week, it could have been a key NFC North matchup. Well after seven games, not so much.

The Packers (3-5) are tied with the Bears in the division while the Lions (1-6) are once again hanging out in the basement.

Detroit traded away tight end T.J. Hockenson this week but they insist winning each week is still the goal. Coach Dan Campbell, whose record is 4-19-1, insists the team is close. And, by the way, he doesn’t believe this team is cursed.

 “No, I don’t man. I do not, I can’t go there. I’m not going to allow myself to go there because I just feel like for me as a coach, or for us as players, that’s an excuse,’’ Campbell said. “And I think you create your own vibe, your own mojo, you create your own energy. And I think the more you buy into that, believe that, that’s what you become, so no, I’m not buying that.”

Five things to watch as the Lions host the Packers:

1.Can the defense regroup after a coaching shakeup cost defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant his job. The defense is dead last in the NFL ratings. Miami’s TuaTagovailoa had his way with the Lions passing for 382 yards. Not one of his passing attempts was thrown into tight coverage where there was a defender within one yard or less of the receiver at the time of completion on incompletion, according to Zebra Technology. That is one atrocious stat. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said the focus is to win now. “I think every decision that’s made is made to win. Period. Some guys might not understand that, but it’s made to win,’’ Glenn said. “If it’s in the future, but every decision’s meant to be made to win right now. I know that’s how I look at it.’’

2. Aaron Rodgers has been inconsistent but he is completing 66.4 percent of his passes and has thrown just four interceptions against 13 touchdowns. He is always dangerous.  “Well, they still have that guy (Rodgers), so as long as you have that guy you have a chance,’’ Glenn said.

3. Speaking of quarterbacks, Jared Goff threw three touchdown passes in the first half against the Dolphins, but couldn’t get the offense on track in the second half due to penalties and drops. He never found a rhythm with just three second-half possessions and he said the issues were mostly self-inflicted. “That’s kind of the frustrating part. I wish I could say, ‘Yeah, the defense came out and did something we weren’t expecting and it kind of caught us off guard.’ And that hasn’t been the case,’’ Goff said. “It’s been self-inflicted, and for a variety of reasons, but this past week unfortunately, it was some penalties. I think though, with that being said, how can we – like every team is going to have a bad drive here or there. They’re going to have penalties, they’re going to have turnovers. How do we put it away and move on and get back to what we do quicker the next drive, respond? And I think that’s kind of where the emphasis is put, less on, ‘Hey guys, let’s avoid mistakes,’ more on, ‘Hey, let’s respond after them.’”

4. The offense will regroup in a fashion to make up for the absence of Hockenson who had 26 catches for 395 yards and three touchdowns. Look for tight ends Brock Wright and James Mitchell to be more involved and the wide receivers too. Campbell said he was honest with the team about the trade. “I told them that what I have to judge is, well, where does his production go now? And I have to feel OK with that production going to (WR Amon-Ra) St. Brown, (WR Kalif Raymond) Leaf, (WR Josh) Reynolds, (RB D’Andre) Swift, another carry for (Lions RB) Jamaal (Williams) and the other tight ends. And I feel OK with that,’’ Campbell said.

5. After trading the top tight end and firing an assistant coach, the Lions have to remain focused. Campbell said he was straight with them about Hockenson, calling it a business decision. It was a tough call to fire Pleasant but obviously he thought it was necessary. The organization hasn’t given up for the season even though it may look like it from afar. With straight talk and solid leadership within the team, they have to keep playing like it matters. It will be obvious if they don’t.

INS and OUTS: Injuries continue to be an issue. Four are out: CB Chase Lucas. S Ifeatu Melifonwu, T Matt Nelson and CB A.J. Parker. WR Josh Reynolds (back) is doubtful while LT Taylor Decker (groin), DE Charles Harris (groin), D’Andre Swift (ankle/shoulder) and Brock Wright (concussion protocol) are questionable. 

(PREDICTION: Packers 35, Lions 21.)

Five keys in the Lions’ 31-24 loss to Packers

DETROIT — The Detroit Lions, in their second game under interim head coach Darrell Bevell, hung with the Packers in the first half but then couldn’t get Green Bay’s offense off the field in the third quarter.

When it was over, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers beat the Lions 31-24 in a late matinee game on Sunday at Ford Field.

“We were going up against against one of the best quarterbacks to ever do it in this league,’’ Bevell said. “To be able to be in it at the end of the game with one possession to determine it. I was really proud of the guys and how they fought, they finished all the way to the end.’’

Quarterback Matthew Stafford wasn’t able to finish the game after getting crunched in the ribs in the fourth quarter. Bevell said it was too early to know if Stafford will have to miss a game or more. The quarterback was getting X-rays after the game.

“Matthew Stafford is as tough as they come, he’s a huge competitor, I know he’s going to want to be out with his team, it’s going to have to be pretty drastic for him not to be in there,’’ Bevell said.

Five key plays in the game:

1. Tied 14-14 at the half, the Packers had the first possession in the third. Talk about total domination for one quarter. In the third, they led in time of possession 13:49 to 1:21. In the third and into the fourth, Green Bay had two scoring drives. One was 14 plays, 75 yards eating up 8:49. The other was a dozen plays for 79 yards taking 7:49 off the clock. “That’s not how I wanted to start the second half, they came out, went on a long drive, when that happens on the offensive side of the ball we need to respond and do a good job of giving our defense a time to rest,’’ Bevell said. “We didn’t do that. We went three-and-out put them back out there and I think they had another long drive.  Fortunately for us we were able to get it settled but that was a big swing in the game.

2. Aaron Rodgers was, well, Aaron Rodgers. He completed his first 10 pass attempts and finished with three passing touchdowns and 290 yards. He was never sacked and the Lions’ defense recorded one quarterback hit. He also carried the ball six times for 13 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown scamper. He’s 37 but his age certainly isn’t showing.

3. In the first half, Stafford was methodical in two scoring drives. One ending with a 1-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Hockenson and the second a 3-yard run by D’Andre Swift. It was a solid start for the Lions against a good Packers defense. “It doesn’t surprise me, I’m proud of this team. Like I said at the beginning of this thing, these guys are ready to fight, they want to continue to play week-in and week-out,’’ Bevell said. “As you saw they were in it untilt he tend. We’re going toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in our division but also in the NFC. I couldn’t be happier for these guys and the way they played.’’

4. Quarterback Chase Daniel, in for an injured Stafford, ran in from 4 yards out for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter but it was negated by a holding call on Matt Nelson. It definitely would have closed the game with 2:03 remaining. The Lions had to settle for a field goal. It’s uncertain if it could’ve been the difference in the result. Certainly there is a chance of that.

5. Yes it was a loss, so Bevell is 1-1 as head coach. It was a tough assignment against one of the best offenses in the NFL. The Packers beat the Lions 42-21in Week 2. Here’s the thing, Bevell had them ready to play. On the Packers first possession, they scored on a 56-yard touchdown toss to Davante Adams capping a three-play drive. It looked like it was going to be a long day in Detroit, but the defense hung in there and the offense found a rhythm (and the magic of a screen pass). 

BONUS: The Packers held the edge in rushing yards, 120-51. … Green Bay was whistled for a dozen penalties (68 yards) while Detroit had 4 for 30 yards. … Final time of possession was 35:30 for the Packers and 24”30 for the Lions … Stafford threw for 203 yards in the first half and 41 in the second. … Danny Amendola had six catches for 66 yards. … Cornerback Darryl Roberts led the Lions’ defense with 7 tackles. 

Up next: Lions (5-8) at Titans (9-4). Tennessee dropped the Jaguars, 31-10, on Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)