Dan Campbell regrets decision late in game as Lions lose to Vikings

Dan Campbell’s aggressiveness seems like a breath of fresh air after watching the Lions’ mostly conservative play calling for so long.

The coach and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson called a solid game on Sunday, but a few questionable calls cost them the win. The Lions couldn’t finish and much of the blame falls on the shoulders of the coaches.

Campbell went for it on fourth down six times in the 28-24 loss at the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. The Lions converted four of those but it was one miss that stands out.

With 1:14 left – and holding onto a 24-21 lead – the Lions’ call on fourth-and-4 from the Vikings’ 38 was for a 54-yard field goal which would have been a career high for Austin Seibert. It sailed wide right. 

For me, I regret my decision there at the end,’’ Campbell said. “I should have gone for it on fourth down. Told the team that.’’

The Vikings (2-1) then needed just three plays to cover 56 yards and score a touchdown to take the 28-24 lead, their first lead of the game with less than a minute on the clock. 

The Lions (1-2) were up by 10 with 8 minutes left in a tough road game, but couldn’t hold on. Campbell told his players not to get frazzled by the loss.

“I told them it should sting, it shouldn’t taste good because we had it. I just told them we’ve got to learn from it, we’ve got to learn from the plays that bit us in the (butt),’’ the coach said. “As you know, you guys have a job to do, there’ll be a lot of criticism placed on a number of guys myself and including the players, which is natural. They all know it. You can’t go on the downs and ups. Just stay true to what it is and learn from our mistakes.’’

Another questionable call came early in the fourth quarter, the Lions had a third-and-1 at their own 27. Instead of handing the ball off to Jamaal Williams or D’Andre Swift (who was playing hurt), Jared Goff’s pass to Josh Reynolds was incomplete. That forced a punt and on that next series the Vikings’ running back Alexander Mattison scored a touchdown on a 6-yard scamper that closed the gap to a 24-21 lead for Detroit.

The Lions struggled on third downs — going 3 of 16 — which led to so many fourth-down attempts.

Even after the loss, Campbell said this result won’t affect his aggressiveness in general

“I’ll always evaluate, I go back and watch (film) and really think about was this the right thing to do, was it not the right thing to do. I do know if you’re going to go in and feel you need to be aggressive early in the game, you can’t second guess when it doesn’t work out for you early in the game,’’ Campbell told the media. “It’s not going to affect me. I’m going to always do what I feel is best to help us win.”

The defense put pressure on quarterback Kirk Cousins early but had trouble stopping the run. Dalvin Cook had 96 yards on 17 carries before he was injured late in the game. After three sacks in the win a week ago, rookie Aidan Hutchinson didn’t have a sack or a tackle. Alex Anzalone had the Lions’ lone sack and led the defense with 10 tackles.

Goff was 25-of-41 for 277 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a 79.0 rating.

Swift, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, played but was limited. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (six catches for 73 yards) limped off the field late in the first half. He played in the second half, but wasn’t 100 percent.

Running back Jamaal Williams stepped up, finishing with 87 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns.

Safety Tracy Walker left the game in the second half and did not return. Campbell said they will know more on Monday, but it could be an Achilles or an ankle. An Achilles injury could possibly end his season.

(Next up: Seattle Seahawks at Lions, 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 2, at Ford Field.)

Lions Aidan Hutchinson ready to ‘unleash the beast’ in Sunday’s opener

Aidan Hutchinson said he’s ready to “unleash the beast” when he starts his first NFL game as the Lions open the season against Philadelphia on Sunday.

“I think we’ve got a really good opponent, we watched the tape from last year and it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I think we’re all excited,’’ Hutchinson after practice on Thursday. The Eagles embarrassed the Lions 44-6 last season. 

The defensive end, the second overall pick in the NFL draft, has been impressive every step of the way since work started in the spring.

Hutchinson played in big games at Michigan, so while the NFL spotlight is different, he seems unfazed although excited.

“Typically I think it’s always my philosophy, as big as this game is, it’s really just simple at the end of the day. I really never get too wrapped up in the emotions of it,’’ Hutchinson said. “Obviously I’m passionate and have fun but it’s never out of control. It’s never an issue with me.’’

Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said his advice to Hutchinson is fairly simple.

“Play football. There’s one thing about that player, you don’t have to give him advice about his intensity level, he’s already at the intensity level. You guys have seen him practice, you’ve seen him play, so there’s nothing to be said about that,’’ Glenn said. “You don’t have to over-coach that player on that. That’s just natural for him, so we’re going to let Aidan be Aidan and you’ll see exactly what you’re going to get from him.”

The defensive line will have its hands full with the Eagles’ offense which is led by mobile quarterback Jalen Hurts who had 71 rushing yards against the Lions in last season’s debacle.

 Whether on purpose or not, Hutchinson got in a little dig at his teammate, quarterback Jared Goff.

“Obviously we don’t get a whole lot of that (mobility in practice) with Jared,’’ Hutchinson said while laughing. “With Jalen for sure, he’s such a dangerous threat we’re really putting an emphasis on him and stopping the run and have him run as least as we can.’’

Hutchinson said he’s not focused on statistics and never has been.

“If I can turn on the tape after and I know I’m dominating and doing my job. It’s never been about the numbers for me. I think the numbers come,’’ Hutchinson said. “If I can turn on the tape and be happy with myself I think that’s a win in my book.’’

Lions players run practice without coaches; Hutchinson continues to impress

In a new training camp twist, the Lions took the field for practice on Monday afternoon without the coaches. Head coach Dan Campbell was in on the action but otherwise no coaches. It was all on the players for the short practice.

Campbell informed the players on Monday morning that they would be running practice.

“We come out here and work everyday so we know what to do. … you don’t need anybody in your ear to come out here to do your work and get better,’’ left tackle Taylor Decker said afterward.

Starting with drills, it seemed organized and took a few minutes to realize there were no coaches on the field.

“I think them doing that shows there is already an established level of trust between players and coaches and obviously players and players,’’ Decker said. “They trust us to come out here and work like professionals and not be stupid. … I’ve said it multiple times before and throughout camp there’s been a good atmosphere established for open communication and I feel that builds trust in one another.’’

On Tuesday at 6 p.m. Campbell and his staff have planned a full-padded practice as the coach describes it as Detroit against Detroit.

Hutch marches on

As training camp winds down for the Lions this week, one constant has been the play of rookie defensive end Aidan Hutchinson.

“Hutch, he’s a pro already. The way he studies and works. We had a play we ran today (in the walk-through) that he has never seen before. He goes, ‘Our offense does this.’ I said, ‘We’re not playing our damn offense. then we re-run it and he gets it right away,’’ Lions defensive line coach Todd Wash said on Monday.

“So it’s amazing how well he can pick stuff up, he does not make a mistake, not even usually the first time. It’s a credit to him, he studies, takes care of his body. And probably more important, he’s just a great human being who fits in extremely well,’’ the coach added.

When asked to get into more detail about Hutchinson, Wash couldn’t pass up an opportunity. 

“I think it’s coaching, he’s really finally bought in,’’ Wash said laughing.

 “It’s the way he studies, he’s constantly in his ipad. I can’t say enough about him. We got the right one.’’

Hutchinson, who played at Michigan, was the No. 2 overall draft pick in April and has earned praise since Day One for his work ethic and football IQ.

He was the focus of much of the opening edition of “Hard Knocks” on HBO. The third “Hard Knocks” will air at 10 p.m. on Tuesday.

Final preseason game

While Campbell said the starters will play about a half in Sunday’s third and final preseason game, quarterback Jared Goff will not play. Goff had talked his way onto the field for the preseason opener, but Campbell is staying firm on this and said he will not let Goff talk him into it.

Campbell said David Blough and Tim Boyle are “neck and neck” in the battle for the backup quarterback position.

Roster cuts upcoming

Each NFL team must cut its roster to 80 by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 23.

The big cutdown to the 53-man roster  is due at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 30.