Five takeaways: Turnovers costly as Lions lose 24-6 to Dallas Cowboys

Coming off the bye week, the Lions defense played with confidence but the offense struggled in the 24-6 loss at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. The Lions (1-5) took the early lead and held on with a 6-3 halftime edge, but they could not finish. Detroit turned the ball over five times in the second half. 

Coach Dan Campbell was clearly frustrated with the loss, but said he is not down. 

“There’s things that pop up but that’s what we’re charged with. That’s what I’m charged with. it doesn’t matter who we have or what we’re doing or who we’re playing, the bottom line is you have to find a way to win,’’ Campbell said. “I really felt like we were on track to do that and we made a couple of mistakes that killed us, the turnovers.’’

Five takeaways from the loss:
1. The defense came out on fire. Aidan Hutchinson picked up a half a sack on the third snap and added a full sack later. Cornerback Jeff Okudah stood out with 15 tackles. Campbell said it was Okudah’s best week of practice and best game this season. He also praised rookie defensive lineman Josh Paschal for his explosiveness, versatility, high motor and intelligence in his first NFL game. Corner Amani Oruwariye, who was benched in the last game, was back as a starter and had a good game.. The Cowboys had not started a game with two three-and-outs since 1991 (per CBS). “I told those guys I feel you can win when you play that type of defense, they set the tone for the game, they played hard, they were on point, we were physical on the perimeter,’’ Campbell said.”I thought our corners and safeties really showed up. That was a step in the right direction.”

2. Jared Goff threw two interceptions which pretty much wiped out any success he had in the rest of the game. Goff was sacked five times by the Cowboys’ defense, one of the best in the NFL. He finished 21 of 26 for 228 yards. “There’s no excuse but some of those at the end you’re down a couple of scores, you’re trying to hold it a little bit to find a throw. We’ll look at the tape,’’ Campbell said.

3. It was the second straight game the Lions’ offense has not scored a touchdown. They were 3-of-9 on third-down attempts. Running back Jamaal Williams fumbled twice — losing the second one at the Cowboys’ 1-yard line. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown suffered a concussion early in the game and was ruled out. He was missed not just for his catches but he excels at blocking. Tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Brock Wright had good showings on National Tight End day with a combined 8 catches for 105 yard. The offense was missing running back D’Andre Swift, who could return next week, and wide receiver D.J. Chark who was placed on injured reserve. “Offensively we played the type of game we needed to play against this opponent minus the turnovers and that’s what killed us – turnovers and inopportune penalties,’’ Campbell said.

4.  Two plays stood out as possibly questionable. On Goff’s first interception by Stefon Diggs it looked like maybe Diggs didn’t not have control of the ball when he hit the turf. However, Campbell said he was told by officials that indeed Diggs had possession. CBS analyst Tony Romo disagreed. Because it was a turnover, Campbell could not ask for a replay. Then when Brock Wright caught a 17-yard pass, there was a question of whether it was a touchdown or if he was stopped just short. Campbell didn’t have a good view, so he was waiting for his guy upstairs to call him and recommend whether he should challenge it. He didn’t get a call (he has a line solely for this purpose) so the next play was run and that’s when Williams fumbled the ball on the 1-yard line.

5. The defense still has work to do but Glenn made changes during the bye week, including benching captain Michael Brockers, that seemed to bring life back into the unit. The offense should immediately improve with the return of Swift. He was close this week, maybe next week against the Dolphins. St. Brown could be out a while going through the concussion protocol. That will hurt the offense too. It’s next man up, but it’s difficult to match the talent of Swift and St. Brown.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

(Next up: Miami Dolphins at Lions, 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30)

Five things to watch as Lions play at Cowboys; plus prediction

After a bye week of rest and reflection, the Lions will see if they found the answers during their deep dives into what went wrong (and right) in the first five games.

Detroit (1-4) takes on the Cowboys (4-2) at Dallas at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

The Lions were close in three games losing by 4 or fewer points. They got blown out by the Patriots 29-0 heading into the bye. 

We’ve got to figure out how to make that one play now when we get in those close games. The key is, man, we can’t let this be like New England was for us when we’re not even in the game. We’ve got to give ourselves a chance to get back in it,’’ coach Dan Campbell said. “You’re in it the last two minutes of the game, you’re either in two-minute or four-minute. And then, you’ve got to come away with those wins and that’s what we haven’t done. But we’re close.”

Five things to watch:

1. One of the deep dives during bye week had the defensive coaches examining the pass rush or lack of it in the first five games. The return of defensive lineman John Cominsky should provide a boost. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said while some may look at stats (the Lions have seven sacks total) he looks more at pressure. “When you pressure it ends up bringing takeaways, that’s what comes. I’ve talked to our guys about that. I understand from the outside they’ve been hearing about that, especially as a young player I know that Aidan (Hutchinson) is the guy everyone talks about,’’ Glenn said. “I’m trying to get him to calm himself down so he won’t get out of character just continue to work. We’re going to continue to do what we have to do to put you in positions, you just close yourself off from everyone and go play. I think he’s going to do a good job this week.’’

2. Missed tackles and missed assignments have also been an issue in the first five games. “Those are the things that we really looked at all week to make sure we cleaned that up,’’ Glenn said. … He said it’s an issue they can fix. “I would say more physical. Not wrapping up, shoulder tackles, not vice tackling, things like that, which are really correctable and that’s the good thing about it. And in this League, man, sometimes guys think that they can make a tackle just by diving and lunging. And I’ll tell you what, that’s the one thing across the League now, not just us but across the League that’s the one thing that you see that’s went down is tackling. But the thing is, I try to teach to our guys, well let’s be the guy, let’s be the team on the other side. Let’s not be like everybody else, let’s be a team that can tackle and we worked on that this week.’’

3. The Cowboys have the NFL’s third best defense allowing just 16.3 points per game. One reason is their rush. “That is the biggest challenge for us will be that rush, and not just handling it, but as much as we can to stay away from it, which means you’ve got to be good on first and second down. You have to be real good,’’ coach Dan Campbell said. “But they do, they present a challenge. I mean (DE Dorance) Armstrong, he’s come on. It’s not just that, you watch him on punt rush, I mean, he’s a menace. And (DE DeMarcus) Lawrence has still got it, and ( LB Micah) Parsons we all talked about. We know what he is, and (DE Dante) Fowler off the edge, and so they can do it multiple ways. I mean, they can still bring ( LB Anthony) Barr too. But yeah, they present a challenge, but there again, I like our O-line. I like our tackles. We’ll have a plan. We can’t let those guys wreck the game, but yeah, that’s an issue, and it’s caused a lot of teams problems. That’s why this is one of the better defenses in the League.”

4. The bye week was bad timing for Detroit’s defense which was shut out by the Patriots. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said after careful study he came up with three points the offense needs to improve —  communication, fundamentals/technique and critical situations. “That’s what showed up in the first five games where there’s short yardage, third downs, two-minute, four-minute all those where we could potentially close the game out or end the game with the ball. We have to be better there. So, I think the guys took that to heart,’’ offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said. 

5. After years of being spoiled with Jason Hanson and then eventually Matt Prater, kicking is an issue with the Lions. Austin Seibert was 3-of-5 on field goals before he was injured. In the loss at New England, kicker MIchael Badgley didn’t play. Punter Jack Fox took care of kickoffs. Instead of taking a chance of a 50-yard field goal, the Lions instead went for it on fourth-and-9 and Jared Goff took a sack, fumbled and the Patriots returned it for a touchdown. “We’ll look back at this (kicking) thing at the end of the year and say, ‘You know what, we got good production out of that position. I think we can turn it around.’ So, it’s still early in the year,’’ special teams coordinator Dave Fipp said. “When you look at percentages right now, one miss makes a big difference on the overall percentage, so when you look at it that way, I think, yeah, it’s hard to swallow right now, but I would say, when it’s all said and done, I think it’ll be better than what we’re looking at right now, for sure.’’

INS and OUTS: DL John Cominsky is expected to return. Rookie DL Josh Paschal could see his first action this season. RB D’Andre Swift was officially listed as questionable on Friday’s team report.  CB Jerry Jacobs will come back from injury. The bad news is that WR DJ Chark was placed on injured reserve and CB Bobby Price is out for the season. Officially out will be DE Charles Harris, S Ifeatu Melifonwu and T Matt Lesson. 

(Prediction: Cowboys 30, Lions 28)

Lions: Oruwariye’s benching sent a message to the team

ALLEN PARK — When Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye was benched for the game at New England, it sent a message to the team. Basically, compete or sit.

Oruwariye had started three of the first four games, missing the contest against the Commanders with a back injury.

Detroit’s passing defense allows 261.0 yards per game, that’s 26th in the NFL. Of course, that’s not all on Oruwariye but part of it is. Hence the decision was made to sit him.

“I think it’s important that you do that as far as a team because now it sends a message to everybody on offense and defense,’’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “This game is about competing at the highest level every time you have to earn your keep in this league, there are no free passes.’’

In Week 3, Oruwariye was whistled for six penalties against the Vikings, but cleaned that up in the Week 4 loss to the Seahawks.

“This game is hard, especially at that position. When you look at it, over the course of the season you hear people say setback. I just think he’s had a hard time,’’ Glenn said. “I think Amani is still Amani. I just think some of the situations he’s been in and some of the flags that he’s had has made people look at him in a different way.’’

Glenn said it’s important that the coaches help him so he can get back on the field.

“I’m not going to rag on Amani. I still have high hopes for that player, I still think that player has a chance to be a top corner in this league, we’re going to work our (butts) off to make sure of that,’’ Glenn said.

Last season, Oruwariye started 14 games and finished with a career-high six interceptions. He’s still looking for his first pick this season.

The coordinator said they’re going to put his feet to the fire. 

“That’s who we are as far as a defense, everyone has to compete, everybody has to go out there and pull their weight and he wasn’t at that time,’’ Glenn said. “With coach Dan (Campbell) and the staff we made the change and he’s going to compete and get his job back again.’’

Glenn is pleased with Oruwariye’s response to the benching. 

“With Dan being confident to make that decision, I think it really sent the message, I really do. It kind of reminds me of my days with coach (Bill) Parcells – he wasn’t afraid to do that. It taught me a lesson also that you can’t be afraid to make a decision, you live with it and move on even if you have outsiders say what you should do and what you shouldn’t do you be confident in your decision you move on and do what’s best for the team and that’s what Coach Campbell did.’’