Lions play complete game, defeat Jags, 40-14, for 4th win in 5 games

DETROIT — After defeating the Jaguars 40-14 on Sunday, Lions coach Dan Campbell said he thinks his team can compete with anybody.

“You got to do all the things right, to win, as we all know. It doesn’t matter who we play, it doesn’t matter what the record is. If you don’t play clean enough football, you turn the ball over, you don’t get takeaways, you get a ton of penalties, then no you’re not going to win,’’ Campbell said after the game. “Doesn’t matter who you play. But, when we do things right, I like our odds.”

Detroit’s defense set the tempo early when they forced a fumble and recovered it on Jacksonville’s second snap. The offense came in, went 38 yards downfield finishing with a 1-yard touchdown run by Jamaal Williams,

“It was kind of one of those games where early, we felt like we would hold up. We felt like we were going to be alright upfront,’’ Campbell said. “It was validated very early in that game. We felt like our guys were just going to be alright.”

It didn’t get better for the Jags’ offense which converted just 3 of 12 third downs. In comparison the Lions were 8 of 12 on third downs.

“I felt like this was a big win for us. I did. Cause I just feel like this is a game that can catapult us through December,’’ Campbell said. “It was big to win, it was big to come off a loss, and it was big to win that way against a team that’s a lot like us in trying to turn a corner, get everything turned back the other way. 

Five of the many reasons the Lions won:

  1. After a 23-6 halftime lead, the Lions did not let up. They’ve seen that movie before and it had an ugly ending. On Oct 30 they were up 27-17 at the half to the Dolphins and lost 31-27. These Lions are so much different than the Oct. 30 bunch. They got the ball to start the second half, D’Andre Swift ran in from 1 yard out to score a touchdown on an 61-yard drive and the Lions went up 30-6.

2. This team is as healthy as it’s been all season. Running back D’Andre Swift showed signs in practice last week that he was back to his old self. Indeed he had 111 all-purpose yards including a rushing score. Wide receiver D.J. Chark, who has been injured much of the season, came up big with a 41-yard pass play that set up a touchdown pass from Jared Goff to Amon-Ra St. Brown. It was one of two touchdown catches for St. Brown who had 11 catches for 114 yards. “We said going into this game, the bigs did a good job, but really we felt like our skill guys had to show up,’’ Campbell said. “That was the key, our receivers and our DBs. We knew it was that type of game and, boy, they did. All the way across the board our skill (players) played top-notch today.” 

3. Jared Goff led the offense which scored on every possession except at the very end when a knee was taken with less than a minute left. “Those guys up front, first of all, like you said, they kind of set the tone, run game and pass game. I mean, especially for me in the pass game, it was clean pockets all day long, and guys were getting open, and we knew what kind of game it was going be with the coverages they play,’’ Goff said. “They get so much depth typically. It was going to be the underneath passing game, and when our shots were there, we were going to take them, but for the most part, it was just going to completions, completions, and that’s what we did.” Campbell said Goff played as good as he could play. Goff completed 31 of 41 passes for 340 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was his fourth straight game without an interception. 

4. Detroit’s defense, which was just awful to start the season, has turned the corner with the young guys getting invaluable experience each week. The Jaguars’ offense was held to 14 points (one touchdown). Since Oct. 16 Jacksonville has scored at least 17 points per game. In only one game all season did they manage less than 14 points. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence was 17 of 31 for 179 yards and one touchdown. “I think we’re just hitting our stride right now. From the start of that game, it felt like we were rolling and were on the same page, offense, defense,’’ rookie defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson said. 

5. Timing is everything for the 5-7 Lions who still have a shot at the playoffs. “Nothing has changed (since the Thanksgiving loss). It’s the same group of guys that we have talked about. And it’s the same when things didn’t look so good. They put in the same amount of work and they just have gone in and they have not lost faith. They are unbroken, they are unshaken, and they just go to work, man,’’ Campbell said. “It’s a group of guys that just go to work. They believe in the game plan and they have a lot of confidence right now. They trust the guy next to them and we’re clicking right now. We’re clicking at the right time.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

BONUS: Wide receiver Jameson Williams saw his first NFL action in limited play. That was the plan for the rookie who is coming off ACL surgery 10 months ago.  “Today was just about getting his legs under him. Go through pre-game, be on the sideline, you got your pads on, run into a huddle, run out, line up, wrestle with someone one-on-one a little bit. It was really that, just to get him somewhat acclimated, very much like we did (CB) Jerry Jacobs in Dallas. That’s really what this was. He’s going to get a little bit more next week,’’ Campbell said.

(Up next: Vikings (10-2) at Lions, 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 11)

Lions defense takes pressure off Jared Goff, Amon-Ra St. Brown

ALLEN PARK — In a perfect world the Lions offense and defense would both play solid football in the same game.

Failing to play complementary football is one reason the Lions are 2-6 heading into Sunday’s NFC North game at the Chicago Bears (3-6).

In the 15-9 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Detroit’s defense played lights out and the offense did just enough to get the win. In other games the offense has been on point and the defense missing in action.

Still when the Lions’ defense plays well it makes it easier for the offense to overcome mistakes.

“Honestly it’s like a breather. You make a mistake, the defense goes out, the Packers drove all the way down and then in the red zone they get a pick – boom – it gives us as an offense life,’’ wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown said. “We go out there, we’re excited, ready, we don’t score. They drive it down again, get another pick.

“It’s like our defense is bomb we have to make plays for them. it gives us juice as an offense,if our defense plays like that every week we have a shot at every game,’’ St.Brown said.

Quarterback Jared Goff — who passed for 138 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the win — agreed with St. Brown.

“I’ve certainly got a lot of things to clean up, but when I don’t feel like I don’t have to play perfect, and I can make a mistake, and the defense can have my back as we do have theirs, that makes things a whole lot smoother, and a whole lot easier for us to overcome,’’ Goff said. “So, it’s big. It’s really big when they can cause turnovers like they were last week and be around the ball, sacks, negative plays for their offense, penalties, whatever it may be. It was really big.”

Of course, there is no  magic solution to make the offense more consistent each week. The Lions rank seventh in the NFL in total offense gathering 377.3 yards per game.

“Each week I feel like we say the same thing, we’ve got to be better at this, that and the other. At the end of the day in this league you just want to win games,’’ St. Brown said.

Sunday’s game will add a different wrinkle for St. Brown whose older brother, Equanimeous St. Brown, is a Bears wide receiver.

The brothers talk most every day. The trash talk started Tuesday.

“I’m excited to play him. Whenever I play my brother it’s always super fun,’’ St. Brown said. “Not just football but for my family. They will all be there to watch us. He said they were going to beat us, he gave me a little score prediction, I told him we’re going to beat them. We’ll see at the end of the game.’’

Their parents, John and Miriam Brown, will be hard to miss at Soldier Field. Mom and Dad will each be wearing split jerseys – half Bears, half Lions.

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

Five things to watch as Lions face the Seahawks; plus prediction

If the Lions are going to make a big turn-around this season, the defense must step up. Quite frankly, it stinks. The turn-around should come quickly with the Seahawks visiting on Sunday.

The Lions’ defense rates at the bottom of the NFL in giving up points per game (31.0) and red zone efficiency (90.91%). It’s at 28th for total defense and takeaways. Rushing defense is ranked 27th, passing defense 25th.

“Not give up points. That’s how you fix it. But I will say this, in the red zone, man, you’ve got to watch this tape. I mean there are times when we’re in position, and we’re just not finishing plays,’’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said this week. “And a lot of times, we’ve got to make sure that we’re coaching the players to do the things that they need to do too, so. And I will continue to say, man, that’s a two-way street between coaches and players, and we’ve got to continue to understand that. But man, you watch those early parts of the game, we’re playing like gangbusters.’’

He said the guys are competing and playing physical until it gets to crunch times. “it just seems like, ‘Ah, how do we do this here, or do we have to do this and when we don’t?’ We just keep doing the same things we have been doing to put ourselves in that position, and that’s what we have to continue to coach, and that’s what we have to continue to do as players,’’ Glenn said.

The offense has had its share of injuries — and will be missing D’Andre Swift and Amon-Ra St. Brown on Sunday — but it still ranks third in the NFL in total offense and second in points per game.

Finger pointing is not allowed in the locker room, but all three units need to play better. Five things to watch as the Lions (1-2) host the Seahawks (1-2):

1. Defense must get more pressure on quarterback Geno Smith who leads the NFL with a 77.5 percent completion rate. It’s not all one rookie defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson but he can do better. He had one half with three sacks and has made plays that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet, but he and the linemen can do better. Alim McNeil and Michael Brockers do their part on stopping the run but the line must step up.

2. The defensive backfield does not get a pass. With Tracy Walker (torn Achilles) out for the season their task will be even tougher. Coach DanCampbell would not say who will step in to fill Walker’s position. Cornerback Jeff Okudah has come back nicely from his torn Achilles last season. Cornerback Amani Oruwariye had a nightmare of a game against the Vikings with multiple penalties but the coaches still have faith in him. “I think Amani’s a pro and  he had a rough game. And that’s – that’s just the bottom line. But I also know – he also snapped back there at the end and got a big stop for us one-on-one with (Adam) Thielen on the perimeter,’’ Campbell said. “So, I think Amani’s got thick skin. I know that he’s going to want to be better. And he’ll come out this week ready to work. I’m really not worried about him. I think he’ll snap right back to the Amani we know.”

3. Jared Goff has got off to a solid start and now must find ways to keep the chains moving without his two offensive stars, D’Andre Swift (shoulder/ankle) and  Amon-Ra St. Brown (ankle) along with wide receivers Josh Reynolds (ankle) and D.J. Chark (ankle) who are both questionable. Goff said it really won’t change his role much. “We may or may not have a couple of those guys, the guys who would step in I feel comfortable with,’’ Goff said. “Last year as brutal as it was there were a lot of valuable reps with a lot of those guys who would potentially need to step in. It’s guys I would feel comfortable with.’’

4. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has come up with imaginative game plans and that’s expected to continue.An emphasis was put on third downs this week after they converted just 3 of 16 in the loss to the Vikings. “Clearly, we didn’t convert at the rate we’d like to. However, you look at last week, and we were a yard short on a number of them, so we are very close. I think we called the game the way we wanted to in those situations,’’ Johnson said.

5. Campbell will not change his modus operandi. He is who he is. But he is also introspective and admitted that he should have gone for it on fourth-and-4 late in the Vikings loss. “I’ve got to be better. I’ve got to learn from it no different than the players have to, and I’ve got to do my part, and I plan on doing my part,’’ Campbell said. “So, I’m not going to be fazed. I’m going to have this team up and ready to go, and we’re going to be better.”

Prediction: Seahawks 28, Lions 27. Detroit’s injuries on offense will be too much to overcome.