Lions’ offense takes big hit with multiple injuries

ALLEN PARK — While the LIons’ offense has been steps ahead of the defense through three games, injuries could take a toll on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

Two Lions wide receivers missed practice with injuries on Wednesday and D.J. Chark (ankle) was limited. Amon-Ra St. Brown (ankle) and Josh Reynolds (ankle) were sidelined along with tight end T.J. Hockenson (foot), running back D’Andre Swift (shoulder/ankle), center Frank Ragnow (foot), left guard Jonah Jackson (finger) and kicker Austin Seibert (right groin).

Ragnow is expected to play on Sunday, per coach Dan Campbell. He started against the Vikings after missing the previous week. It’s turf toe and Ragnow is frustrated but expected to fight through it.

Campbell read the long list of the injured before practice.

“Look, I don’t feel like it’s something we did different. I don’t feel it’s because of the way we went about stuff. Things happen in this game,’’ Campbell said. “Some teams don’t put everybody on the injury reports, some of them will practice or won’t practice. I’m just trying to be open and put everybody out there. So I know it obviously looks worse than maybe it is at times. We looked at everything and it’s not like I’m blind to the fact that we have injuries. I pay a lot of attention to that, I look at all the data…. I don’t feel like it’s something that we’re doing.’’

Even with a 1-2 record, the offense is ranked second in the NFL for points per game and third for overall offense.

Campbell said Swift and St. Brown are kind of day-to-day, but St. Brown is closer to playing on Sunday.

“Swift would have to be significantly better to play. It would have to be when the skies open up and the bright light comes down, it feels unbelievable and here we go,’’ Campbell said.

Last week Swift played a limited role due to an ankle injury.

“We leaned on Jamaal (Williams) and he did a helluva job. Craig (Reynolds) will take a little more and so will (Justin) Jackson. It will be by committee, we’re confident,’’ Campbell said.

If wide receivers St. Brown and Josh Reynolds are sidelined, expect to see more of Quintez Cephus and Kalif Raymond.

“We don’t play today. That’s the best way to look at it. We’ll see what Sunday brings,’’ wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El said. “We’ll just keep working at it that way.’’

Randle El said that Cephus was coming on last season before he got hurt.

“It was early but he was coming along. He’ll pick up where he left off if we need him to be out there Lif (Kalif) is Lif, he’s going to do his thing,’’ Randle El said.

They’ve all practiced at different spots for situations that arise like these.

“I think the biggest thing that changes is run blocking. Those guys don’t do some of that stuff. Although you see the guys blocking in the run game, they don’t do some of the going up and catching the linebacker and safety from the inside. They mostly do that from the outside unless it’s Saint,’’ Randel El said.

The coach played wide receiver for nine seasons in the NFL but hung up the cleats years ago. When asked if he would suit up Sunday, he had a quick answer: “I can run. It’s stopping that’s the problem,’’ he said.

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

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.)

Five things to know as Lions face the Vikings; plus prediction

When the Lions take on the Vikings at Minnesota on Sunday, they will have both faced the Philadelphia Eagles in the first two weeks. 

The Eagles topped the Vikings 24-7 on Monday night and edged the Lions 38-35 in the opener.

It doesn’t take a math genius to figure that the Lions scored 35 points on the Eagles defense while the Vikes could only manage seven. That’s not necessarily how Lions coach Dan Campbell sees it.

“I thought of it more as it pertains to Minnesota. That’s a game on the road, hostile environment, their first road game. Philly got off to a pretty good start, did a couple of things tempo-wise that kind of got them on their heels a little bit,’’ Campbell said. “There are matchups in this league, some teams match teams a little bit differently or better and personnel wise I kind of felt it was one of those games. 

“I think this team we’re getting ready to play is a good football team. They’ve got serious firepower. They’re coming off a loss, they’re going to be ready to go, they’re back in their home crowd,’’ the coach said. “They’re 1-0 in their division. This is a big test for us.”

The Lions, who will play their first division game, have not won a road game since Dec. 6, 2020, when they topped the Bears 34-30 at Soldier Field. The Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers, 23-7, in the opener.

Five things to watch as the Lions (1-1) face the Vikings (1-1):

1. The Lions’ defense has given up an average of 152 rushing yards in the first two games. They’ll have their hands full with Vikings running back Dalvin Cook who has 26 carries for 107 yards along with seven catches for 37 yards. He’s still looking for his first touchdown. The biggest thing with him and we do have a lot of respect for him, I think he’s one of the best backs in the league,’’ said Todd Wash, Lions defensive line coach. “We believe they’re going to feed him this week and try to get him going. With him when it looks like he might hit a hole, he might hit one on the opposite side. He’s similar to Le’veon Bell. He might be in one spot, that doesn’t mean he’s going to stay there. He never stops his feet, he runs hard, heck of a jump cut. We have to be disciplined with our gap accountability and stay a little bit longer than we normally do to not allow a cutback.’’ So far defensive tackles Alim McNeil and Isaiah Buggs have been key to the Lions run defense.

2. Campbell said Jared Goff has been efficient. The quarterback needs to build on that. The LIons offense is tied for second in the NFL scoring 35.5 points per game and ranks fourth in total offense averaging 405.5 yards per game. So far Goff is 41 of 71 for 471 yards, six touchdowns, one interception and a 100.1 quarterback rating. “I thought he’s gotten us in the right play. I think he’s been pretty steady. I think when things haven’t gone perfect he’s always snapped back and finished the game strong,’’ Campbell said. “And man, he’s – listen, there’s a number of things we’ve been doing we’re asking him to get us into the right play in the pass game as well and he’s doing that. Man, he’s getting us into the right look, right play-call, and then he’s finding these receivers.

3. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and running back D’Andre Swift have been off to remarkable starts in the first two games. Wouldn’t expect them to let up now. The Vikings defense has given up 412 yards per game which ranks 29th in the NFL, one spot ahead of the Lions who have given up 425.5 yards per game. Give part of the credit to offensive coordinator Ben Johnson who has called the offense, but both of those guy are turning heads around the NFL.

4. It’s the first road game for the Lions this season. Campbell said most of the stress will be on the offense. “It really is communication where the most stress comes on your offense, because there’s been so much that’s been verbalized and you’re able to do that at home. On the road you can’t do it any more, not at a place like this where we’re going,’’ Campbell said. ”It’s been a while since we’ve tried to function or had to function like that. … I really believe that the key is us being able to be efficient with everything we do. It starts with (Jared) Goff and goes to the offensive line as well as the receivers. Defensively you’re used to not being able to verbally communicate, now it’s that switch it’s us being on the same page with how we communicate.’’

5. Injuries have been a factor in the Lions first two games but they’ve been able to go 1-1 despite key offensive line injuries, among others. This game they’ll be without defensive lineman John Cominsky who had thumb surgery on Tuesday and left guard Jonah Jackson (finger) for the second straight week. It’s expected Dan Skipper will get the start again for Jackson. Center Frank Ragnow (foot) could be back on the line while Aidan Hutchinson (thigh), T.J. Hockenson (hip) and D’Andre Swift (ankle) are questionable but could play.

(Prediction: Lions 28, Viking 24. Minnesota is coming off a loss on Monday night game and the Lions seem to have momentum.)