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)

Five things to watch as Lions face Jaguars at Ford Field; plus prediction

In the last month the Lions have knocked down three big barriers: winning on the road, winning back to back; and winning three straight.

After the Thanksgiving loss to the Bills, their next barrier is clear.

“Can we come back off an ‘L’ and be the same team we were when we were on the win streak? That’s the next thing we’ve got to prove we can do,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said this week. “I know that’s a team deal but defensively can we be the same defense that was on the field stopping people in crucial situations. That’s going to be a huge test for us, guys are really looking forward to that.’’ 

The Lions will have that chance when they face the Jacksonville Jaguars at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Ford Field. The teams, which are both 4-7, are nearly mirror images of each other. Young teams, learning how to win and stay in playoff contention even in December. The Jaguars have won two of their last three including a big win over the Ravens on Sunday.

Rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams was activated on Saturday making him eligible to play on Sunday. Coach Dan Campbell was noncommittal on Friday on whether Williams would make his debut on Sunday. The first-round pick, who is coming off a torn ACL, had his first full practices this week. His speed impressed immediately. “He’s fast. He’s very fast. He’s very, very fast,’’’ quarterback Jared Goff said. Even though he’s active, he might not get a ton of snaps. The Lions usually ease players in after injury.

Five things to watch:

1. There’s not much wiggle room, but the Lions still hold a chance of getting to the playoffs. Campbell said he does not talk to the team about that, he knows they’ve figured it out.  “I think we – everything has to be about this opponent, this next game, I really believe that. And I know there’s a lot of coach speak in that, but I really do man. I think this is – this is a crucial game for us,’’ Campbell said. “We’ve got to be able to get back in the win column, do things right, do what we’ve done over the last three or four weeks here. And you’ve got to go earn a win again, doesn’t matter who that opponent is because there again, they’re playing pretty good football. If we take a step back from where we’ve been, then our chances of winning go way down. So, I think everything has to be about this one. And we have to put our head down and go to work, and do the things right, do all the little things right. And then, six weeks from now, you look up and the dust has cleared and let’s see what happens.”

2. Jags quarterback Trevor Lawrence is hitting stride. The first overall pick in 2021 has thrown six touchdown passes and zero interceptions in the last three games with a quarterback rating of more than 100 in each. Oh, and he’s mobile which poses more challenges to the Lions defense. “When you look at it, every week I feel like, man, if you’re not careful he’ll pick you apart. And they’ll have schemes that they do well, things they hang their hat on, but they’ll attack your coverages and he’s been pretty good,’’ Campbell said. “He doesn’t hold that ball long, he’s going to get it out. But I think that was the icing on the cake for him, to see him driving down the field, man, at the end of that game and make critical throws. He’s playing at a high level and with a lot of confidence, so I don’t have to tell you, man, we’ve got to try to push the pocket on him. We’ve got to challenge a little bit at times and see if we can get him out of rhythm.”

3. Getting a fast start is key for the Lions against a team that has momentum on its side and can win a game late in the fourth quarter. “You’d always love to get to a fast start. We always would want to do that. The three-and-out on defense or offense, you take it all the way down and score a touchdown. There again, I think more than anything you just want to be efficient. You always want it to go perfect, but I think more than anything you just – you want to know that anything that transpires is because the opponent earned it and we didn’t just give it away, whatever that drive or that series is to start the game out,’’ Campbell said. “But yeah, we need to get to a fast start, we need to get a fast start in the third quarter too. We’ve got to be better there. But they are, they’re playing with a lot of confidence.”

4. While Lions running back Jamaal Williams leads the NFL with 13 touchdowns, D’Andre Swift is beginning to be more of a factor in the offense after coming back from injury.  “I thought (Swift) did some good things for us (on Thanksgiving). I thought there – he brought us a little bit of life and he’s – I feel like every week he’s starting to feel better and getting himself back into where he wants to be and where we want him to be,’’ Campbell said. “So, I anticipate him getting a little bit more this week.”

5. Lions defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson and Jags outside linebacker Travon Walker were the top two picks in this year’s NFL draft. They won’t be on the field at the same time, but all eyes will be on the two. Hutchinson, who was named the NFC’s defensive rookie of the month for November, has not forgotten that the Jaguars passed on him. The hometown guy is happy playing for the Lions but seems to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder.  Walker has also got off to a good start. If the Jaguars had drafted Hutchinson, Walker might very well be on the LIons roster. “We really liked Travon, liked him a lot. We were really high on him, and I think he’s what we thought he would be. He’s very versatile, he plays their outside linebacker and base, and then plays their rush end,’’ Campbell said. “He can play both sides, he’s got length, he’s got speed, he’s got power, and he’s – every week he gets a little bit better. So, I think – I think they’ve got a good pick up over there and I think we got a good pick up, so.”

(PREDICTION: Lions 28, Jaguars 24. Should be close.)

Lions’ WR Jameson Williams called a ‘superstar’ by a teammate before he takes first NFL snap

ALLEN PARK — Lions rookie wide receiver Jameson Wiliams hasn’t taken one snap in an NFL game and already one of his teammates calls him a superstar.

“I think we’re all excited, man. The excitement that you guys feel, that we feel, is real. I definitely believe he’s a superstar,’’ wide receiver D.J. Chark said on Thursday. “Anything I can do to help a guy like that, I’m here and he knows that with all the receivers in the room.’’

Williams, a first-round draft pick, tore his ACL in the national championship game in January. The Lions drafted him with the 12th overall pick. He was activated from injured reserve last week and had his second full practice with the team on Thursday.

“It felt real good, I’m feeling good, feeling back to myself. I got a chance to get out there and get some routes, run some plays with the team, do a little bit,’’ Williams said after Thursday’s practice. “I’m feeling real good right now.’’

Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said the key to getting Williams into a game is his chemistry with quarterback Jared Goff. 

“I feel like it’s coming along very well. Me and Goff we’ve been talking a lot over like what would happen on this play if I was in, what would this be like,’’ Williams said. “So I think it will be good. I feel like it will take some time but it will be good for sure.’’

Coach Dan Campbell said on Monday it would be “a tall order” for Williams to play on Sunday against the Jaguars. No one has ruled it out, but it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be making his debut this week.

“It’s really not my decision. When it comes down to it I’ll probably know when you all find out,’’ Williams told the media.

Even though he hasn’t played football for nearly a year, he said he does not feel rusty. “I’ve been running around for a little minute now,’’ said Williams.

Campbell, Johnson and Goff have all commented on his speed.

Is he full speed? “Somewhere close to it, I’m running real fast right now,’’ Williams said.

Chark said he’s seen what everyone else has.

“He’s fast. One thing about him a lot of guys don’t have is the confidence in himself to go out and make the play,’’ Chark said. “If you have that, that’s half the battle. If you believe you can make the play, you will make the play. I feel like he has that.’’

Getting back on the practice field was a huge step for Williams who has a three-week window to be activated for a game.

“As soon as he’s on the field that’s going to be great for all of us, we all benefit from that. This team benefits from that,’’ Chark said. “He’s got a bright future and hopefully it’s all here.’’