Five things to know about Lions’ tie with Steelers

Well, at least the Lions won’t finish the season 0-17.

In the strangest of strange games the Lions and Steelers tied at 16-16 after a scoreless overtime in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Detroit now owns an 0-8-1 record.

The Lions best chance to win it in overtime was blown when kicker Ryan Santoso was not even close on a 48-yard field goal attempt.

The silver lining was that the running game finished with 229 yards.

On the other hand, quarterback Jared Goff played possibly his worst game this season. He appeared to be injured in the first half, but stayed in the game. Usually an effective running game can open up the pass game, but that did not happen on Sunday. 

“Like I told the guys, I was upset we didn’t win but I was also proud of them because we put ourselves in position to win that game in overtime, it didn’t work out, then our defense has to go back and take the field,’’ coach Dan Campbell said. “They’re driving and we force the turnover which I thought was big and that kept us from losing is what it did. We want to win, looking for our first win but I know this, we were better than we were two weeks ago.’’

If you’ve forgotten — or wiped it out of your memory — two weeks ago the Lions lost 44-6 to the Eagles and had to chew on that debacle during the bye week.

Five things to know about Sunday’s tie:

1. Campbell said on the sidelines they discussed Goff’s ability to play with his injury. “We all felt like he was good — he was good enough to go. … We all felt like he was good enough to stay in there, so that’s why we stuck with him,’’ the coach said. Goff finished 14 of 25 for 114 yards and was sacked four times.  Was there a way to get the ball to tight end T.J. Hockenson. It’s unexplainable that he didn’t have a single catch and just one target.

2. Much of the run game was on the shoulders of D’Andre Swift with Jamaal Williams out with an injury to start the game and Jermar Jefferson forced out after he was injured on his 28-yard touchdown run. Swift carried 33 times for 130 yards (3.9 yards per carry) and caught three passes for 5 yards. Godwin Igwebuike came up big with a 42-yard touchdown run. It was Swift who did all the dirty work, though. 

3. On the first possession the Steelers took the ball downfield with ease because the Lions secondary looked like they weren’t quite ready to go. The defense redeemed itself after that drive to finish the first half but there were still too many errors and penalties.

4. The tie can’t be all pinned on Santoso but the Lions really missed kicker Austin Seibert who is out with a hip injury. Santoso also missed an extra point which was costly. Other than that, special teams had a decent day with solid returns. Igwebuike had a 29-yard kick return and Igwebuike returned a punt 48 yards. 

5. After the loss two weeks ago, Campbell and the coaches examined the first half of the season. Apparently one of their decisions was to give Campbell more involvement on game day in the offense. He was the one communicating with Goff through the headphones although Anthony Lynn, the offensive coordinator, was also involved. Another change that seemed to work was putting offensive lineman Matt Nelson in at tight end to provide extra protection. It was a move that worked well, but Nelson was injured in the first half and missed the rest of the game. 

Up next: Lions (0-8-1) at Cleveland on Sunday, Nov. 21. The Browns (5-5) lost 45-7 to the Patriots on Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of the Detroit Lions)

Dan Campbell had no tears to shed after the Lions’ 34-11 loss to the Bengals on Sunday at Ford Field. Instead he was angry, frustrated and everything in-between.

The targets? Everyone including himself.

His first words when he took the postgame podium: “We got whipped, that was brutal.’’ 

This Lions coach did not sugarcoat.

“We didn’t do anything right. (I) thought we played a little defense early in the first half other than the shot play we gave up, but we were in it. We couldn’t sustain,’’ Campbell said. “Offensively we had no rhythm, we had no tempo, we couldn’t execute on third down, missed opportunities and that’s the story of the game. That was a beatdown.’’

Five things to know about the beatdown:

  1. Jared Goff is an easy target. He missed wide-open receivers and most of the yardage came late with the Bengals in prevent Cover-2. He was 28 of 42 for 202 yards and one interception. Like everyone on offense he had a brutally bad day. Yet Campbell said at no time did he ever think about pulling Goff for backup David Blough. “I will say this, I still don’t feel like we can accurately judge (Goff) one way or another. I don’t feel that way yet. I will say this, I feel like he needs to step up more than he has. I think he needs to help us, just like everybody else,’’ Campbell said. “He’s going to need to put a little weight on his shoulders and stand up and do some things but he needs help. I told him out there, he knows this. Some of that stuff we’re getting these holding calls because he’s drifting back in the pocket 10 feet deep …. I’m want to see him step up. I do it because I think he can do it.’’ Campbell also mentioned that the wide receivers need to know where and when to be in the right position

2. The defense played well in the first half, just giving up 10 points. But appeared to be just bystanders during the second half. Campbell said if the offense is going to struggle the defense has to step up. “If that’s the way it’s going, the defense can’t allow the opponent to score then, so be it. That’s life. If you’re the ones who are playing best, you’ve got to hold them and keep us in the game,’’ Campbell said. “Keep it to where we can score maybe one score and find a way to win the game. It’s not good.’’ Cornerback Amani Oruwariye intercepted Joe Burrow for his third pick in the last four games. “We’ve got to find a way to get a win, play our best football we can do. I still don’t think we’ve played our best football yet,’’ Oruwariye said.

3. Running backs Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift had been fine in the first five losses, but couldn’t get it going against the Bengals defense even in the first half when they were only down 10-0 at the half. It’s not all on them, the makeshift offensive line (due to injuries) has to do its part too. Swift had 13 carries for 24 yards and a touchdown, along with 5 catches for 43 yards. 

4. Penalties were a killer — 9 for 77 yards. The offense opened the game with back-to-back penalties — illegal formation and false start — on their first drive. This is one area that is definitely fixable but they’ve got to focus on it 

5. Coaching is indeed at least in part to blame for the 0-6 record. “The focus wasn’t there. I told the team this I’m going to look at everything, that’s my job. But when you get whipped like that, that’s on me there is no way around that,’’ Campbell said. “Of course we’ll look at everything that’s a reflection on me. You don’t play like that. We don’t have a team – that team isn’t 30-something points better than us, there’s no way,’’ Campbell said. “We shot ourselves in the foot, we could not execute. We had some plays that were there to make, we didn’t make them. It’s brutal, it’s on me.’’

UP NEXT: Lions (0-6) at Los Angeles Rams (5-1). It will be a reunion with Matthew Stafford who will likely be the one walking away with a smile. The Rams defeated the Giants, 38-11, on Sunday.

THIS AND THAT: Fumbles were an issue last week, against the Bengals the Lions did not fumble. … Jack Fox punted six times and averaged 55.5 yards per punt with a long of 64 yards. … Tight end T.J. Hockenson caught 8 passes for 74 yards. … In the first half the Lions had 51 yards of offense and just four first downs. They finished with 15 first downs but only because of garbage time in the fourth when there was no way they could come back. … The Lions were 5-14 (35.7%) on third downs and 1-2 on fourth-down attempts. … The Bengals finished with 398 net yards while Detroit had 228. … Cincinnati won the time-of-possession battle with 35:52 to 24:08. … Julian Owkara had his first NFL sack and Austin Bryant also sacked Joe Burrow. … Derrick Barnes led all defensmen with 8 tackles. 

Five things to know as Lions face Vikings

It is Week 5 and the Lions are still looking for their first win. It’s been a bumpy start for first-year coach Dan Campbell who has his injury-decimated team showing flashes of good play but not nearly enough for a win.

Minnesota is typically a tough place to play but the Vikings (1-3) are coming off a 14-7 home loss to Cleveland. Still the Vikings are 10-point favorites.

A win would not fix everything for the Lions, but it certainly would help. 

“(A win) helps you get going. It helps you jump out of bed maybe a little bit better. And so, yeah, it does. That’s what this is about is getting that first win for us and getting a win. But at the end of the day, no matter what happens, you’ve got to put your best foot forward and we’ve got to go back to work no matter what,’’ Campbell said. “You’ve got to go back to work and find a way to improve. And you guys get tired of hearing me say this, but we are in a race to improve and it’s got to be that way every day, every week, every game.”

Five things to watch as the Lions face the Vikings:

1. Somehow going into Minnesota Campbell has been able to keep up the morale of this young squad.: “Morale’s been good. I mean, these guys did exactly what they needed to do was, ‘Let’s go back to work.’ And that’s a credit to the guys on this team, but I think even more importantly our veteran leadership. I think it’s all about – here’s what we know, you’ll never correct a problem if we don’t go back to work and those guys did that. That’s the first step and at least gives you a shot, so they have. It was up, the energy was up. We’ve had quite a few competitive periods. We try to mix them in every week, but I think we’ve had really more of them than we’ve done in a while just to – un-scouted looks, O versus D, critical fourth-and-2, third-and-2, red zone – we’ll have another red zone today and just dial it up and see who wins. And so, it’s been good. The energy’s been good and there again, it’s not about the energy, it’s about those little details that make you or break you in a game.”

2.  In terms of injuries, the good news is that tight end T.J. Hockenson (knee) and tackle Penei Sewell (ankle) have a chance to play on Sunday. Both had limited practice on Friday. DE Michael Brockers (shoulder) is expected to return. RB D’Andre Swift (groin), RB Jamaal Williams (hip) and OLB Trey Flowers (knee) are all listed as questionable. The Lions needed a pretty healthy team to have a chance at some wins and they definitely do not have that. Taylor Decker (hand) is still not ready and Romeo Okwara (Achilles) was the 12th player placed on injured reserve. Frank Ragnow was the 11th.

3. Much of the Vikings’ defensive game plan is built around their pass rush so it helps Minnesota that defensive end Danielle Hunter returns from injury. “Look, he’s an element that they need and I think he’s one of those pieces that makes them pretty dangerous because he’s one of those D-ends that I think plays the run as good as anybody and he’s an excellent pass rusher, too. So, he can transition from run to rush very quickly and run action stuff and he’s long. He’s a heck of an athlete, high motor, so it’s helped them,’’ Campbell said. This makes it much tougher on the Lions makeshift  offensive line which is missing Decker (hand) and Ragnow (turf toe). Good thing it looks like Sewell will be ready to go. Evan Brown will likely step in again at center.

4. So without key pieces, Campbell is putting together an offensive game plan that hopefully plays to their strengths.  “We’ve gone back and tried to really look at what we think we do well. We’re four weeks in now. ‘What do our guys do well? Knowing what we have up front moving forward and what they have, how do we help?’ So, the plan is catered that way somewhat and there again, we’ve got to play complementary football,’’ Campbell said. “We can’t get in one of these – like we’ve been, we can’t get in one of these, ‘We’re down and we’re in two-minute mode and we’re having to throw it every play and they know it, we know it.’ That doesn’t serve us well all of the time.” Actually, most of the time.

5. In the four losses, giving up chunk plays of 20 yards or longer has been a killer for Detroit’s defense. The cornerback crew is decimated with Jeff Okudah and Ifeatu Melifonwu on injured reserve, but the others have to step up. “That’s the one area that we’ve got to look at, and as coaches, too. ‘How do we get these guys in situations to where they’re not giving up these big plays?’ I was always told by Bill Parcells, ‘How many times do we’ve got to get hit in the face with a skunk before you smell it?’ And that’s a true statement,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “So, we have to do something also to be able to help these guys and we have done some things now, for the player and coach. The players have got to execute, the coach has got to put them in positions to where they can execute and be at their best.”  Sounds like a plan.

Prediction: Vikings 24, Lions 17.