Lions keep playoff hopes alive with 41-10 win over Bears; 5 reasons why they won

DETROIT — In a key game to keep the Detroit Lions’ playoff hopes alive, they didn’t just win, 41-10, they dominated the Chicago Bears for three quarters.

Coach Dan Campbell said all week that his team would be ready after the humiliating 37-23 loss at Carolina the previous week.

“We bounced back, I knew we would because of the guys we have on this team. They went to work, they trusted us. We went full pads on Wednesday, saying we’re going to get our identity back, recalibrate and those guys did that,’’ Campbell said after the win. ”They trusted us, they came out and looked like they were ready to go. I was proud of them.’’

The LIons improve to 8-8 and are in the wild-card mix. First they have to beat the Packers (8-8) at Green Bay next weekend. (Game day and time to be announced.) That won’t be enough. They also will need the Rams (5-11) to beat the Seahawks (8-8) at Seattle.

It’s been quite a stretch for the Lions winning seven of nine after a 1-6 start.

“This is big. It just verifies what we are, what we know, what we’re capable of. And here we are,’’ Campbell said.

The tone was set from the Lions team introductions at a sold-out Ford Field, giving the spotlight to the defensive and offensive lines. Usually it’s either offensive or defensive starters who get the introductions

“I wanted to do that because everything coming out of Carolina was about that. And for us, to be our identity to be a physical, tough, hard-nosed, relentless, resilient team, it all starts with the O-line and D-line so I wanted to make sure they got acknowledged for the last one here,’’ Campbell said.

Five reasons the Lions won:

1. It was a bit of a slow start for the Lions’ defense allowing a 75-yard touchdown drive on the Bears’ first possession with quarterback Justin Fields running for 45 yards. The Lions matched that touchdown on their first possession with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Jared Goff to tight end Brock Wright. The Bears took the 10-7 lead with a 23-yard field goal late in the first quarter. They were held scoreless for the rest of the game. “All in all I think we snapped back on defense,’’ Campbell said.

2. Jared Goff is on fire. In the last eight games he’s thrown 14 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. “He has a ton of confidence right now and he’s had this for a while. He’s played pretty well all year, there’s been a couple here and there and the turnovers were early – he’s got a real good feel of the game plan,’’ Campbell said. “You can tell he’s in this mode that you feel like any time you dial up a pass, he’s going to find somebody, he’s going to find a throw and he’s going to get it to the guy who is open that’s a great feeling to feel your quarterback is in that mode. That’s a great feeling. When your O-line protects like it’s protecting, that helps everything. Here’s what we know about Goff you give him just a minute to see it he’ll put it on the spot.’’ Plus, Goff had a big issue with a non-working headset early in the game and had to run to the sideline to get his plays, It was eventually fixed.

3. It’s not like Goff is doing it alone. In the first half he threw to 10 different pass-catchers. Even he seemed surprised when asked about that number. “It’s part of how our offense works. There isn’t really a feature guy and there isn’t really like forcing it to one guy to get him the ball. It’s whoever’s open gets the ball,’’ Goff said. “Ben (Johnson, offensive coordinator) does a good job of keeping us in rhythm and on the same page. … Tight ends again showed up big today.’’ Tight end Brock Wright had a pair of touchdown receptions. Goff completed 21 of 29 passes for 255 yards, three touchdowns and a 133.5 passer rating (158.3 is perfect).

4. Defensively it’s a team effort but three rookie defensive linemen were standouts. James Houston, playing in just his sixth career game, had three sacks and a forced fumble. Aidan Hutchinson had half a sack, an interception, a fumble recovery and a pass defense. Josh Paschal had two sacks, the first of his career. “You know it’s great. We got a lot of talented rookies on the team. It’s a good foundation for us, too,’’ Hutchinson said. “And yeah, man, it’s very exciting being out there and being a part of games like that.”

5. Offensively the run game has been an issue in recent games, but not in the win on Sunday when the Lions finished with 265 rushing yards. Jamaal Williams had his most productive game of the season with 144 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown. D’Andre Swift also had his biggest rushing game this year with 78 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. He also had four catches for 39 yards and a TD catch.  Williams and Swift became the first two running backs in team history to have eight or more touchdowns in the same season.  “I think that’s our success right there, is just having different weapons and just to have so many weapons on the field. It just makes the defense more cautious about what’s happening and makes it unpredictable about what we’re doing,’’ Williams said. “ I think today Swift went crazy. He just had a tremendous game. Proud of him because of the way he works, and he deserves all the chances he gets. I’m just grateful for the way he came out, played for the team, and to get the juice going, the goods going.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

(Next up: Lions (8-8) at Green Bay Packers (8-8). Game will be Saturday or Sunday. The NFL should announce  a decision on time and day by Monday.)

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 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.