Five things to know about Lions win over Packers and the season’s finish

In a season opened with eight straight losses, new coach Dan Campbell made his share of mistakes. He’ll be happy to share that with you.

The most remarkable achievement may have been keeping the players in every game, keeping them focused and not allowing their shoulder to sink.

It’s not a little thing for a coach to be able to inject such an attitude. 

Perhaps Sunday’s 37-30 win over the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field was a perfect example of this never-say-die attitude. 

The Lions really didn’t have anything to play for other than pride, but you wouldn’t know that And, yes, the Packers who are the NFC North champs, played some of their backups in the second half, but still it was a good solid win for the Lions who finished 3-3 in their final six and 3-13-1 overall.

“When you’re where we’re at, when you get late in the season and you don’t have wins, it’s not easy for guys to continue to put their best foot forward, continue to come to work, continue to grind,’’ Campbell said. “Our guys did that. They knew what we are trying to build.

“For us it was what we said on Day One. We’re looking for a gritty team, guys that are resilient, guys willing to lay it on the line, you’re not going to feel 100% those guys that are 80-90% they can still produce and give it their all,’’ Campbell added.

“I do feel like all the way through this season, those guys never lost hope and I think that’s important, that there is hope,’’ the coach said.

They also seem to feed off his aggressiveness. Fourth down? In many cases, he went for it. On Sunday, he used two trick plays to score touchdowns. Whatever it takes. 

Five things to know:

1. Quarterback Jared Goff took plenty of flack in the first half of the season. Some of it was deserved, some not. But he never threw up his hands, he never quit. “What I respect about him is he hung in there and he was resilient, but yet accountable to his own performance,’’ Campbell said. “Collectively we knew we all had to get better. He never wavered, he was there everyday, he was ready to go, he was upbeat, he wanted to be better and in turn has made us all better.’’ Goff admitted there were rocky times and he’s proud of the way he and his teammates handled it. “To finish the season the way we did is a testament to not giving up in those situations,’’ Goff said.

2. Despite an incredible number of injuries the defense was fairly consistent. They had a few bad games and awful quarters but they improved under defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn as the season wore on. In Sunday’s win Tracy Walker and C.J. Moore intercepted quarterback Jordan Love at key points in the second half. Moore’s interception with a few seconds remaining sealed the win. Campbell mentioned the way the team played complementary football in Sunday’s win. It was key.

3. A star emerged in rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, a fourth-round pick. He set a Lions record for yardage for rookie wide receivers with his first catch on Sunday. He admitted he knew exactly how many yards he needed, Nothing wrong with that.  He set an NFL record a week ago for a rookie wide receiver catching at least eight passes in eight straight games. He extended that to nine games on Sunday. Campbell said, “He’s better than gold.” Goff reminded that St. Brown’s name translates to Sun God. He finished with 8 catches for 109 yards on Sunday and for the season the rookie had 90 catches for 911 yards and five touchdowns

4. The offensive line was battered all season. On Sunday, guard Jonah Jackson had to move over to center after Evan Brown went out. Jackson and Goff took about five snaps on the sideline and went for it. That’s just how the season went and still for the most part, the line did its job. Guard Penei Sewell spent training camp learning the right guard position then had to move to the left side when Taylor Decker was injured. This line should be one of the Lions’ strengths in the future.

5. Goff said Sunday’s win and the way the Lions finished the season 3-3 should be a good springboard for next season. The players who are on the roster now, know what to expect from Campbell and he knows how to push the right buttons. While a 3-13-1 record could draw many an eye roll, dig a little deeper and the future for this bunch looks a little brighter.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Five things to know about Lions 51-29 loss at Seahawks

While COVID and injuries have decimated the roster for weeks, on Sunday at Seattle the Detroit Lions were outmatched and outplayed in the 51-29 loss.

Coach Dan Campbell has found bits of magic here and there during the two-win season, but it was difficult to find positives on Sunday except for wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown who continues to excel in his rookie season.

Detroit’s defense could not stop the Seahawks’ run game or Russell Wilson. It was a mismatch in the trenches all day long. It was not an unexpected loss and, in fact, the Lions (2-13-1) were better in the second half, once again showing off their never-give-up spirit.

Five things to know:

1. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown continues to amaze. Doesn’t matter that the surrounding cast is depleted, this guy moves. On Sunday he became the first rookie in NFL history with at least eight catches in five straight games. In the loss, he also scored his first rushing touchdown along with eight catches for 111 yards and one receiving touchdown. Remember he was a fourth-round draft pick. 

2. The Lions did not appear to give up even when they were down 31-7 to start the second half. Credit to Campbell. Several of the young guys are trying to earn a roster spot in Detroit or elsewhere for next season. That helps, but not enough. Campbell has somehow got them playing hard for 60 minutes no matter the score. In the second half Detroit actually outscored Seattle, 22-20. (Sometimes you have to dig deep to find a positive.)

3. Dan Campbell continued his aggressive play-calling throughout and not just on fourth down. In the third quarter he had Tim Boyle throw to offensive lineman Matt Nelson who couldn’t keep his mitts on the ball. Then he tossed a touchdown pass to left tackle Taylor Decker. Didn’t see that coming. Of course, a lack of healthy tight ends made that an option. When the Lions get more talent, hope Campbell keeps up with the aggressiveness and out-of-the-box calls.

4. Quarterback Tim Boyle, in his third career start, threw for an interception to start the second half but redeemed himself a bit with a touchdown pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown in the third quarter. Boyle is who he is. He is not Jared Goff (knee) who was watching from the sidelines. Boyle finished 22 of 37 for 262 yards (a career-high), two touchdowns and three interceptions.

5. Defensively Detroit had no answer for running back Rashaad Penny who had 25 carries for 170 yards and a pair of touchdowns. This is the same defense that held the Falcons to 47 rushing yards in the previous week’s loss. The Seahawks finished with 497 net yards including 265 rushing yards. Campbell is in it to win it until the bitter end and it is obvious he has got his players thinking the same way.

NEXT UP:  Green Bay Packers at Lions at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 9, to close out Detroit’s season. The bitter end.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Five things to know about Lions stunning win over Cardinals

It wasn’t just the biggest win of the Detroit Lions’ season, it was a statement, even though coach Dan Campbell wouldn’t call it that.

The Arizona Cardinals (10-4) , arguably one of the NFL’s best teams, had not lost on the road this season. But on Sunday that record fell as the Lions (2-11-1) stunned the Cardinals, 30-12, at Ford Field.

No one gave the Lions much of a chance to win with a few big exceptions including Detroit’s coaches and players. 

“We knew we could win this game, we feel like that every week. We knew we could but we knew we had to play a certain type of game,like any week if we can execute the game plan,’’ coach Dan Campbell said. “… We knew to win this game it was going to be a dogfight and it was going to come down probably to the last possession. Well it didn’t this time. I don’t see it as a statement. In this league anybody can win, anybody can lose. I know this, our guys were prepared and that was a good win.’’

That’s a bit of an understatement. It was a full team win in all three phases. Glimpses have been shown all season of the possibilities, but it’s been tough to put them together for wins. Sunday may have been a look into the future.

Five things to know about Sunday’s win:

1. Campbell and GM Brad Holmes have had a game plan to build a team with high character players. The coach thinks it showed on Sunday. “We’ve got the right guys, we really do. And as far as guys you want character wise and what they’re made of. We don’t have guys who are worried about themselves or complaining about this or it’s somebody else’s fault,’’ Campbell said. “We have guys who just want results and how can I help? That always gives you a chance.’’

2. Aside from character, the win was what they have been trying to achieve all season. “I’d say it was a lot closer. To be able to feel like you have control of the game. They were playing our game, we weren’t playing theirs,’’ Campbell said. “That’s what we need to be able to do.” The Lions got the ball first and ate 8:50 off the clock on a drive that ended with a field goal. The defense held the Cardinals to three-and-out, then the Lions came back with a drive finishing with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Jared Goff to Amon-Ra St. Brown very early in the second quarter. So it was 10-0 to start. That’s key. Plus they just held on. They didn’t know they weren’t supposed to win.

3. Jared Goff had his best day in a Lions uniform, throwing for three touchdowns and zero interceptions. “He made some outstanding throws today. The first one to St. Brown was unbelievable, he had to step up, release it quick. The throw to (Josh) Reynolds right before halftime, a huge play,’’ Campbell said of the 22-yard touchdown pass. “(Goff) got us the right play, I thought he maneuvered well, he took some hits, he bounced back. I thought he played outstanding.’’

4. The losing season has tested Goff but he said his love of the game kept driving him. “It does test you and that way it has strengthened. Then you win a game today against arguably the best team in the league. On paper we don’t match up with them, on paper we don’t,’’ Goff said. It was next man up at so many positions.Goff mentioned safety Will Harris who played corner. Running back Craig Reynolds who got his second start and rushed for 112 yards. The offensive line has been playing musical chairs all season due to injuries. But on Sunday, everyone who played executed his job and it showed.

5. The Lions defense was phenomenal. (Don’t think I’ve typed that sentence in many years). The Cardinals didn’t score a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter. They didn’t pick up a first down until the second quarter. Campbell said he couldn’t find the right words for defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn who put together a masterful gameplan especially considering he was without so many key players. Linebacker Charles Harris was on fire with 1.5 sacks, a dozen tackles, three tackles for loss and a partridge in a pear tree. Cornerback Amani Oruwariye’s interception in the fourth quarter set up a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jason Cabinda on the next play. Campbell said those two plays shifted the momentum back to the Lions who held a 24-3 lead at that point.

NEXT UP: Detroit Lions at Atlanta on Sunday, Dec. 26, at 1 p.m.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)