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)