Five Lions’ positives taken from opening loss to Eagles

ALLEN PARK — After watching film of the Lions 38-35 loss to the Eagles on Monday, coach Dan Campbell said he felt better than he did right after the game at Ford Field.

That’s a positive sign and not the only one.

1. Running back D’Andre Swift could not have played much better with 144 rushing yards and a touchdown, and three catches for 31 yards. “It goes without saying Swift is special and we know that. Just getting him his touches, he’s the one, he’s the one that’s the secret sauce,’’ Campbell said. “He can turn routine plays into explosive plays that will hurt you if you’re the opponent.’’

2. Rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, a fan favorite already, had a solid start. “All in all I thought he did a nice job, there’s a couple plays I know he wishes he could have back,’’ Campbell said. “For a rookie who went in and played a substantial role for us I thought he did a nice job. He was physical, he was aggressive, zeros MA’s (missed assignments) he was on top of it. That was good to see. Now we need more out of special teams from him which we’ll get.’’

3. Campbell made a point to mention the fans. “That place was fricking booming. They keep doing that, that gives us a great chance,’’ Campbell said. Seweel said the crowd noise was so loud that at one point he couldn’t hear quarterback Jared Goff and had to kneel down in the huddle to block out the noise. He was not complaining, by the way.

4. Right tackle Penei Sewell said the difference in the offense is night and day from last season. That starts with Goff who threw one interception in the first half but found a groove in the second  half. “There were some rough moments early but I loved the way he responded in the second half to get us back into it. I thought he settled in and did some really good things, he gave us a chance. I was very confident when we get this ball back we’re going to go down and win this game. I felt very good about where we were at offensively with him,’’ Campbell said.

5. Rookie defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson had his ups and downs and notched just one tackle on the stat sheet despite playing 90 percent of the defensive snaps. Campbell is not worried. “The takeaway I had, and I think we all had, was ‘OK, This is what it’s like, this is it. This is the true taste of the NFL and adjusting to that caliber of athlete in a full game,’’’ Campbell said. “Now, there are certainly some things to where it looks like he’s got to make that play, but he needs a little help too. … Honestly I’m not even worried about him, he’s going to adjust from this. He’s prideful, he’s a pro. We already know that about him as a rookie I think we all do. He’s going to want to better himself, he’s going to learn from this and he will be better.’’

(Up next: Washington Commanders (1-0) at Lions (0-1), at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Ford Field.)

Lions offer no excuses after loss to Eagles; still a few positives emerged

DETROIT — The Lions fought back from a 17-point deficit in the third quarter to make it a game, but they came up just short.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles were just too much and prevailed in a 38-35 win on Sunday in the season opener at Ford Field.

“What mistakes did they make? They really didn’t,’’ Lions coach Dan Campbell said.

The coach made no excuses. His defense allowed 38 points and Hurts provided 333 yards (243 yards passing).

“I was proud we fought our way back, but we’ve got a lot to clean up,’’ Campbell said.

The Lions haven’t won a season opener since 2017. And, again, Campbell and the players made no excuses, but they did find reasons that this team is different from the one that lost 44-6 to the Eagles last season.

“The good news is we didn’t play very well, but we only lost by 3,’’ Campbell said 

Running back D’Andre Swift provided a spark offensively with 144 rushing yards (9.6 yards per carry) along with 3 catches for 31 yards.

Swift credited the execution up front as phenomenal along with the blocking downfield. 

“It’s good but we let one slip away from us,’’ Swift said.

That seemed to be a theme afterward. 

Quarterback Jared Goff (21-37, 215 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception) agreed that they left too much on the field.

“We felt like we could have scored 50 points,’’ Goff said. “We shot ourselves in the foot.’’

His interception which was returned for a touchdown in the second quarter gave the Eagles a 21-7 lead. Goff said it was a matter of miscommunication between him and tight end T.J. Hockenson. 

The Lions offense opened with a 9-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, but then sputtered with three 3-and-outs. Goff found more of a rhythm in the second half and in doing so said they may have found a bit of their offensive identity including explosive plays and going downfield.

The Lions were down 24-14 at the half, but scored three touchdowns in the second half. Ama-Ra St. Brown caught a 4-yard pass, Jamaal Williams scored on a 1-yard run and wide receiver D.J. Chark caught a 22-pass in the corner of the endzone.

The defense had its hands full from the get-go.

“I think in the run game, we did a good job against them. It was more of the pass, drop back, scramble situations that we weren’t able to contain him,’’ linebacker Alex Anzalone (9 tackles) said. “Obviously, that was a focus and a point of emphasis this week, so we’ve just got to figure out how to be disciplined and our rush lanes and where the help is in coverage situations and get it cleaned up.”

Rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, who drew loud cheers every time his name was mentioned by the P.A. announcer, played against Hurts in college. “He’s very slick and obviously, he’s progressed in the League. He got a couple of runs on us, so we’ve got to fix it. The next day, we’ve got to fix it,’’ Rodriguez said.

 Safety Tracy Walker led the defense with 11 tackles, a sack and a pass defense. He could have added to those numbers, but was tossed out of the game in the second half after two personal fouls on the same play. 

“I just let my team down. Me, as a team captain, I’ve just got to be better,’’ Walker said. “I was hot-headed at the moment, and like I said, I’ve just got to make better decisions at the end of the day.”

Cornerback Jeff Okudah, who is coming back from a torn Achilles, finished with 10 tackles while linebacker Alex Anzalone had 9.

“I think I did pretty well, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the win,’’ Okudah said. “That’s something that we preach upon, and the win is what’s going to change the narrative about the Detroit Lions.”

First-round pick Aidan Hutchinson only notched one tackle. His presence was felt even if it didn’t show up in the stats.

“He’ll be better next week,’’ Campbell said. “He needed this.”

(Up next: Washington Commanders at Lions, at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18. The Commanders defeated the Jaguars, 28-22, on Sunday.)

Lions draft linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez in sixth round

The Lions added another piece to the defense by selected linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez in the sixth round (188th overall) on Saturday.

Rodriguez, who played at Oklahoma State, earned All-Big 12 honors in three straight seasons and made the first team in his final year. As the team captain was the Fiesta Bowl defensive MVP with 11 tackles, an interception, and two pass breakups in the win over Notre Dame.

Rodriguez, who is 5-foot-11 and 232 pounds, finished his career with the Cowboys by garnering All-Big 12 honors in three straight seasons, making the first team in his final year. He ranked seventh in the FBS with 76 solo tackles (129 total tackles, 15 for loss with three sacks) in 2021 and tied for 10th nationally with four forced fumbles in 14 starts. The team captain was also the Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP with 11 tackles, an interception, and two pass breakups in the win over Notre Dame. 

In 2020, he led his team with 82 tackles (including 57 solos, tying for seventh-most in the FBS), seven for loss with three sacks, three pass breakups and two forced fumbles in 11 starts.

In high school, Rodriguez led Wagoner to three straight Oklahoma state titles at quarterback, while also being named the state Defensive Player of the Year as a senior and winning a state championship in wrestling. 

His NFL.com draft profile reads: “Rodriguez carries a compact, sawed-off frame that is muscular but stubby. His transition from read to flow is seamless, with some of the cleanest GPS to the football in this draft. He’s straight-line fast but lacks the looseness for sudden lateral bursts, which could limit his range as an NFL tackler. He can play on third downs but is very average in that department. Rodriguez has been a career gap-hog, finding and finishing runners who come his way.’’