Lions look for answers as they head into their bye week

ALLEN PARK — Frustration among the 1-4 Lions is not unexpected. Even though this is early for an NFL bye week, it may be perfect timing for this bunch. Many of them need to heal physically and they all need to examine what has led to this train-wreck of a start.

The 29-0 loss to the Patriots just put an emphasis on the shortcomings on both sides of the ball.

The offense imploded after good showings in the first four games. The defense, which is ranked last in the NFL, slightly improved, according to coach Dan Campbell.

One of the team leaders, running back Jamaal Williams, gave a speech during training camp that was featured on ‘Hard Knocks.” His anger showed after the team just won three games a year ago.

He has not given up on his teammates or coaches.

“I sense the disappointment, we don’t do this, we don’t work everyday for us to come out and be 1-4, we don’t accept losing, I don’t accept losing. I’ll never get used to losing. Losing will never be – that (is something) I feel in this locker room right now that we’ll get used to. I understand the status of this team the last few years,’’ Williams said on Monday.

“For me I’ve only been here for two years and, for me, I feel like this team can be very great. We can be good and have a good winning season, we can go to the playoffs, we can win a whole Super Bowl,’’ Williams said. “That’s my mindset because I’m here, I see these people every day. I see my teammates, I see my coaches, I see these people every day.’’

Still for Williams and everyone, including Campbell, the game against the Cowboys in Dallas on Oct. 23 is the total focus.

The one game at a time approach is not exactly a novel idea, but not many alternatives. No one in the Lions’ building seems to doubt this team has the work ethic. Great, but it doesn’t always lead to wins.

Center Frank Ragnow said they don’t necessarily have to work harder, but maybe work smarter  and trust each other more.

“The biggest thing we’re missing right now is complementary football. I know that’s coach-speak but it’s real,’’ Ragnow said. “Last week as an offense we scored 45 and the defense struggled. This week we put the defense in a lot of tough spots. We need to be able to have each other’s back so we can have the flow of the game. We’re a young team and we need to figure that out.’’

Campbell’s message about the next game being key, working hard and playing smart has gotten through to at least some of the team. It shows in their words to the media.

“Everybody is in the same boat, everybody is upset, everybody is frustrated, nobody likes losing here. I think everybody knows we’re better than 1-4, but we haven’t shown that collectively,’’ Campbell said on Monday. “In pieces we have, but I also know what kind of group of guys we have in this locker room. Brad (Holmes) and I built it that way. These guys are not going to lay down, they’re not going to give up, it’s a good group of guys, we have to regroup, we have the bye to do that, make adjustments, figure out what we can do better, how do we use our personnel, what do we do to maximize the personnel.’’

Immediately after the game he said he thought the defensive played better — they only gave up 29 points instead of the average of 35-plus. 

“Watching the tape, the defense played much better. I felt like we stopped the bleeding from what we’ve been going through the last couple weeks,’’ Campbell said. “Good in the red zone, good on third down, good in the run — aside from two runs they popped when we didn’t fit the gaps right,’’ Campbell said. “We gave ourselves a chance really for what we were getting ready to play and the style they were going to play. I thought we did what we needed to do.’’

Due to injuries during the game, they were so critically short on defensive backs.

“The late touchdown was tough. We had (Chase) Lucas playing safety. He had never played safety and Bobby (Price) is out there at corner and they had got us,’’ Campbell said. “Those guys will learn from it, they got put in tough spots particularly Lucas.’’

The bye week should give many of the injured time to heal.


Five reasons why Lions hit ‘rock bottom’ in 29-0 loss at New England

Nothing went right for the Detroit Lions in the 29-0 loss at the New England Patriots.

It was the worst overall showing so far this season and dropped them to 1-4. Detroit’s defense has been horrid every week and on Sunday the Patriots’ defense made sure the Lions offense was ineffective. The offense that had been averaging 35 points per game was nowhere to be found.

“To me it’s as bad as it gets, it’s the worst, this is where we’re at. Sometimes it’s going to get bad before it gets better. I believe we hit rock bottom, so now the only place to go is back up,’’ coach Dan Campbell told the media afterward. 

The Lions have a bye week before they get back in action at Dallas on Oct. 23.

“We’re going to get some guys back, I’m going to look at everything top to bottom which I have time to do for the bye,’’ Campbell said. “I’ve seen it too many times, I’ve been in this league too long as a player and coach. I’ve seen teams start out rocky and it’s doom and gloom and all of a sudden they win one and they win the next one and win the next one. I told them all they have to do is win the first one.’’

Five of the reasons the Lions lost:

1. Once again the Lions defense looked unprepared. And from the get-go, the offense looked out of sync too. “Our offense has been pretty steady, played pretty well and this was a day we didn’t do well. We really never got in a true rhythm, we couldn’t convert so we couldn’t stay on the field,’’ Campbell said. After the loss to the Seahawks a week ago, Campbell said he would take a deep dive into everything. The defense looked different – cornerback Amani Oruwariye was a healthy scratch – but they made rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe look pretty darned good. 

2. The Lions’ offensive line had been mostly effective in the first four games, but they could not control Matthew Judon who had two sacks and more pressures on Jared Goff. He beat Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell on the sacks. “Judon is a good player and we knew coming in, we did a significant amount of chipping and nudging to his side, but I didn’t necessarily feel like he wrecked the game,’’ Campbell said. “When things don’t go well in your protection, there are a number of reasons and it’s all encompassing between protection, it’s between the backs and the quarterback. But he’s a good player. I don’t feel like he wore our tackles out or anything like that. He’s a good player, we knew it coming in.’’  Logan Stenberg started at right guard which was a surprise since it seemed a healthy Evan Brown would be a better option. In the second half, Brown moved into the spot. 

3. Campbell had to be somewhat aggressive on fourth down because he has a new kicker and obviously does not have faith in him. The Lions were 0-for-6 on fourth-down attempts. So add the lost fumble by Goff and the interception thrown by Goff and they basically had eight  turnovers. That’s unconscionable. From those turnovers, the Pats scored 20 points.

4. Injuries on the secondary did play a role. Savion Smith, Will Harris, Jeff Okudah, DeShon Elliott and Ifeatu Melifonwu exited with injuries, although Elliott returned. Smith was taken off the field in an ambulance to a local hospital. The team reported that he had feeling in his extremities, but was being checked for a neck injury. It was a scary moment for both teams. No one appeared to be at fault. Also this secondary took a huge loss when it lost Tracy Walker to an Achilles two weeks ago. Perhaps some of those injured defensive backs will have time to recover during the bye week.

5. It’s kind of getting old, but the coaching staff gets much of the blame for this 1-4 start, although GM Brad Holmes deserves his share too. The manpower on defense was questionable from Day One. Campbell often says they have to improve on a daily basis. He sees things that we don’t. “As bad as it looks, I also know what we’re capable of. It’s hard to say that when you look at the score, but we got better defensively, we played better today than we’ve played. Is it good enough? No. But we did play better,’’ Campbell said. “And offensively we’re better than what we just put out there on tape. Yes, it’s bad. As a total team, 29-0 to this point in the season, it’s as bad as it’s gotten.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

(Next up: Bye week, then the Lions play at the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 23.)

Five things to watch as the Lions face the Patriots; plus my prediction

While the Lions are in a somewhat familiar situation with a 1-3 record they are in uncharted waters when it comes to having the NFL’s best offense and worst defense.

If the Lions want to beat the Patriots on Sunday in New England, the offense will need to maintain its high-scoring ways and the defense will have to show signs of improvement.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick goes after his opponent’s strength so the Lions know what he will try to do. 

“His teams are always going to – they’re never going to let the best player beat you on either side of the ball. That’s what – that is 100 percent – whatever you do well is what they’re going to try to take away first,’’ Campbell said. “First and foremost and if you can find a way to win it without that, then OK, he’s playing the odds.’’

But remember, Campbell is one fearless, aggressive coach who is not afraid of fourth downs and has plays in his back pocket that have not been revealed yet this season.

Five things to watch as the Lions (1-3) face the Patriots (1-3):

1. The Lions’ defense was under the microscope after allowing the Seahawks to score 48 points in the 48-45 loss last Sunday. Campbell has given defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn his vote of confidence. “He’s no different than any of us, it’s all about moving forward and getting it right. That’s what we’ve done, we turned the page, it’s a new week and we’re going to be ready to go,’’ Campbell said. The Patriots with third-string quarterback Bailey Zappe might have something to say about that.

2. Look for personnel changes on defense. Rookie defensive tackle Demetrius Taylor will make his NFL debut. Will Harris will likely get more defensive snaps. After he played 100 percent of the defensive snaps in the win over the Commanders, he played 20 snaps in the loss to the Vikings and just nine in loss to the Seahawks..“He’s a guy we do have a lot of trust in, I can see him play this weekend. I think he’s going to play,’’ Campbell said. “I think there’s a lot of guys who are going to play. We’re looking for the right combination of players, they can all feed off each other, make some plays and be where they need to be.’’ Others who could seem more time in the secondary include Bobby Price, Ifeatu Melifonwu, A.J. Parker and Chase Lucas

3. While it’s up to Campbell, Glenn and the defensive staff to prepare them, the players have to take accountability and ownership.”I feel like our guys are going to do that. Nobody wants it more than they do and we do in this locker room,’’ Campbell said. “I can tell you this, they’re locked in … we’re going to give them a plan they can succeed in and play fast. All hands on deck.’’

4. While there’s much dislike for former Lions coach Matt Patiricia, who now calls the offensive plays for the Patriots, Campbell is not jumping in on that. In fact he praised what Patricia, the former defensive guru, has done switching to the other side of the ball. “I think it’s tough, I think it’s tough, but I also know if you know football and you’re a good coach you can adapt and that’s what I see, he’s adapting quickly,’’ Campbell said. “And every week it’s better and better and better. They’re attacking their opponents. They’re putting together good game plans, they’re using the roster well.’’

5. The LIons offense has been remarkable in fighting through injuries and still producing points. Detroit’s 18 touchdowns and 140 points scored both lead the NFL. Belichick will try to find a way to stop them but he’ll have to get through the offensive line which has been playing well. Jared Goff, who has only been sacked five times, may be playing his best football. Don’t overlook the run game either, you know Belichick won’t.

BONUS: Running back D’Andre Swift (shoulder/ankle) will miss his second straight game. Two wide receivers — D.J. Chark (ankle) and Quintin Cephus (foot) — are out. Actually, Cephus was placed on injured reserve. Others who have been ruled out are: Defensive lineman John Cominsky (wrist), defensive end Charles Harris (groin) and offensive tackle Matt Nelson (calf). Wide receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown (ankle) and Josh Reynolds (ankle) are questionable.  The Lions have a bye next week and expect to get many players healed by the time they return.

(Prediction: Lions 31, Patriots 21. Just don’t see the Pats’ defense stopping Goff and his gang.)