Lions coach Dan Campbell blasts into town

Cover enough press conferences for new Detroit Lions coaches and the words all blend together. Blue collar, culture, high character, lunch pail, blah, blah, blah.

Meet Dan Campbell.

Campbell, a former Lions tight end (2006-08), was introduced as the Lions head coach on Thursday after signing a six-year deal.

“I wanted this job – bad – because I felt like I knew this community. … All right, here’s what I do know, is that this team is going to take on the identity of this city. This city has been down, and it found a way to get up. It’s found a way to overcome adversity.

“So this team is going to be built on – we’re going to kick you in the teeth, and when you punch us back, we’re going to smile at you, and when you knock us down, we’re going to get up. On the way up, we’re going to bite a knee cap off, all right, and we’re going to stand up, and then it’s going to take two more shots to knock us down. And on the way up, we’re going to take your other knee cap, and we’re going to get up and it’s going to take three shots to take us down. When we do, we’re going to take another hunk out of you. Before long, we’re going to be the last one standing.

“That’s going to be the mentality, darn it. We’re going to learn that any loss that we take, we’re going to make sure that we feel the full pain of it and not grow numb to it and learn from it and not to want to taste it again. We’re going to be competitive in every game. I can’t sit up here and guarantee wins and losses. I just can’t do it,’’ Campbell, 44, said.

The former tight end just seems so unlike the others. Get this, the nameplate on his office door reads: Head coach/The Dude.

His only experience as a head coach was an interim role for the Dolphins for a dozen games. It was brief and it was tough, but he learned from it and showed enough promise that Saints coach Sean Payton took him on and promised to help him develop as a coach.

Thursday’s 90-minute virtual press conference was intense and fun. Cynical reporters typically don’t laugh and smile much when meeting a new coach. Well Campbell has a certain charm.

He had no history with new GM Brad Holmes. But both did their homework, connected with mutual friends and it looks like they are a good fit. Holmes interviewed Campbell before the final decision was made.

“There’s no secret, you have to get good people around you, who are all pulling in the same direction. It’s team. It’s all about team. There’s no ego. Brad and I are going to have – we both have say on the 53-man roster. We have to agree. So, we’re going to go into a room, and we’re just going to fight until one of us comes up. We’ll see what happens – no,’’ Campbell said.

He was kidding. (It’s hard to tell with his deadpan delivery, but he was.)

“We are going to collaborate. We are going to come up with the best answer, the best solution. What can we do with this guy – is it for the future, is it for now? That’s not even a problem – I want it that way. I want people to challenge me on an idea. I don’t want to have a bunch of people that agree with everything that I say – that’s a recipe for disaster. I don’t want a bunch of people who drink a gallon of coffee like I do in a day. You find the right mix and the right balance of people. I know this, when it starts at the top and it’s right, then it’ll go down, it’ll trickle down to where it’s supposed to. Those guys are going to have pride in where there are, who they play for, how they’re going to play. You’d say more times than not, that leads to success, and there’s only one way to do it, and it’s to do it the right way. That’s the other thing that intrigued me about Sheila, she wants to win bad, but she’s not going to sell her soul to the devil to do it, neither am I.’’

He wouldn’t comment on Matthew Stafford’s future but called him “a stud.” 

Team owner Shelia Ford Hamp was a vital part of the decision process. The team — Hamp, Rod Wood, Chris Spielman and Mike Disner — set goals and worked the process. Along the way, they interviewed two Saints for the GM job. They asked each who they would want as head coach. Both said Dan Campbell who most recently served as the assistant head coach and tight ends coach for the Saints.

“All I can say is I’m confident we have two terrific men. They’re both incredibly smart, articulate in what they’re looking for and our team. They’re both winners. I think they speak the same language, and I think it’s going to be an awesome relationship. It already is, and they hadn’t really known each other,’’ Hamp said. “I think this is going to be just great. Really great.”

Time will tell.

Until then, watch your knee caps.

Five main reasons Lions lost 35-29 to Saints

It was such a fast start by the Lions offense, it was a bit baffling. Before five minutes was off the clock Detroit was up 14-0 courtesy of Matthew Stafford’s 7-yard toss to De’Andre Swift, an interception of Drew Brees by Darryl Roberts and then a 15-yard scoring pass to Kenny Golladay.

Then the Lions gave up 35 unanswered points. Still baffling but to another degree.

When the dust had settled the Saints took a 35-29 win back to New Orleans and boosted their record to 2-2.

The Lions fell to 1-3 and blew a big lead for the third time in four games. 

“It’s frustrating because we have the pieces to be successful in this league, and we just have to go out there and finish,’’ linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “There’s no excuses. There’s nothing else to be said. We have to go out and play ball.”

 While the offense certainly had its issues, the defense could not keep Brees and the Saints off the field. New Orleans didn’t punt in the first three quarters. Time of possession wasn’t even close with the Saints holding a 36:46 to 23:44 edge.

Five main reasons the Lions lost:

1. It was no secret that running back Alvin Kamara is a game-changer and yet the Lions defense couldn’t stop him. He rushed for 83 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown, along with three catches for 36 yards. Patricia said they knew stopping the run was going to be a big challenge. “Alvin is one of the best players in this league, and I’ve known Alvin since high school – that’s my little brother. I know he’s a problem,’’ Lions linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “Then you have one of the best at throwing the ball. They’re not going to stop fighting. They have a great head coach. So, we have to get pressure. We have to get pressure on them – sometimes we had pressure on them, but he got it out on time, just like at the end.’’ It was not just Kamara, he had plenty of help. They just kept pounding — their longest run was for 12 yards.

2. It wasn’t just the Lions run defense that was lacking. The Saints converted 10 of 14 third-down attempts – that’s an amazing 71 percent. “I think on defense, we all think we can play better and coach better,’’ Patricia said. Brees is 41-years-old but don’t throw him in the retirement home just yet. He was 19 of 25 for 246 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

3. After a hot start Stafford and the offense struggled until they scored another touchdown late in the third quarter on a 1-yard pass to T.J. Hockenson. Stafford missed the second half of last season and obviously didn’t have preseason games to knock off the rust, but he is not looking for excuses for his play which hasn’t been up to his normal standards. “I feel like myself, obviously we haven’t hit some of the bigger plays down the field like we did last year,’’ Stafford said.

4. The run game has to find more consistency. Adiran Peterson averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on 11 carries for 36 yards. In total, the Lions rushed for 90 yards. Stafford’s 12-yard scamper for a first down was the longest run for the Lions. It’s a sure sign improvement is needed.

5. Coaching. It’s a huge issue. The Lions looked like they had little energy out on the field. Certainly it’s different with no fans in the pandemic, but all teams have that disadvantage. After being down 28-14 at the half, you would expect more urgency on both sides of the ball. Just didn’t see it. Patricia always says that the Lions need to improve from the coaching on down. Obviously he’s right, but we haven’t seen it. They’ve lost 14 of the last 16 games under his guidance. That is unacceptable in the NFL.

BY THE NUMBERS: WR Danny Amendola had just two catches but one was for a game-high 50 yards, the other 7 yards. … The Lions were 7 of 14 on third-down attempts while New Orleans was an 10 of 14. … Detroit was 3 of 3 on fourth-down attempts. … Neither time attempted a field goal. … The Lions were 4 of 5 in the Red Zone while the Saints were 4 of 4. … Linebacker Jamie Collins led the Lions with 9 tackles. … Lions Reggie Ragland and Romeo Okwara each sacked Drew Brees.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Lions vs. Saints: Five things to know

The Lions hope to extend their win streak to two games when they host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Detroit (1-2) is coming off a 26-23 win at Arizona while the Saints (1-2) lost to Green Bay, 37-30, last week.

Of course home field advantage means nothing with no fans allowed at Ford Field. When Matt Patricia was asked about it on Friday, he smiled. It is what it is.

Still it hasn’t been pretty under Patricia even in pre-COVID seasons.

“Look, I’m not going to live in the past as far as the numbers. I think we all know what the numbers are,’’ Patricia said on a Zoom call. “From that standpoint, we’re obviously just trying to push forward and get better and go. I think you’re right. The teams that are consistent in this League, the teams that have won a lot in this league over a long period of time, have been able to establish that home-field advantage scenario.’’

In 2019 the Lions were 2-6 at home. In 2018 they were 3-5.

“ We’re just trying to go out and just be consistent in the moment right now and see where that goes from there,’’ Patricia said.

Five things to watch on Sunday:

1. The offense needs to build on its effort in the win over the Cardinals. Tight end Jesse James played a big role and the return of Kenny Golladay provided a much needed spark. Matthew Stafford had his best game of the season with two touchdown passes and zero interceptions. But they were 2 of 6 in the red zone. “There (are) times where we try to run it in. There’s been times where we try to throw it in. We just have to be able to put it all together – whether it’s play calls, whether it’s execution of the specific plays, but we can definitely be better down there,’’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “That’s a focus. I believe the week before we were two-for-two in the red zone. So it has to become more consistent.”

2. Keep giving the ball to Adrian Peterson who is averaging 4.9 yards per carry over the first three games.  He had 22 carries in the win at Arizona.  “This guy is a freak of nature now. I don’t know where that wall is or where he’s going to hit it. The guy is always asking for more,’’ Bevell said.

3. After zero turnovers created by the defense in the first two games, they had three interceptions of Kyler Murray. Keeping him and the Cardinals’ offense was a huge part of the close win. The secondary is expected to have Desmond Trufant back in action. (Justin Coleman should be back soon too.) 

4. While the Saints have stumbled to a 1-2 start, never underestimate quarterback Drew Brees. He’s thrown six touchdown passes against just one interception. Patricia said he sees no difference in Brees. “I think you always look at the quarterbacks that have been in the League for a long time. Is there anything that shows up that’s different: arm strength, mobility, what they’re doing from a communication at the line of scrimmage standpoint – guys that are established like that,’’ Patricia said. “I’ve played against Drew Brees for a long time. I have the utmost respect for him, and his arm talent and his arm strength is still phenomenal. I don’t really read in to all that stuff.’’

5. However, the defense’s focus needs to be on running back Alvin Kamara who has three rushing and three receiving touchdowns. “It puts a lot of pressure on everybody. The guy’s highly, highly productive, and (Drew Brees) is really good at – if he doesn’t like what he sees down the field, he can be quick, or he can be late and get the ball in the guy’s hands,’’ defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said. “Once it’s in his hands, it takes everybody to get the guy on the ground. So, you’ve got to pick your spots when you’re calling the game.

Prediction: Lions 27, Saints 24