Five things to know about Detroit Lions’ loss to San Francisco 49ers

DETROIT — Dan Campbell’s analytical approach after the 41-33 loss to the San Francisco 49ers seemed almost void of emotion. 

Of course he wanted to win in his debut as coach of the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Sunday, but he put a finger on why that didn’t happen against a solid 49ers team.

The Lions dug a hole — they were behind 31-10 at the half and 38-10 in the third quarter. The deficit spelled doom. Not gloom and doom -— just doom.

They clawed back and with seconds left on the clock had a chance to tie the game. It didn’t happen, but they were in it until the end. 

“One of the things I wanted to make sure we did in this game was continue to play and give yourself a chance at the end of the game. We did do that,’’ Campbell said in his post-game presser. “Now you don’t picture it being that or you’re going to throw it 57 times, but ultimately our guys played until the end, they didn’t throw their palms up, they didn’t start sulking. And they just went back to work and found a way to get back into this game.’’

The defense played better in the second half and the offense found a way to score. Special teams kicked in by recovering a late onside kick.

“We gave ourselves a chance. Our margin for error is so small, it’s just the way we are and the way we’re built. We don’t have the luxury of making some of the mistakes we made and being able to win. So we’ve got to clean that up, we’ll clean it up,’’ Campbell said with a certain confidence.

Five things to know about the loss to San Francisco:

1. Campbell’s aggressiveness was evident early on. In the first quarter he went for it twice on fourth downs. On fourth-and-2 from San Francisco’s 35, Jamaal Williams couldn’t convert. Then on fourth-and-1 from the 49ers’ 17, Jared Goff converted with a 7-yard pass to Tyrell Williams and then the Lions scored their first touchdown on Goff’s 6-yard pass to T.J. Hockenson. “I felt like we needed to do that in this game, I think every game has its own challenges and its own unique floor plan if you will. I felt like it was important to try to create some momentum and I know 3 wasn’t going to be good enough to beat this team,’’ Campbell said.  “I don’t second-guess those, I was trying to be aggressive but smart at the same time.’’ The Lions were 2-of-5 on fourth downs.

2. In his Detroit debut, Jared Goff finished 38 of 57 for 338 yards, 3 touchdowns and one interception. The interception — he was trying to get the ball to T.J. Hockenson and held on too long — was returned for a touchdown making it all the worse. “All in all when you put 57 passes on a guy, relative to the way the game was going, he gave us a chance to come back,’’ Campbell said. “I’ll say that. At the end he gave us a chance. I’d like to believe if we could keep ourselves out of that situation our odds are even better.’’ Goff obviously has faith in Hockenson who had 8 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.

3. Running backs Jamaal Williams (9 carries, 54 yards) and D’Andre Swift (11 carries 39 yards) much of it in the first half. In the second half with such a deep deficit, the gameplan was thrown out the window and Goff was forced to throw early and often. Williams got the start and then Swift, who missed weeks of practice with a groin, stepped in. “Jamaal has been the rock because he’s been there every day. He’s been steady, he’s been sound. We know exactly what he is. He’s been very durable and dependable. That showed again today. He was exactly who we knew he would be and there’s value in that,’’ Campbell said. “Swift hasn’t practiced a ton. Now, we got him back, and you could see what he could do when you get him back. But there were things that Swift was able to do—that screen that he took to the house was something special. But it’s clear that he’s missed some practice. He was rusty. There were little things to his game that he can—and will be so much better now that he’s got this game under his belt. He’ll just get a little better and a little better and a little better. So look, I’m encouraged with that,’’ the coach added.

4. Rookie Penei Sewell lined up at practice at right tackle almost exclusively since the start of camp. When left tackle Taylor Decker injured his finger and underwent surgery last week, Sewell was moved to left tackle even though Campbell had a few other options.  “Ultimately, we felt like we knew that matchup would be (Nick) Bosa over there, who was – we all know the type of player he is. We just felt like, athletically, (Sewell) was the best matchup for him knowing he would get a dose of him and he is. He’s powerful, he’s big, he’s explosive, I’m talking about Sewell and he’s played some left tackle in college. I mean, that’s what he had done and I know he embraced it,’’ Campbell said. “Like, he was really excited to go back to the left. So, it just felt like the right move and from that standpoint, we felt like he performed pretty well.’’ Going up against Bosa in an NFL debut is one huge challenge but Sewell didn’t back down. “Can’t let the name on the back of that jersey beat me, so going in I gotta just focus on just kind of looking at them as another person and go from there,’’ Sewell said. Campbell said late in the second quarter he was going to say something into the headset about how well Sewell was playing but he didn’t want to jinx him.

5.  On the 49ers first snap on offense, Jimmy Garoppolo fumbled and it was recovered by Detroit’s Jamie Collins. But after that, Detroit’s defense didn’t get a stop until the third quarter. The hole they dug was just too deep for the offense to overcome. Cornerback Jeff Okudah couldn’t finish the game and was carted off with an injury. Campbell said it’s either his ankle or Achilles, the test results were not in. “I would say for Jeff it was an up and down game, he flashes on a few plays you’re like, ‘Whoa, OK there he is.’ Next thing you know something happens. I don’t want to make excuses but at the same time he’s in Year 2, he made some young errors,’’ Campbell said. The defense cracked down only allowing 10 points in the second half but it was too late.

NEXT UP: Lions at Packers, 8:15 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 20.

Lions draft pick Penei Sewell never will forget his humble beginnings

Humble beginnings provide a driving force for many NFL players.

It’s the same for Penei Sewell, the Lions first-round draft pick.

When he first learned how to play football, his family lived on an island called Malaeimi, on the outskirts of Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa in the south Pacific. He was 10 years old, just 10 years ago

He, his mom, dad and three brothers lived in a makeshift one-bedroom shack. It was pink. Sewell seems to look back on that time in his life fondly.

His father never wants him to forget it. So he gave Penei and his other three sons a watch. In the case there’s a photo of that home and words about the importance of family.

“I remember when he gave it to me and I was a little emotional. I look at that image in the watch every single day and that reminds me of where I came from, it reminds me of why I do this, it reminds me of everything it took to get here,’’ Sewell said on Saturday in a media call. “It helps me motivate myself each and every day, it gets me out of bed to look at mom and dad in the eyes and see where we were. again it’s a different motivation, ready to go out there and show.’’

His dad, Gabe, was a high school football coach on the island so he and his brothers would tag along, and hang out on the sidelines.

In 2012, looking for a better future for their sons and amidst health issues for the father, the family moved to St. George, Utah, near Gabe’s sister.

By then the four Sewell brothers had picked up the sport of football and their parents hoped the game could lead to a better life.

Today 20-year-old Penei Sewell is in the NFL. He flew into Detroit with his family on Friday.

“When I came in I thought the NFL was all the same and it’s a business aspect, but I was totally wrong, I came into a family atmosphere, everybody with open arms, greeting me with love,’’ Sewell said. “It put me in shock for a little bit and I was like, ‘OK this is something I would love to be a part of and this is something I dreamed to be a part of, to have people in the room like that.’ It just makes me want to go harder and sacrifice everything for them.’’

There was no question that Sewell, who is 6-foot-5 and 331 pounds, was a Top 10 draft prospect. GM Brad Holmes said he has had his eye on him since 2019. He started at Oregon when he was just 17, he won the Outlander Trophy as best offensive lineman in the country in 2019, then opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID.

Campbell said a Zoom call with Sewell on Tuesday sealed the deal. It was not an Xs and Os session.

“It was outstanding, it was all we needed, it was perfect and we knew this guy was a fit. He was everything that we’re about,’’ Campbell said.

“It’s not everyday you can find an athlete who is his size and has his temperament. This is a tough dude who knows how to play nasty and he can protect the quarterback. That’s what you’re looking for when you’re trying to go build a foundation on the offensive line. He’s going to fit like a glove,’’ the coach added.

Sewell said they were trying to find out the kind of person he is.

“It was real, real genuine talk. Nothing about football, just trying to see my character and how I approach things and how I approach the game of football and so forth,’’ Sewell said. “The conversation was really genuine.”

Sewell has a previous connection to Hank Fraley, the Lions offensive line coach. When Fraley was with UCLA he tried to recruit Sewell. He was the only scout that actually went to one of his high school games and he definitely remembers him.

Holmes said they expect Sewell will start at right tackle, He’ll be the third first-round pick on the line, along with Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow.

“It’s a dream come true, I’m living my dream and I’m walking in a dream right now. It’s crazy,’’ Sewell said. “It’s crazy to see where we’re at and to walk the path we’re walking right now, it’s unbelievable and I’m soaking it all up every second, I’m not wasting a thing here, I’m trying to see everything and meet every one.’’

It’s kind of funny that football wasn’t love at first sight for Sewell when he was 10.

“One of my first memories was when Little League just started up there and I was about 10 years old, the league went up to the age of 13 or 14 and there were some big 13 and 14 year olds on the island back then,’’ Sewell said. “”And they weren’t too friendly. I remember at practice going against all them big boys, it wasn’t fun. I didn’t like the sport for a minute just because I was getting picked on by all of them. Yeah so I was really small and getting picked on. That’s my first memory.’’

Now 10 years later he’s building good football memories. This time it’s unlikely anyone in the NFL will pick on him.

Lions draft OL Penei Sewell with 7th-overall pick

Prior to the NFL draft, new Lions GM Brad Holmes said he wanted players who loved the game of football.

Well he’s one-of-one so far after drafting offensive lineman Penei Sewell (Oregon) with the seventh overall pick on Thursday night.

“It’s a way of life for me, not  just a game,’’ Sewell said on a Zoom call shortly after his name was called.

The 20-year-old said the Lions didn’t show too much interest in him until later in the process and then they wanted to get to know him as a person.

He was visibly excited and ready to get to work.

“The fit is awesome, the way coach (Dan) Campbell  kind of approaches the game is the way I like to come – real physical each and every day, get better that way,’’ said Sewell who started 20 of the 21 games he played for the Ducks. He opted out of the 2020 season.

He’s familiar with some of the offensive lineme including Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow and Tyrell Crosby who was at Oregon during his time there.

“To be a part of that room and to be able to join them is a blessing,’’ Sewell said. That’s a lot of knowledge and a lot of years in that room, coming in I’m going to soak it all up and be a sponge.’’

When the Lions made the pick, a TV camera picked up the celebration in the Lions war room at Allen Park. You saw plenty of hugging and jumping around in the Lions war room with Holmes, Campbell, owner Sheila Ford Hamp and others.

Sewell, who grew up in American Samoa, started his first game at Oregon when he was just 17 years old. His young age could be a factor moving forward when he’ll be negotiating his second contract when he’s just 23.

“To be honest I haven’t even started yet, that’s how I feel there’s a lot to  do, there’s a lot to be done and the sky’s the limit,’’ Sewell said. “I’m ready to tap into the potential and ready to go to work to fulfill the dream.’’

At 6-foot-5 and 331 pounds, he also made a little history. According to this NFL draft profile, the last time a 20-year old offensive lineman was drafted in the top 10 was Tyron Smith in 2011. Needless to say, that worked out for the Dallas Cowboys. Sewell is not Smith. He’s much thicker, yet somehow is able to move just as quickly.

Plenty of speculation had him going to Cincinnati with the fifth overall pick, but the Bengals chose WR Ja’Marr Chase.

The Lions have five more picks in the next two days, starting at 7 p.m. on Friday.

Round 2: No. 41

Round 3: No. 72

Round 3: No. 101 (from Rams)

Round 4: No. 112

Round 5: No. 153