Lions pull off huge 20-17 win over Jets to keep playoff hopes alive

It’s a sign of maturation and growing confidence that the Lions grabbed a big road win when they needed it most.

Detroit fought for a crucial 20-17 win at the N.Y. Jets on Sunday to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Lions have now won six of their last seven, three straight and three straight road games. After a 1-6 start, they’re amazingly at 7-7.

“It feels great, it does. You’ll never take away from winning, not in this league. I told our guys nobody knows that better than we do,’’ Campbell said.” We’re not going to talk trash about a win, a win is a win and we’ll take that because we earned that. But the reality is moving forward we do have to clean a few of these things up that could have cost us today. A win feels great. The guys, they believe. Now here we go  this is another win but we had to find a different way to win. Every time that happens, you continue to grow and figure things out and your confidence grows.’’

Halftime adjustments can be huge whether Xs and Os or otherwise. Campbell said he talked to the team at the half because he felt they were making some mistakes because they were afraid to fail.

“More than anything that to me is going to be critical, I don’t think it’s about taking the cheese, all of that, because we can play, we’ve got a good enough team to play,’’ Campbell said . “Our deal has got to be we can’t become so tense and start doing things we weren’t doing (previously). There’s a reason we’ve gotten to this point and we’re beginning to win. If we start becoming too tense and uptight, so afraid we’re going to lose, you’re not going to win that way. We’re getting better as a team.’’

Five of the reasons the Lions won:

1. Late in the fourth, down 17-13, on a fourth-and-inches play,, Jared Goff connected with tight end Brock Wright for a 51-yard touchdown play. It gave the Lions a 20-17 lead which they were able to hold onto. It seemed the offense had played more conservatively most of the game, so that call caught a few by surprise including the Jets. “It’s a great call, it’s an easy read, an easy completion if we do it right and we did it right,’’ Jared Goff said. “We’ve got Brock with some speed, didn’t know he’d be that open, but when they are it’s pretty good.’’ Wright got some key blocks and was able to get into the end zone. It was his only catch of the game, he had dropped one earlier but that had not eroded confidence in him from Goff or the coaches.

2. After that touchdown, with 1:49 left all the Jets needed was a field goal to tie. Quarterback Zach Wilson had been erratic but had connected on several chunk plays. The defense held them just enough so their field goal attempt was from 58 yards. It was no good. “We stopped them, we came up with some critical sacks, hurries, we covered well. It was great and I think that’s part of the maturing process, the growth, everything,’’ Campbell said. “I don’t know if we would have made those plays early in the year — something would have gone the other way — but that just shows we’re getting more mature, we’re becoming more disciplined in the critical moments.’’

3. The Lions offense wasn’t as prolific as in recent games, but give the Jets defense credit. They are tough and the Lions expected that and they got it. Goff finished 23 of 38 for 252 yards and one touchdown. “We hadn’t done much offensively the whole game, specifically the second half hadn’t really done anything. I certainly wasn’t playing my best ball in the second half,’’ Goff said. But then he hit Wright on that touchdown play.  

4. Zach Wilson was sacked four times and the pressure was on most of the game. Romeo Okwara, who was playing in just his second game this season, had a pair of sacks. John Cominsky had a huge sack on the Jets’ final drive on a second-and-10 play that pushed the Jets back 8 yards. Rookie James Houston set off the sack fest in the first quarter on a third-and-2 play. It was Houston’s fifth sack in four games. Campbell said he was happy to have Okwara back and expects he’ll be even better next week.

5. Punt returner/wide receiver Kalif Raymond was given a game ball. His punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter got the Lions on the board. He also had five catches for 53 yards. “He’s our Iron man,’’ Campbell said.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions.)

(Next up: Lions (7-7) at Carolina Panthers (5-8) who lost 24-16 to the Steelers on Sunday.)


Five things to watch as Lions face Jets in crucial game; plus prediction

Meaningful football in December continues for the Lions on Sunday when they play at the N.Y. Jets. “We’re both jockeying for playoff positions, this is critical for both of us,’’ LIons coach Dan Campbell said. “This is a heavyweight fight. I love our O-line and this is a worthy, quality opponent, especially their front. This is going to be pretty fun.’’

The Lions (6-7) have won five of their last six, making them one of the NFL’s hottest teams. However they’re making up for the 1-6 start. A win over the Jets would increase their odds of a postseason berth. 

Meanwhile, the Jets (7-6) have lost three of their last four and are just 3-3 at home. After being benched for three games, Zach Wilson will get the start at quarterback.

Five things to watch:

1. The Jets’ defense is its strength front to back. “This is a defense that makes you earn anything you can get,’’ Campbell said. “Our offense, we have our work cut out for us. It’s the strength of this team. …Top to bottom our receivers are going to have to fight to get off the ball, they’re going to have to fight for separation and our O-line is going to have to finish in the pass game and the run game.’’ The stingy Jets allow just 18.7 points per game which is rated sixth in the NFL. The Lions offense has scored an average of 32 points in the last five games. Something’s got to give.

2. Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, who was benched three weeks ago, will get the start with Mike White’s rib injuries keeping him out. The quarterback decision was announced on Friday. Campbell said it doesn’t make much difference which guy they face. “So, we’re ready. We knew (Wilson) was going in the game anyway, so we figured they were going to play him. So, it’s really – same thing, man, it’s about being disciplined and we know what kind of game this will be, what they’re going to want to do offensively,’’ Campbell said. “So, we’ve got to play our keys, we’ve got to be disciplined. We’ve got to run, we’ve got to hit, all the same things that we know here.”

3. No question Jared Goff is tough too but he’s been protected by an offensive line that is one of the NFL’s best. He’s been sacked just 19 times this season and just four times in the last four games. Goff (22 touchdowns, 7 interceptions) has gone five games without throwing a pick and feels he is playing the best ball of his career. While the offense is rolling up the numbers, the run game needs to be more effective. “I think in the last few weeks, it’s a number of things when you look at the few games, offensive line, it might just be aiming points or angles, targeting is always a big thing. Receivers, at times, just making sure they’re taking care of their force responsibilities and then making sure our running backs are seeing the holes properly,’’ offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said. “Each play’s got an intent to it, and the more we meet together, and we’re all aligned, I think the vision comes together, so end of the day, we’ve been able to move the ball and score points on offense, so certainly, an area for us to improve though.”

4. One way to beat the Jets’ defense is with speed. Rookie Jameson Williams will play his third game in the NFL and Campbell said the point of emphasis is easy: Speed all the time. Williams scored his first NFL touchdown on his first NFL catch with a 41-yard play early in the win over the Vikings last Sunday. Look for him to get more work at the Jets. “Certainly getting the touchdown with him was good, it was what you would expect. It was better than the week before but he’s got a ways to go like anybody would who hadn’t played a ton of football in this league and he will,’’ Campbell said. “He’s very coachable. … Certainly we like where he’s going, it was better and we expect it to be even better this week.’’

5. It’s key for the Lions to play their game, the way they have in the past six weeks. In that stretch Campbell has done a good job of keeping them focused on the next opponent, not the big picture. The veterans will need to keep the young guys in line and the rookies will have to respect their “elders” to go on the road and get a huge win. They know they can do it – they beat the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 20 – they just have to prove themselves again.

INS and OUTS: LB Derrick Barnes (ankle) and guard Kayode Awosika (ankle) have been ruled out. Defensive lineman Michael Brockers (illness) is doubtful. Fullback Jason Cabinda (ankle), cornerback Mike Hughes (illness), defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson (illness) and center Frank Ragnow (foot) are all questionable. Everyone else is a go.

PREDICTION: Lions 31, Jets 24.