Lions coach Dan Campbell focuses on strong offensive play instead of struggling defense
Mon, Nov 13, 2023
NFL News (AP)
DETROIT (AP) - Coach Dan Campbell knows his defense has to start making plays if the Detroit Lions are going to be a threat to win their first playoff game since the 1990s.
On Monday, though, he was focused on Detroit's success on the other side of the ball.
The Lions offense didn't slow down after the bye, putting up 533 yards in a 41-38 road win over the Los Angeles Chargers.
In their past two games, including a 26-14 victory on Oct. 30, Detroit has put up 1,019 yards, including 422 on the ground.
"Coming off the bye, you want to know you haven't lost your mojo or if it is going to take a little bit to get it back," Campbell said on Monday. "Especially when you are doing it on the road after a long trip. So it was big to get our flow back and find a way to win.
"The offense took a step up, and while the defense took a step back, I know we're about to take three steps up again."
Campbell focused his praise on his offensive line. In the games against the Raiders and Chargers, they've allowed one sack while opening holes for Jahmyr Gibbs and, in Los Angeles, the returning David Montgomery.
"Ultimately, it was the five guys up front who really set the tone," he said. "That's what we need - we tell them they are the engine under the hood that makes us. They checked every box in that game."
Montgomery's return allowed Campbell and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson to diversify the offense. He gives them a power back averaging 4.7 yards per carry, while Gibbs provides outside speed and a significant receiving threat.
"It is hard to just totally, totally rely on one back," Campbell said. "That's a lot of hard miles to put on a guy, asking him for 65 plays a game for 17 games plus the playoffs. It's better if you can share the load, and they have different skill sets and they are able to do different things. That gives us a little more versatility."
Detroit's offensive success isn't limited to the running game. Jared Goff went 23 for 33 for 333 yards and two touchdowns against the Chargers and has averaged 310.5 yards passing over the past four games.
Goff's top playmaker again this season is Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has put together four straight 100-yard games and is on pace for 130 catches and more than 1,600 yards. Josh Reynolds provides a deep threat and rookie tight end Sam LaPorta is averaging five catches and 52.7 yards per game.
Even when the defense accounts for all of them and Gibbs, blocking tight end Brock Wright might pop open on a 25-yard touchdown to help beat the Chargers.
WHAT'S NOT WORKING
While Detroit did escape with a win, its defensive flaws were evident to anyone watching. The Chargers scored 35 points in the game's final 34 minutes. Justin Herbert threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns, but made one key mistake.
"The positive on defense was getting one takeaway that changed the game," Campbell said. "Alex (Anzalone) got in his face and Kerby (Joseph) comes away with a big interception. That proved to be the difference in the game."
Still, allowing 421 yards and 38 points isn't going to beat a lot of teams, especially in January.
No NFL coach goes for it on fourth down as often as Campbell, so after decades of Eddie Murray, Jason Hanson and Matt Prater playing huge roles in Detroit's offense, Riley Patterson often ends up just kicking extra points.
Sunday, though, he came off the bench and finished the game with a perfect 41-yard kick on a day when the defensive struggles would have made overtime a scary proposition.
The Lions have had fewer than two sacks in four of their past five games, and didn't bring down Herbert at all on Sunday. Aidan Hutchinson had three hits, but the only other two were by Anzalone, a linebacker.
After a strong start, the Lions are also struggling against the run, allowing more than 300 yards in the past three games.
The Lions didn't sustain any significant injuries in Los Angeles, and Graham Glasgow continues to fill in well at guard with Halapoulivaati Vaitai sidelined with a back injury.
350 - The Lions have hit 350 yards in eight of their nine games, falling 13 yards short in a 38-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 22.
After flying home from the West Coast, the Lions have their first two NFC North home games in a five-day span. They play the Bears on Sunday and the Packers on Thanksgiving Day. Two victories would give them a commanding lead in the division even with two games left against the surging Vikings.
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