DETROIT (AP) — Coach Dan Campbell talked Monday about some of the positives he took out of his Detroit Lions’ 24-6 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
In 2021, the Lions had the 31st-ranked scoring defense in the NFL, allowing 27.5 points per game, and this year was even worse.
In Detroit’s 1-3 start, they allowed an average of 35.3 points.
In road losses to New England and Dallas they’ve given up 53 total points, but they’ve looked competitive. The Patriots scored a defensive touchdown and Dallas got short fields after five Lions turnovers, and Detroit’s defense kept them in the game.
“We’re climbing out of a hole, and I’m encouraged by our defense,” Campbell said on Monday. “It’s hard to lose, but boy, you watch the way they played yesterday and that’s exactly how we practiced. It was high energy, it was intense, and they were urgent.”
Unfortunately for Campbell, who is now 4-18-1 in his Lions career, his high-flying offense struggled just as the defense showed signs of life. Detroit averaged more than 30 points and 400 yards in the first four games, ranking near the top of the league, but only managed a pair of field goals in Dallas after being shut out by the Patriots.
Jared Goff has turned the ball over six times in two games, including a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by the Patriots before two interceptions and two fumbles in Dallas.
Campbell isn’t putting all the blame on his quarterback, though. Injuries have forced Goff to play without his two biggest playmakers — running back D’Andre Swift and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.
“I think there’s a number of things to that,” he said. “The injuries at the receiver position has done a little bit and I think not having Swift has hurt a little bit because you lose a little explosiveness in the run game. We’ve also had to figure out some things on the O-Line, and that’s been a little unsettling. That’s hard, but that’s the task we’ve been given.”
Goff, though, wasn’t making excuses.
“We can’t do that — the defense played their tails off and gave us a great chance to win the game,” he said Sunday. “We didn’t do our part offensively, and that’s definitely something we need to fix. That starts with me.”
The Lions are hoping to have Swift and St. Brown back on Sunday against Miami.
After allowing 1,160 passing yards in their first four games — an average of 290 — the Lions held both the Patriots and Cowboys under 200. They didn’t get a sack against New England, but did put Bailey Zappe under some pressure, and rookie Aidan Hutchinson had 1 1/2 sacks of their two sacks against Dak Prescott.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
In his second year as Detroit’s starter, Goff has lacked the ability to consistently bring the team to a victory — something his predecessor, Matthew Stafford, was forced to do almost every week.
Even in the hot offensive start, the running game was providing most of the big plays, and with Swift and St. Brown missing, there hasn’t been anything.
DE Josh Paschal made his NFL debut after off-season hernia surgery cost him the entire preseason and the first five regular-season games. Paschal had two tackles while playing 56 defensive snaps against the Cowboys.
“That was very encouraging, because he brings something to us from an explosiveness standpoint,” Campbell said. “He has a high motor, and as he gets into game condition, you’ll see more of that.”
Defensive captain Michael Brockers was a healthy scratch, one game after Campbell benched starting cornerback Amani Oruwariye.
“He provides a tremendous amount of leadership to us, and he’s helped the room in multiple areas, but we felt like with getting (John) Cominsky and Paschal back, that was the right lineup for us,” he said. “He’s ready when we need him.”
St. Brown started the game after recovering from a high ankle sprain, but was pulled by the league’s concussion observers after showing unsteadiness after a hit. He remains in concussion protocol, but has passed all tests and is expected to be available against the Dolphins.
Nine — Goff’s turnovers in the first six games, including two returned for touchdowns. While Detroit’s defense is improving, it isn’t in position to carry the offense to victory. The Lions need both sides of the ball to step up if they want to avoid another lost season.
Get Swift and St. Brown healthy and find a way to limit Goff’s mistakes.
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