It’s hard to say anything went right for the Detroit Lions on Sunday in their 44-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The offense didn’t put up any points until garbage time, the defense allowed the Eagles to score on five straight possessions, four of which were touchdowns, and there were even some special teams gaffes.
Head coach Dan Campbell didn’t pull any punches in his press conference. When everything—literally everything—goes wrong in one game, that falls on the coach’s head.
“I felt like we got outcoached today,” Campbell said. “We got outplayed across the board. That starts with me. It really does. You don’t play that bad with a number of guys and areas, and turn the ball over, and (commit) penalties, and it’s low energy. You don’t do that unless that comes from the top, so that’s on me. I did not set the tone or the tempo properly, obviously. Because that was bad. We didn’t give ourselves a chance.”
It wasn’t just getting outplayed by the Eagles that hurt the Lions, there were also far too many self-inflicted wounds. Detroit missed a field goal, dropped passes, and were caught with 12 men on the field a couple of times against the Eagles. Perhaps most impactful of all, the Lions had a 35-yard play to Amon-Ra St. Brown erased by an illegal formation penalty—a completely avoidable mistake.
“There again, that’s on me,” Campbell continued. “For them to do that, we obviously didn’t teach it well enough, because that is a Day 1 deal there.”
Campbell also didn’t let himself off the hook for his clock management. Specifically, after the Lions had moved into field goal possession at the end of the half, they let too much time off the clock, leaving them in a tough situation. Go for it on fourth-and-1 with 13 seconds left from the Eagles’ 22-yard line, or kick a field goal to make it 17-3. He chose to go for it and Jared Goff was sacked, leaving the Lions scoreless for yet another half.
“I hate what I did before halftime,” Campbell admitted. “Freakin’ hate it. Hate it. I don’t hate going for it, but I should have used a timeout going into third-and-1. So that didn’t help either.”
The natural question after a performance like that is whether the head coach has lost the locker room or whether his message is clearly making its way to the players. While Campbell initially brushed that off when a reporter asked him if the message was sticking, he did give it a second thought.
“I’m not worried about my message. Now—well, I guess maybe I should be worried about my message, right?” Campbell said. “When you come out and play like this, that’s why you’re asking that, right? I’m not worried about losing this team. I’m not worried about that. I am worried about that I didn’t deliver the right message to get them ready to go. That’s what I’m worried—that’s what concerns me about what I did.”
Campbell did find one positive in Sunday’s “sea of trash” (his words). Deep into the fourth quarter, he saw Jalen Reeves-Maybin still fighting, still competing, still trying to make a play. How much of the team still has that attitude? Campbell’s not sure yet, but he believes that’s what part of this rebuild (my word) is for: finding the guys who will fight through adversity, and finding those who won’t.
“That’s what part of this is. You’re looking to find out who those guys are that maybe don’t respond too well to this,” Campbell said.
Ultimately, Campbell admitted this bye week is coming at a good time, because it will allow him to do a full reevaluation of his players, but mostly his staff.
“The good news is that we’re at a bye and I’ve got about a week now where I can really, really dive into this and just take it for what it is. We know a lot of the issues, but now I can sit back and say, “Alright, let me look at all of it. Let me look at exactly where we’re deficient, where we’re not, where we can help.’ And I go back to this: where can we help ourselves schematically? Where can we help these players we have be better than they are? Where are we better suited to put some players (differently from) where they’re right now or what we’re asking them to do?”