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Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell explains why he took over play calling duties

It was a mixed bag from Campbell’s true play-calling debut.

Detroit Lions v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Last week, Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell said he wanted to be more involved in the offense after the team struggled to score through the first half of the season. When asked what exactly that meant, Campbell was mostly elusive, simply saying that he wants to be closer to Jared Goff and in on more offensive meetings.

Well, come Sunday afternoon, Campbell was a lot more involved than he led on. Against the Steelers, Campbell was calling the offensive plays and was the only coach with a direct line to Goff. He wasn’t just relaying plays from offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, he was calling the plays himself.

Campbell attempted to downplay the change in strategy, insisting the play calling process remained a collaborative effort.

“Honestly, I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Campbell said. “There were still things I was giving to A. Lynn when he was calling. It’s just now I took the green dot basically to Goff so I could communicate to him. So I’ll still grab some calls from them. I’ll use my own calls. It was a joint effort by all those guys.”

This matches what Lynn said prior to Sunday’s game when asked about Campbell’s increased influence on the offense. The Lions offensive coordinator mentioned that Campbell has already been calling some plays this season, which is common for offensive-minded head coaches.

“He has been involved the whole time anyway,” Lynn said on Thursday. “He’s called plays during games, as most offensive head coaches do. When I was in his shoes, I did that a lot.”

So why the increased role this week against the Steelers?

“One of the things was why not change it up a little bit here?” Campbell said. “I wanted to be able to talk to (Goff) in game. Sometimes I think when you’re able to get in the flow of the game when you’re the guy who’s calling it.”

On one hand, the strategy worked. The Lions had their most successful day running the football, rushing for 229 yards and two scores at an impressive 5.9 yards per carry. They controlled the football for much of the game, and were a 48-yard field goal away from beating a tough Steelers team on the road—where they hadn’t won since 1955.

On the other hand, the passing game was at its worst. Jared Goff completed just 14 of 25 passes for 114 yards. The Lions also were completely unwilling to even try to throw the ball in some obvious situations, choosing to run five different times on third-and-4 or longer. They converted on just one of those plays.

Some of their playcalling was dictated by two critical factors: an early oblique injury to quarterback Jared Goff and nasty, rain weather that made passing the ball difficult.

“I think it was weather and it was a little bit of him,” Campbell said. “It was both really. You know, we had an idea the weather was going to go this way, particularly last night. It was confirmed. So we were set up to (run the ball a lot) if need be, but I don’t think we necessarily saw it being quite that much.”

So what will the Lions do going forward? Will Lynn get the headset back next week or will Campbell maintain play-calling duties. The Lions aren’t sure yet.

“I don’t know. We’ll see,” Campbell said. “Just kind of analyze it. I need to see what I did, what I can do better. Is there a better way to go or — just kind of go from there.”