Despite the Detroit Lions saying their plan was to play their starters for the first quarter, coach Dan Campbell decided in the middle of the week that he was going to rest quarterback Jared Goff for the preseason opener. He felt Goff was performing well enough at training camp that he had little to prove, so an injury risk was not worth it.
“He was playing pretty good (in training camp), he was in a good spot,” Campbell said. “So we said, ‘Well, if we’re going to sit somebody, maybe we ought to sit Goff.’”
But when Goff heard that the rest of the first-team offense would start against the Atlanta Falcons—including all five starting offensive linemen for the first time since last preseason—he marched into Campbell’s office and demanded he play.
“He came into my office and said, ‘I want to play,’” Campbell recalled. “And I said, ‘Well, you’re not playing.’ He said, ‘Well, if they’re playing, I’m playing.’ And I said, ‘Okay, you’re playing.”
That decision paid off, as the Lions offensive line kept Goff clean, and the entire unit looked like the well-oiled machine we have seen in camp. They kickoff of the game with about as perfect of a drive as you could reasonably expect. The Lions marched 79 yards down field in just 10 plays and capped the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run from D’Andre Swift. Goff went 3-of-4 for 47 yards, with his only incompletion a dropped pass from Jamaal Williams.
Goff not only impressed the fans in the stadium, but his desire to get into the starting lineup earned respect points with the offensive line.
“I love that,” left tackle Taylor Decker said after the game. “You want your quarterback to go out there, he’s like, ‘If my guys are out there, I’m going to go out there and compete and we’re going to go right down the field and score.’ And that’s what we did.”