The Detroit Lions aren’t exactly in a bad spot right now. They’re 8-3 on the season, hold the NFC’s No. 3 seed, and have a 2.5-game lead in their division. Only the Miami Dolphins have as big of a division lead as Detroit right now.
But the way the Lions have played in the past two weeks has caused some anxiety among fans and some doubters among analysts. It took a furious, last-minute comeback to beat the Chicago Bears in Week 11, and on Thanksgiving, the Green Bay Packers handled Detroit pretty thoroughly on both sides of the ball.
Throughout it all, the Lions defense has looked incredibly suspect. Starting from their Week 7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Lions defense has ranked 30th in DVOA and 32nd in expected points added per play. Meanwhile, the Lions offense has turned the ball over 10 times in the past four games. Quite simply, they are not playing their best football right now, despite winning three of their last four games.
But Lions coach Dan Campbell isn’t sweating it. In fact, he’s embracing it.
“I’m not getting worried. I love this,” Campbell said. “I’m serious. I love this. And I love that, man, it’s doom and gloom outside our building and we’ve got six (games) to go. We’ve got an unbelievable opportunity and man, I love it.”
It’s not surprising to hear from Campbell. He seemingly thrives on adversity. He helped navigate the team through a 1-10-1 start to his first season in Detroit, leading to a 3-3 finish. The following year, Campbell held the team and vision together through a 1-6 start, leading to a 6-2 finish and a near playoff run. It’s been over a full year since the Lions have lost back-to-back games.
The one constant from those first two years is that the Lions have played their best football in December, something which Campbell believes this team can do again.
“There’s teams that will begin to rise and teams that will fall out of this. And I love our team,” Campbell said. “I love where we’re at and I know the guys that we have in the locker room, I know these coaches, so this will be good.”
But Campbell did admit it’s hard to know how long adversity will last.
“You don’t know when it’s going to hit. Sometimes it’s September, sometimes it’s October, sometimes it is December. And I don’t think that’s going to happen to us, but who knows?” Campbell said.
“This may just be the beginning of it, and we may have to get through a couple of games before we find our footing again. I don’t think so, but it wouldn’t surprise me either. That’s the nature of this league. So, man, you hit adversity, you reach it, and it either makes you a little bit better of a team or you just crack under it. So, I like where we’re at, we’re going to be good, we’ve got one loss, we’ll respond. This team will be ready to go play in a great environment.”
That rebound opportunity begins this week with a tough road trip against the 5-6 New Orleans Saints. Though the Saints have lost two in a row—and four of the past six—it’s never easy to play in that environment, and New Orleans does one thing that could directly impact one of Detroit’s current struggles: force turnovers.
But, again, Campbell isn’t looking at the challenge as a daunting task, but rather a glorious opportunity.
“They’re very good. It’s a tough place to play too. This is going to be an unbelievable environment, and it’s hard to win there, but it’s exactly what you want,” Campbell said. “I mean this is exactly what you want. This is another one of those—you start talking about these places you get to go play at. Man, we talked about Arrowhead, you talk about going to Lambeau, you get to go to the Superdome. I mean there’s nothing sweeter than this.”