clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Dan Campbell defends offensive game plan vs. Bears, wants Jameson Williams more involved

Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell said offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was ‘perfect’ calling the game vs. the Bears. Execution lacked. But Campbell does want to see more Jameson Williams going forward.

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Against the Chicago Bears in Week 14, the Detroit Lions put up one of their worst offensive efforts of the season. Their 13 points scored were the second-fewest of the season, and their 267 yards gained was the lowest of the year. Mix in three turnovers and a 1-in-5 conversion rate on fourth down, and it was a pretty miserable overall performance on Sunday.

However, Lions coach Dan Campbell believes that offensive coordinator Ben Johnson went into the game with the exact right game plan.

“I thought Ben called a great game. I loved what he called,” Campbell said. “It was exactly what I wanted him to call. It was a hell of a job.”

Of course, Campbell isn’t going to throw his offensive coordinator under the bus when asked directly about him. But Campbell seemed earnest in his praise of Johnson, despite the poor outcome of the game.

To his credit, the game plan seemed to work well in the second quarter. Detroit scored touchdowns on both of their possessions that quarter, including an impressive 11-play drive that essentially ended the half and gave the Lions a 13-10 lead going into the third quarter.

“The way we played that first half was perfect,” Campbell said. “We knew what kind of game that was going to be in those elements. We just didn’t execute (in the second half).”

That’s an understatement. Coming out of the half, the Lions’ next five offensive possessions were:

  • Three-and-out, punt
  • Three-and-out, punt
  • Three-and-out, punt
  • 2 plays, fumble
  • Four-and-out (turnover on downs)

That’s a total of 15 plays for 26 yards and a fumble.

By the time they got their next possession in the second half, their 13-10 lead had turned into a 28-13 deficit.

And while there were dropped passes, pre-snap penalties, and blown blocks that were largely to blame for the big offensive drought, it’s also worth wondering if the play-calling was part of the problem.

Detroit continues to run the ball on early downs more often than almost any other team, and it got them into trouble three times in the second half. A second-and-10 run on the first drive of the third quarter picked up just 4 yards and left Detroit in a third-and-6 they couldn’t convert. Skip ahead one offensive drive and a second-and-10 run lost a yard, setting Detroit up for a third-and-11 the Lions couldn’t convert. After the fumble drive, the Lions ran on second-and-8 and lost 2 yards. They managed just 5 yards on the next two plays for a critical turnover on downs.

Perhaps worst of all came on Detroit’s fourth-and-1 attempt early in the fourth quarter. It was still a 12-point game at that point, and if Detroit’s offense could find some life, there was a chance at another comeback. Instead, the Bears seemed to know the play was coming and stopped Gibbs for a 4-yard loss.

“That was an un-scouted (look),” Campbell said after the game. “They gave us a curveball. We didn’t handle it well. They got us.”

Campbell and Johnson have also come under fire for underutilizing 2022 first-round pick Jameson Williams. The young wideout is finally seeing plenty of playing time, but he hasn’t seen more than three targets in a game and hasn’t had more than two touches in a contest for his entire Lions career. Against the Bears, he was just targeted a single time and had a carry go for 4 yards.

“Yeah, we’ll keep working with him. He’s improving,” Campbell said. “We’ll keep working to find some different ways to get him more involved because he is. He’s putting the work in and he’s improving.”

Perhaps Johnson deserves the benefit of the doubt. Despite the recent struggles, the Lions still rank seventh in points scored, seventh in offensive DVOA, and 10th in expected points added per play. Still, there’s no question the overall performance needs to be better going down the stretch as the Lions prepare for their first playoff run in six years.

Subscribe to PODD

After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.