DETROIT (AP) — What Dan Campbell has done to fix the Detroit Lions is simple.
How he got it to work is a lot more complicated.
In Detroit’s 1-6 start, it was minus-5 in turnovers — committing 11 while only forcing six. In the five games since, they have gone 4-1 with a plus-6 margin. They’ve turned the ball over three times — two in their Thanksgiving loss to Buffalo — and forced nine.
“We’re getting better,” Campbell said. “We’re working together better and we’re understanding each other better. As we gain more confidence in what we’re doing, we can open the playbook up a little more and do some more complex things.”
Sunday’s 40-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars was probably Detroit’s most complete game of the season. The offense put up more than 400 yards without a turnover and scored on every completed drive, while the defense held Jacksonville under 300 yards and got an early turnover.
“That’s about as close to the dream as you can get,” Campbell said. “Ideally, it would work that way every week, but it doesn’t work that way. But we got the early takeaway and didn’t have to punt. The only icing on the cake would have been a kick return for a touchdown.”
Jared Goff enjoyed relegating punter Jack Fox to limited duty — no punts — for the day.
“He got his holding in, but that was about it,” Goff said, not crediting Fox for his kickoff duties. “It felt good. The defense forced a turnover on the first drive and we walked right in and scored, and then we did it again on the next drive. At that point, we feel like we can just keep that going.”
The Lions hadn’t scored 40 points or put up 400 yards since a 48-45 loss to Seattle on Oct. 2. Against the Jaguars, the offense played at that level, while the defense went from allowing 48 points on 555 yards to giving up 14 points on 266 yards.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Detroit still needs to find a way to make big plays on offense. Their longest run was only 12 yards, and while D.J. Chark caught a 41-yard pass, the Lions only have one 50-yard reception this season, and that went to TE T.J. Hockenson, who has since been traded to Minnesota. However, WR Jameson Williams, the 12th overall pick in this spring’s draft, made his delayed debut Sunday after recovering from a knee injury sustained in last year’s national championship game.
“Obviously, we wanted to have him out there in April, but right now is great,” Goff said. “He’s a rookie and hasn’t had any reps, but as time goes, he can be that guy. He’s got everything it takes to be a premier threat in this league.”
RB Jamaal Williams. He has 14 rushing touchdowns, one more than he had in his first five seasons combined. Eleven of the 14 have come inside the 5, including eight from the 1, but he also had a 51-yarder against the Seahawks.
The Lions are now a fringe playoff contender, but they still rank last in the NFL in points allowed, yards allowed and first downs allowed. They are 31st in passing touchdowns allowed and average yards allowed per passing attempt. They will need to be better than that to beat Minnesota on Sunday.
The Lions are in their best shape of the season, and hope to get DL Romeo Okwara (Achilles) back Sunday.
198 – the number of losses by the Lions, Tigers, Pistons and Red Wings in 2022. This will be the third time Detroit breaks 200 in the last four years, but the Lions should be able to keep the city from approaching their record-setting performances in 2019 (226) and 2021 (228).
Figure out how to beat the 10-2 Vikings in front of what should be a raucous crowd at Ford Field.
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