Detroit Lions fans learn a lot about the squad with another tough loss
Free Press sports editors Dave Birkett and Jeff Seidel break down the Detroit Lions’ 19-17 loss to the Vikings on October 10, 2021 in Minneapolis.
Dave Birkett and Jeff Seidel, Detroit Free Press
MINNEAPOLIS – Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell stepped onto the podium with heart and tears in his eyes.
“It was tough,” Campbell said Sunday afternoon after the Vikings beat the Lions 19-17 on a last-second field goal. “I was proud of the way the guys fought – that’s the first thing I said to them.”
His voice broken by emotion, and it looked like his heart had been ripped out of his chest.
It’s amazing what being a Lions coach can do to a guy.
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“It’s hard to be 0-5; it’s hard to lose like that again, ”said Campbell. “But I was proud of them, man. You can’t find a way to get back into a game and get to where we were at, if you don’t believe and give your all that you had.
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That’s a good point. Give them credit for it. If nothing else, this team is playing hard. The Lions were down by 10, 16-6, with three minutes left. But they didn’t give up. They continued to fight – only to stumble into grief again, losing on another last-second field goal, their second in three weeks.
“We just made more of a mistake than them and it cost us,” said Campbell.
Problem is, I don’t know what error he was talking about.
Maybe he was talking about quarterback Jared Goff, who made two turnovers at the red zone limit.
Maybe he was talking about the defense that couldn’t stop the Vikings in their last practice. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins made two huge plays, hitting Adam Thielen on 21 yards and then again on 19 to set up a 54-yard field goal from Greg Joseph to win him at the end of the time limit.
At least this one has been cleaned up. He didn’t have to bounce off the crossbar – or your heart – to pass, like NFL record Justin Tucker’s 66-yard field goal, which doomed the Lions, 19-17, on September 26.
Yes, the same result. The same note.
It was like a “Groundhog Day” Lions-centric reboot.
Play horribly, make mistakes, offer a little hope, tease a whole fan base … and find a way to lose in the end.
Yes, we have seen this movie before.
Too many times to count.
“I was proud of them and love the grain,” Campbell said. “When your defense plays this way, you have a chance to win every game. I thought our defense was dead today.”
It’s one way of looking at it.
Yes, the Lions defense kept this game close.
Then again, the Vikings aren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut, especially without Dalvin Cook, who came out with an ankle injury. Even without their star star, the Vikings have run for 120 yards, slightly above their average this season. During that time, they had passed for 264 yards, just below their average of 270.3 yards.
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So it wasn’t like the Lions were playing a good defense to stop the Vikings.
Vikings are fair not good.
These were two bad teams playing bad football, struggling their way through a horrific game, as fake snowflakes floated from the ceiling of US Bank Stadium.
“It’s tough,” Campbell said. “You want it for these players. They’re out there breaking their asses. You know, it’s hard.
It looked like the Lions’ efforts were going to crumble until Jalen Reeves-Maybin made things interesting, snatching the ball from Alexander Mattison’s grip and giving the Lions a chance with less than two minutes to go.
As Goff stepped onto the field, Campbell told him, “When we score, we aim for two runs. “
Three plays later, D’Andre Swift scored on a 7-yard run.
“I felt the best way to win this game was to go for the two points,” said Campbell. “We worked on it this week. I trusted Goff. I trusted the O line. I trusted our receivers and our full backs. For me, it was an easy decision to make.
The Lions called a play they had been practicing all week. Only there was a problem. In training, Goff threw at Quintez Cephus.
But Cephus was hurt.
So KhaDarel Hodge took over.
And Goff hit him for two runs, giving the Lions a 17-16 lead.
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“It speaks to our guys,” Goff said. “I don’t know if KhaDarel Hodge ran the road – ever. I think it was Cephus all the time in practice. Then Cephus comes down and KhaDarel steps in. He’s a smart player and knows what to do and opens up. It indicates the type of guy we have.
What kind of guy are Lions?
This is a loaded question.
It’s a team that needs wide receivers, needs defensive backs and needs a lot more talent.
And nothing will change until they improve their list.
Grief is not a currency
Over the next few days, a lot will be done about Campbell’s decision-making.
Want to know why the Lions chose two?
Because Campbell had a chance to win this game. A game. And it had worked in practice. It seems like a smart move. I liked it.
Want to know why the Lions only rushed three players to the final disc?
Because rushing to four, Campbell said, would have put too much pressure on his weak defensive backs. He didn’t say that, exactly, but that’s what I think he meant.
Perhaps one decision will be seen as aggressive and the other conservative.
But that’s not how I see it: I see a guy who tries to win by any means possible and makes decisions based on his talent – he knows he has a low secondary and his attack is … sporadic, to put it mildly.
“We’re not quite there,” Campbell said. “We haven’t quite got over the bump. In the long run, I think it’s going to pay us dividends. As ugly as it is right now, as hard to swallow, I think we’re building something special here that’s going to serve us well in the long run.
This is where I have to stop it.
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I love his passion. I like his emotion and his honesty.
But Lions fans have been here before.
Lions fans know one thing: Losing broken hearts doesn’t make players any tougher. It is not a secret path to success.
Grief is not a currency that can be acquired, like gold coins or badges of courage, and turned into good fortune.
If so, the Lions’ last 60 years would make them the most powerful franchise in the NFL.
But as this game ended and fake snowflakes fell from the ceiling, it was like staring into a demented snow globe.
It’s a scene we’ve seen so many times.
And it’s nothing but a cruel joke.
Contact Jeff Seidel: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, visit freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.