It appears that Detroit Lions second-year head coach Dan Campbell has instilled a sense of hope that success is on the horizon.
The Lions (0-1) fought back again and again yesterday against the Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) before running out of time, losing 38-35.
Here are some of the words from Campbell and some of his players.
Campbell was asked about overcoming some self-inflicted wounds and mistakes in Sunday’s game.
“Yeah I do, because I think about what mistakes did they make – they really didn’t,” He said. “They played well. They executed well. We struggled with their quarterback. Hurts hurt us. So, he’s a good player, but we got to be able to respond to those things. And you know there at the end of that game, we got a chance. It’s fourth down to close it out. You get that ball with about a minute left, no timeouts to get in position to win it. You like those odds. I was proud at how we fought our way back, but we got a lot to clean up.”
The 46-year-old was asked if he thought the defense would handle Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts better
“Yeah I did, I did. We had a lot of I’m almost in position – I am – I got a hand on him and we just couldn’t close it out. Look, I think we will be better for that. You know, you face a guy like that and there was a number of guys out there. It’s the first game of the season, it’s a full game – now you’re in the real tempo, real NFL tempo against real dudes. I think it got on some guys, but they will be better for it. Everybody will be better and will be in a lot better shape after playing after one week.”
Campbell was asked to talk about how Lions defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson played in his first NFL regular season game. Hutchinson recorded just one assisted tackle in his debut against the Eagles.
“Listen here, he’ll be better next week,” He said. “He needed this and they all needed it. Most rookies, that’s the way it goes, you get into your first game and it’s just a little different. And look, I’ve got to watch the tape, but I know that he’ll be better next week than he was this week. And so will (Lions LB Malcolm) Rodriguez and so will all those rookies – so will (Lions S) Kerby (Joseph). And so – that’s just nature of the game.”
Lions running back D’Andre Swift torched the Eagles defense for 144 yards on 15 carries and a TD.
“Look, Swift is one of those players that we have – I – we’ve got some good players, but Swift is – he’s a dynamic player for us and he’s the one guy that can take it anywhere. He can take it to the house from anywhere on the field and I’m glad he’s ours.”
Quarterback Jared Goff seemed to up his game after throwing an interception to James Bradberry that the veteran cornerback returned 27 yards for a touchdown.
The ball was first batted to Bradberry by linebacker Kyzir White.
Goff was crushed within a collapsing pocket on the play by Eagles defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu.
Goff led a comeback that brought the Lions back from a 17-point deficit. Detroit simply ran out of time.
“Yeah, it was tough,: said Goff, who finished 21 of 37 for 215 yards and two TD passes. “We got ourselves back in that game pretty good there. Unfortunately, too little too late, but you want to get back on that field to get another chance at it. We felt like we had some pretty good momentum going on offense and unfortunately didn’t get it.”
The seven-year veteran was asked about struggling in the middle of the game but having a strong start and strong finish.
“Yeah, that’s ultimately what we’ll look at,” Goff said. “That’s probably what hurt us the most, those three-and-outs there in the middle in the second quarter. A lot of mental errors mostly, and stuff that could be cleaned up easily, but stuff that can’t happen on game day. Hopefully we can attribute it to first-game stuff and hopefully next week, stuff like that isn’t happening. But just mental stuff that myself, everyone, can clean up and do better.”
Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone was asked to talk about the emotion that goes behind a loss like what unfolded Sunday.
“I feel like we’ll watch the film and address what we need to clean up,” said Anzalone, who finished with nine total tackles (seven solo) including a tackle for loss. “Obviously, there’s some stuff to clean up. I thought we played hard and played physical and put ourselves in position to win. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to figure out a way to win. This season is a marathon. There are 17 games, so we’ve just got to go through our recovery and watch the film, process it and be ready to move on.”
Anzalone talked about the problems Hurts caused them.
“Yeah, I think in the run game, we did a good job against them,” Anzalone said, despite the stat sheet showing the Birds finished with 216 yards rushing as a team. “It was more of the pass, drop back, scramble situations that we weren’t able to contain him. Obviously, that was a focus and a point of emphasis this week, so we’ve just got to figure out how to be disciplined and our rush lanes and where the help is in coverage situations and get it cleaned up.”
Fletcher Cox should hire Lions guard Logan Stenberg to negotiate his next contract. First he spoke on getting on the field.
He was asked about playing with the first team offensive line today.
“Yeah, it felt great. It validated some hard work that I’ve put in,” the 6-foot-6, 312 pounder said. “It just felt good to get out there with my boys. There’s a lot to clean up, a lot to get better with but it was a good starting point.”
He was asked how challenging it was to face the Eagles’ talented interior defensive line: “No doubt, switching sides and going against Fletcher Cox on your first day isn’t ideal, but I think I got it done. Like I said a lot to learn from.”
Lessons he learned?
“Yeah, its good people every week. It’s not like college. It’s Fletcher Cox this week, (Commanders DT) Daron Payne next week, so it’s—not that I’m looking forward, but it’s every week.”
Lions running back D’andre Swift was asked about how they came out and set the tone the first offensive series.
“We came out, executed well the first drive,” the former St. Joe’s Prep star said. “I feel like we left a lot out there. Too many third, three-and-outs. We just let it slip away from us. We can’t spot them seven right before the half and play from behind. We let it slip away from us.”
On setting a career-high rushing mark…what was working?
“Execution upfront was phenomenal,” Swift said. “Receivers blocking downfield was phenomenal, made my job easy.”
Lions safety Tracy Walker was tossed from the game after leading with his helmet into Hurts who appeared be into a slide.
“I just let my team down. Me, as a team captain, I’ve just got to be better,” Walker said. “I was hot-headed at the moment, and like I said, I’ve just got to make better decisions at the end of the day.”
On if his ejection was due to frustration from the defense’s lack of plays.
“No, I’m just saying, I didn’t see what I was doing at the time," he said. "I didn’t see what I was doing wrong. Like I said, as I walked away, I got pushed in the back, so I reacted. For me, I’ve got to be better. Like I said, I let my team down. It’s a learning experience for me and I will be better from here on out.” *
Email Al Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org