AllenPark – Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell would prefer his words weren’t as prophetic as they ultimately were, but he clearly had a pretty good idea of how the Philadelphia Eagles would attack his team’s defense.
In last season’s team matchup, the Eagles ran wild, rushing for 236 yards and four touchdowns. In the absence of proof that the Lions had figured out the recipe for slowing down that ground play, Campbell expected more of the same in this year’s season opener.
“If I’m her, I’ll do the same,” Campbell said last week. “We’ll come back and attack you the same way and see if you fixed any of your problems. Now they’re going to make a few tweaks here and there, but I mean I’d fully expect them to come in and see if we’ve got our problems sorted out.”
And that’s exactly what the eagles did with the same success in the 38:35 victory on Sunday. This time they rushed for 216 yards and another four touchdowns.
After reviewing the film from repeated showings, Campbell recognized the classic pitfalls of inconsistent gap accountability, poor tackling and missed tasks, all of which are quickly magnified when trying to defend a double-threat quarterback who is eager is to take advantage of all of the above.
“Firstly, we can’t keep our feet on the guy,” Campbell said. “And it doesn’t matter that he’s the quarterback; You have to finish on the quarterback. When he’s running with the football, you can’t worry, ‘Is he going down? Is not he? How will he walk? This?’ Treat him like a running back.”
Campbell also noted that he needs to better hammer out individual responsibilities for each game, as many glitches occur when a defender tries to do too much, ultimately pulling him out of position.
The coach cited last year’s game against Baltimore as proof of concept, when the Lions held the Baltimore Ravens to 116 rushing yards with an equally deadly double-threat QB.
“Our guys are looking at it right now and they’re seeing everything we’ve talked about and preached about and man just do your job,” Campbell said. “Literally just trust and just refine your task. … I have to prepare them better and look better for it. I have to do a better job of making a quarterback that can give them that. We did a few things, but in my opinion it wasn’t enough. That falls on me.
Players understand the principle of doing nothing more than their job, but when things are moving in real time and nothing seems to be going right on defense, it can be easy to lose focus on discipline, said defensive end Austin Bryant in Detroit.
“It can be difficult sometimes, especially in a game like this where we need someone to make a game; we need some kind of spark,” Bryant said. “Guys might sometimes reach out to be that spark or make that game, but at the end of the day, you don’t want to do anything that you haven’t practiced before.”
Luckily for the Lions, it should be several weeks before they encounter another quarterback anywhere near as agile as Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts.
And that’s welcome news for Bryant and the Lions’ revised defensive line, who failed to lock down Hurts even in the opener.
“We definitely like a statue back there, someone to sit still and let us flatten our ears and rush, but that wasn’t the case this week,” Bryant said. “(When Hurts) feels the pressure, he’s out. So it’s tough. It’s tough playing against a kid like that. Has a lot of respect for him and he has the better hand on Sunday.”