This season has never been easy for Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell.
After all, his team lost its first nine games, and only two wins in the past three weeks have pulled its record to 2-11-1.READ MORE: COVID-19 Vaccines Saved Nearly 20 Million Lives In First Year, Study Says
Monday, though, was supposed to be a rare victory lap. At his weekly news conference, Campbell was able to talk about all the things his team did well in a stunning 30-12 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
The win wasn’t a fluke — the Lions outplayed Arizona in every phase of the game.
However, less than two hours after he spoke to reporters, the team announced quarterback Jared Goff had been placed on the COVID-19 list along with tackle/tight end Matt Nelson.
Goff had been one of the stars of the win over Arizona, throwing three touchdown passes and averaging a season-high 8.3 yards per passing attempt. Nelson, who plays as a blocking tight end in Detroit’s “Jumbo” offense, has helped the Lions rank ninth at 4.5 yards per carry.
Now Campbell doesn’t know who he’ll have available for Sunday’s game in Atlanta.
“I know we’re getting (running back) Jamaal Williams back and a couple of others,” Campbell said. “So we might lose 50 guys between now and Sunday, but we will have these four.”
The only reason Campbell was able to poke a little fun at Detroit’s situation is the way the Lions played against the Cardinals.
This wasn’t a bad team hanging around for 60 minutes before making a big play — the Lions scored on their first two drives, led 17-0 at halftime and 24-3 early in the second half.
Kyler Murray never got on track against an aggressive Lions defense, throwing his only touchdown pass in the final five minutes and rushing for 3 yards while taking 20 yards in sacks.
“I think that’s really what set the tone for us defensively — bottling Murray up and not letting him get into his rhythm,” Campbell said. “We were getting him off the field on third down, which is how you beat that team.”
The biggest negative for the Lions on Sunday was losing defensive captain Alex Anzalone to a season-ending shoulder injury. He’s been one of the few consistent defenders this season and had teamed up with Jalen Reeves-Maybin to form a good linebacking duo.
“That’s tough for us because he’s so important to everything we do out there,” Campbell said. “It’s not a major injury, but it is enough to keep him out for the last three games.”
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For once, quite a lot. As several players mentioned after the game, Sunday was the first time the offense and defense played up to their potentials in the same game. The one major mistake — Godwin Igwebuike’s third-quarter fumble — was immediately fixed by Amani Oruwariye’s interception on the next play.
WHAT’S NOT WORKING
The team’s COVID-19 situation, but that’s a global problem rather than anything the team is doing wrong. Goff and Nelson are the 11th and 12th players to go onto the COVID-19 list in the past two weeks.
It is difficult for any NFL player to give themselves a bigger boost than running back Craig Reynolds has managed in the past two games. He came to the Lions this season with one carry in two NFL seasons and spent the first 12 weeks on Detroit’s practice squad. Because of injuries and the pandemic, he was promoted to the main roster for the Dec. 12 game against Denver and has rushed for 195 yards in two games. Campbell confirmed Monday that he’ll still be part of the running-back rotation after the return of starters Williams and De’Andre Swift.
Igwebuike has lost a fumble in each of the past two weeks, costing him any chance to stay ahead of Reynolds as the top running back in the absence of Williams and Swift.
Losing Anzalone and possibly Goff would be a significant blow, but the health situation will depend on how well they can contain the COVID-19 and flu ravaging the locker room.
12 — the number of tackles made by edge rusher Charles Harris, including 1 1/2 sacks and three tackles for loss.
Try to win a second straight game in Atlanta to keep some momentum going from the Arizona upset.
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