This season has never been easy for Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell.
After all, his team have lost their first nine games, and just two wins in the past three weeks have taken their record to 2-11-1.
Monday, however, was meant to be a rare victory lap. At his weekly press conference, Campbell got to talk about how well his team did in a stunning 30-12 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
The victory was no fluke – the Lions dominated Arizona every phase of the game.
However, less than two hours after speaking to reporters, the team announced that quarterback Jared Goff had been placed on the COVID-19 roster along with tackle / tight end Matt Nelson.
Goff was one of the stars of the win over Arizona, throwing three touchdown passes and an average of 8.3 yards per passing attempt, a season-high. Nelson, who plays as a blocking tight end in Detroit’s “Jumbo” offense, helped the Lions to ninth place with 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 bringing back (running) Jamaal Williams and a few others,” Campbell said. “So we could lose 50 guys by Sunday, but we’ll have those four.”
The only reason Campbell could have laughed at the Detroit situation a bit is the way the Lions played against the Cardinals.
It wasn’t a bad team who hung around for 60 minutes before making a big play – the Lions scored in their first two discs, leading 17-0 at halftime and 24-3 at the start of the second half time.
Kyler Murray was never on track against an aggressive Lions defense, throwing his only touchdown pass in the final five minutes and rushing for 3 yards while sacking 20 yards.
“I think that’s really what set us the tone defensively – bottling Murray and not letting him get into his rhythm,” said Campbell. “We were taking him off the field on the third try, that’s how you beat this team.”
The biggest negative for the Lions on Sunday was the loss of defensive captain Alex Anzalone to a shoulder injury that ended the season. He was one of the few regular defensemen this season and had teamed up with Jalen Reeves-Maybin to form a good linebacking duo.
“It’s tough for us, because it’s so important to everything we do there,” Campbell said. “It’s not a serious injury, but it’s enough to keep him out for the last three games.”
For once, a lot. As several players mentioned after the game, Sunday was the first time both offense and defense played to their full potential in the same game. The only major error – Godwin Igwebuike’s fumble in the third quarter – was immediately corrected by the interception of Amani Oruwariye in the next play.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK
The team’s COVID-19 situation, but it’s a global issue rather than anything the team is doing wrong. Goff and Nelson are the 11th and 12th players to be on the COVID-19 roster in the past two weeks.
It’s hard for an NFL player to give himself a bigger boost than running back Craig Reynolds has in the last two games. He came to the Lions this season with just one carryover from two NFL seasons and spent the first 12 weeks on the Detroit practice squad. Due to injuries and the pandemic, he was promoted to the main roster for the Dec. 12 game against Denver and ran for 195 yards in two games. Campbell confirmed Monday that he will still be part of the running back rotation after starters Williams and De’Andre Swift return.
Igwebuike has lost one 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 perhaps Goff would be a big blow, but the health situation will depend on their ability to contain the COVID-19 and the flu that are ravaging the locker rooms.
12 – the number of tackles made by 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 after the Arizona surprise.
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