Dan Campbell is right about the Detroit Lions: They still have lots of time to stink

Detroit Free Press

Last week, the Detroit Lions started slow and had a fourth-quarter comeback attempt fall short.

This week, they started fast and had a fourth-quarter, come-from-ahead meltdown.

So the Lions found a new way to lose Friday night, giving up 18 unanswered points in a 27-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Ford Field.

That wrapped up an 0-3 preseason for the Lions, after which all you truly can be thankful for is that the regular season awaits. The preseason is their Achilles’ heel — but only if Lord Voldemort used a Kryptonite sledgehammer to repeatedly bludgeon that heel. The Lions haven’t won a preseason game since 2018, with nine straight exhibition losses in the process.

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Yeah, I know 0-16 is telling me to hold its beer. And, of course, it’s only the preseason.

But winning doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens because the game plan was good, the players executed and they made fewer mistakes than the other team.

It sure looked like the Lions were on their way to getting off the preseason schneid when they led, 17-9, after three quarters. Up to that point, the offense had sustained drives with a good mix of runs and passes to find the end zone twice. The defense looked quick, got a turnover and held the Colts to three field goals.

Then the fourth quarter rolled around, and the Lions rolled over and played dead. The offense didn’t cross midfield, went 0-for-3 on third down and David Blough threw a costly interception that led to a field goal that put the Colts ahead, 20-17.

“We got points, and then it didn’t end the way we would’ve liked,” Blough said. “As the leader of the offense, it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating when you can’t lead the guys to victory. I think there’s a lot to see, a lot to learn, a lot to grow and improve on. I think you go out and you get better.”

The defense was just as bad, letting Brett Hundley turn into Patrick Mahomes.

And yet, coach Dan Campbell says he likes what he sees.

[ Monarrez: At least the running backs aren’t the problem. ]

“Look, I’m encouraged,” he said. “I am. I’m encouraged. Do we still have work to do? Yeah, we do. We’ve got a lot of work to do. But we have time.”

He’s right. The Lions do have time. Not just two weeks before the season opener against San Francisco. More like two years before we can reasonably expect much out of this growing team.

But I think the Lions need to win something to feel good about themselves and gain confidence. It’s easy to talk about rebuilds and incremental improvement. But this team needs to show it can close out games or rally when it has to.

Campbell hinted at the idea of wanting to see some results. Every coach does, especially new ones. It’s hard to quantify progress when the scoreboard’s never in your favor.

“I think I told you guys this before,” Campbell said. “The hardest thing is to have urgency and patience at the same time. I don’t know how to do that, but I’m working on it.

“But I am encouraged. There’s things that I see from all three phases that we’re improving in. We are. Guys are improving. We’re getting better. It’s just a process and we’re getting there.”

The Lions can get there soon enough. Not for their coach or players or fans. It might happen at some point under Campbell, perhaps sooner rather than later. If nothing else, the Lions should just be happy they’ve gotten past another ugly preseason.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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