PITTSBURGH – Determined to fix his flailing offense, Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell made a big change coming out of the bye week, installing himself as offensive play caller for Sunday’s 16-16 tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I thought, hey, one of the things is why not change it up a little bit here,” Campbell said. “I wanted to be able to talk to (quarterback Jared Goff) in game and sometimes I think when you’re able to get in a flow of a game when you’re the guy who’s calling it, it just helps to know exactly where to go. … But there again, honestly, I don’t think it’s a big deal.”
Campbell said offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn still was heavily involved in play calling and that he simply “took the green dot” communication system to the quarterback.
“I’ll still grab some calls from them, I’ll use my own calls,” Campbell said. “And so it was a joint effort by all those guys.”
Lynn and Campbell said last week that Campbell was more heavily involved in the offensive game plan than he was at anytime during the Lions’ 0-8 start.
The Lions ranked 29th in scoring offense and 26th in total offense through nine weeks, and scored more than 19 points just once in their first eight games — in Week 1, when they scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes of a 41-33 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
On Sunday, in a steady rain and with Goff dealing with an oblique injury, the Lions put a heavy emphasis on the running game.
They ran for a season-high 229 yards on 39 carries, though 209 of those yards came in the first three quarters.
Goff said Campbell, who had never called plays on a regular basis before Sunday, “did a great job” in that capacity against the Steelers. Lynn said last week Campbell called some plays in the first half of the season.
“It was really good,” Goff said. “Stepping in his first time doing it, obviously, but it was really good. I thought he did a great job and had a good feel for wanting to come back to something that we had done previously and kind of wanted to mix it up. I think he’ll only learn and continue to get better from here.”
Campbell said he is not sure if he will continue calling plays the rest of the season.
“We’ll see,” Campbell said. “Just kind of analyze it. I need to see what I did, what I can do better and is there a better way to go. Just kind of go from there.”
Sewell ‘comfortable’ at RT
Penei Sewell made his season debut at right tackle Sunday after starting the first eight games at left tackle, and said he felt at home at his new position.
“It felt real comfortable,” Sewell said. “It was really a testament to all that work that happened in training camp when I was getting comfortable with the position. And also playing left tackle actually kind of helped with the transition, weirdly. I don’t know how that’s possible. But yeah, I was real comfortable out there, felt like I didn’t skip a beat.”
A left tackle throughout his college career at Oregon, Sewell played right tackle throughout the preseason for the Lions.
He moved to left tackle four days before the Lions’ season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers, when Taylor Decker suffered a finger injury in practice.
Decker made his season debut Sunday against the Steelers, and Campbell said having Decker and Sewell at the tackle spots — and Matt Nelson back in a swing tackle role, and playing heavily as a sixth lineman — was a big reason for the Lions’ rushing success.
“Definitely having those first eight games in my belt helped tremendously,” Sewell said. “Now I know the speed of the game and everything that comes along with an NFL game, so yeah, those eight games helped me become comfortable, just like I was tonight.”