Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell laments preparation for Jalen Hurts, explains onside kick

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Lions will not see many more quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts this fall, and that’s welcome news for edge rusher Austin Bryant.

“We definitely like a statue back there, somebody that’s going to sit still and let us pin our ears back and rush,” Bryant said Monday. “But that wasn’t the case this week. This guy, he feels pressure, he’s out of there. So it’s tough. It’s tough playing against a kid like that. He’s a great player, I’ve got a lot of respect for him and he got the better hand on us Sunday.”

Hurts had 90 yards rushing and 243 yards passing Sunday to lead the Philadelphia Eagles to a 38-35 season-opening win over the Lions at Ford Field.

The Eagles overwhelmed the Lions with 200-plus yards rushing for the second straight season, but Bryant said he feels good about the Lions’ run defense heading into this week’s game against the Washington Commanders, who have a more traditional rushing attack with Carson Wentz at quarterback.

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“I don’t think they were more physical than we were in the run game, even though the stats may show that they were more physical,” Bryant said. “If you look at the tape, we get knocked back, we’re building a wall, it’s just a fit here, a fit there but it all works together. It’s all a system from the front to the linebackers to the secondary, we all work together so it’s not just the D-line that stops the run, it’s not just the linebackers. It’s all of us on one accord every single time because people have to be in the right fit every single time for you to have a great run-stopping type of game.

“I think it was just a little of imbalance between each level and that’s what kind of gave them the upper hand in the run game. But I don’t think we were out-physicaled at all.”

Hurts finished with 17 carries, including several designed runs, but did most of his damage on scramble plays, when he escaped would-be sacks and took off downfield.

Lions coach Dan Campbell said his defense did a poor job maintaining gap responsibility at times Sunday. Once, the Lions ran a stunt with their defensive line, but one rusher failed to stunt, leaving a big opening on the line. On three occasions, Campbell said the team’s force defender dropped too far off the line of scrimmage.

“It’s always one guy,” he said. “We have a guy, we’re in the hole, we stop our feet and lunge at the ball carrier and then certainly the quarterback. He was a huge part of that. Everything runs through him and we didn’t do a great job of bottling him up.”

Campbell blamed himself for not doing a good enough job “fabricating a quarterback that” could properly simulate Hurts in practice last week.

“We did a hell of a job of last year against Lamar (Jackson) when Baltimore came in. Man, we were on it. We were on every little detail to it, but we’d also gotten beat. We had lost the week before. It was a point of focus, man,” Campbell said. “And not to say we weren’t locked in (Sunday), I just think this gets you refocused, man. We’ve got one under our belt and, man, this is a different style of offense that you just faced and I think there again, I just think we’re going to learn from this and be better.”

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Onside explained

Campbell gave a more detailed explanation Monday for why he tried a suprise onside kick with just over 4 minutes left in the third quarter of Sunday’s loss.

The Lions had just scored on a touchdown pass from Jared Goff to Amon-Ra St. Brown to cut the Eagles’ lead to 31-21, and Campbell said he was weary of Philadelphia answering with a long drive that would have taken precious time off the clock.

“My fear was that, man, they’re going to hold the ball for eight minutes, even if when we do get a stop and they’ve chewed up eight or nine, 10 minutes, and even with a stop now you’re getting forced to have to be in two-minute mode earlier than you want to be,” Campbell said. “So that was just kind of the thought.”

The Eagles recovered Austin Seibert’s onside kick at the Lions’ 49-yard line and scored five plays later on a 1-yard run to take a commanding 17-point lead.

Campbell said he is “very aware of what you do to your defense when you don’t get one of those, but I have a lot of faith in them that they’re going to find a way to get a stop.”

“I mean, look, obviously hindsight it’s like, ‘Well, it didn’t work. Well, hell, we shouldn’t have done that,'” Campbell said. “That is an easy thing to say. It’s like, ‘Well, just kick away. But I just, man, I felt like it was the time to do it and I wanted to see if we could get one and we wanted a little bit more of a sideline, a little shorter, but I put that on me. Hell, you keep working that for a little bit and I feel like it’s there, maybe you’ve put it on the shelf.”


Campbell said the Lions put Levi Onwuzurike on injured reserve last week because the second-year defensive tackle’s recovery from a recurring back issue is “slow going right now.” Onwuzurike has not practiced since Aug. 1. He must miss at least the Lions’ next three games, and likely will be out until after their Week 6 bye.

“We don’t feel like there’s a setback, but yet it’s just not progressing the way we’d hoped,” Campbell said.

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