For first time in a long time, Detroit Lions truly believe their offense has the goods

Detroit Free Press

Coach-speak and clichés are constant during news conferences, but every now and then the truth slips out and when it does, it’s easy to recognize.

The truth of the matter Monday, as the Detroit Lions licked their wounds from a 38-35 defeat Sunday vs. the Philadelphia Eagles was this: They genuinely believe this offense has the goods.

“To be honest, it’s like night and day,” Penei Sewell said of the difference between Sunday and last season. “I feel like the culture has risen and also with Ben (Johnson) being OC, he’s always in tune with what we want to do as an offense and what we want to be.

“We’re pretty confident all across the board… everybody knows the standard in each room.”

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The team knows the offense is far from perfect, though.

Dan Campbell pointed to the turning point in the game, when the offense had three consecutive three-and-outs and then an interception in a four-drive stretch that netted just 1 yard.

The Eagles then flipped the Lions’ 7-0 lead turn into a 21-7 deficit.

For much of the game, the offense didn’t click. Early in the fourth quarter, Jared Goff was 11-for-23 passing for 88 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

But the running game kept the Lions in striking distance.

“We have a lot of faith in the O-line, which it all starts there,” Campbell said. “To have a good running game, a lot of different things have to work for you.”

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For the first time in a long time, it looks like the Lions do have a good rushing attack. Campbell on Monday described the necessary ingredients when putting together the recipe for a potent rushing attack:

One dash of an offensive line with chemistry that can move and create holes.

Sprinkle in a quarterback who is able to recognize defensive fronts and make the proper adjustments to optimize the protections.

Add one part willing downfield blockers on the outside — the guys who Campbell said are often the difference between good plays and game-changing plays.

And it helps when the guy who runs the ball is talented, too.

“It goes without saying (running back D’Andre) Swift is special, we know that,” Campbell said. “He’s the one, he’s kind of the secret sauce there. He can turn routine plays into explosive plays that will hurt you.”

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That he did on Sunday, when he rushed 15 times for 144 yards — pacing the league with an NFL-best 9.6 yards per carry — and a score and added another 31 yards through the air on three receptions. As the Eagles began to key on that, it opened up room for the passing game.

Goff went 10-for-14 for 127 yards and a touchdown across the final three drives.

The offense found the end zone on three of its four possessions in the second half and four of its final five drives in the game (when not taking into account the kneel-down with just seconds remaining in the first half) and went a perfect 4-for-4 on touchdowns in the red zone.

“We came out the first drive, we’re moving it,” Campbell said. “Then you know, we have a communication error… we lose rhythm, we’re three-and-out. Then we come back the next time and we don’t ID a protection very clean and (Goff) feels like he’s under duress so that doesn’t help him get in a rhythm.

“Then obviously the turnover not being on the same page. So there were some rough moments early, but I loved the way he responded the second half to get us back into it.”

The receivers were a microcosm of the game as well. A lot of good, but some costly bad.

Amon-Ra St. Brown was targeted 12 times and caught eight passes for 64 yards and a score. DJ Chark high-pointed a perfectly thrown ball from Goff against former Lion Darius Slay for a touchdown as part of his four-catch, 52-yard debut and T.J. Hockenson added another 38 yards in the air.

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Depending on the definition of a dropped pass, the Lions had at least five.

“It’s like fumbles, they’re contagious,” Campbell said. “When you get one or two, all of a sudden it’s like somebody’s got to stop it, somebody’s got to make a big play … but I felt like it really started to spread around.

“They were through everybody and that was something we’ve really been pretty good at, we’ve made those catches, so that was a little discouraging … but I don’t foresee that being an issue for us.”

The Lions scored the third-most points of any team in Week 1. The problem is, they allowed the second-most points. But for an offense that was held to 17 points or fewer 11 times a season ago, the opener was a promising sign.

“I don’t really pay attention to the scoreboard, it’s just each and every time we step out there we’ve got to get some sort of points,” Sewell said. “The sky’s the limit. Everybody knows that in the room.”

Contact Tony Garcia at apgarcia@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @realtonygarcia.

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