Communication is key: How Detroit Lions are preparing for road opener

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Lions’ first two games of 2022 have featured a boost from a sea of Honolulu Blue at Ford Field.

Players and coaches from their first two opponents, the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Commanders, have acknowledged the loudness of Ford Field as the Lions have gone 1-1.

“The Lions, the people of Detroit, they came out for this game, and we obviously knew it was going to be like that,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said after his team’s 38-35 win in Week 1. “We practiced — we knew about the sellout, and we knew it was going to be like that. We practiced the crowd noise. (Next time), I’ll see if I can get the equipment guys to turn it up even louder, but it was rocking in there, and that’s what you want.

“Obviously, you don’t want that as a visiting team, but everybody wants that. To play in front of the entire world and play in front of a rocking crowd like that on the road and be able to come out with a victory is big.”

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The Lions will be hoping for a similar statement from their coach, Dan Campbell, on Sunday after they finish the first road game of 2022, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis against the Minnesota Vikings.

“It’s been a while since we’ve tried to function or had to function like that,” Campbell said about facing a hostile crowd. “So it’s really, man, just procedurally us doing this and silent counting, all those things these next three days is going to be imperative for us offensively.

“I really believe that’s the key, is us being able to be efficient with everything that we do.”

Certain stadiums are more difficult to visit than others; that includes Minnesota, Lions center Evan Brown said.

He has first-hand experience with U.S. Bank Stadium, as his first career start came there in 2021 after Frank Ragnow hurt his toe the week prior. Ragnow missed last week’s game and was limited in practice Wednesday (groin, foot), so Brown could be out there again.

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“It’s definitely a loud place, their fans are a loud rowdy bunch,” Brown said. “It’s definitely harder, having to use the cadences that you do whether you feel you need silent (count) in certain places, but I think it really just boils down to us being that much more locked in and focused on our assignment, snap count and stuff like that.”

The Lions have already stared piping in crowd noise and loud music to simulate the environment and will do so the rest of the week.

“I really believe that’s the key, is us being able to be efficient with everything that we do,” Campbell said. “And that starts with (Lions QB Jared) Goff, and it goes to the offensive line as well as the receivers.”

This will be the first major test of the progress for Goff and the offense. Although the Lions’ offense struggled all season, its passing attack was noticeably worse on the road.

In six road games, Goff completed 63.7% of his passes, picking up six TDs, five interceptions total and 224.2 yards a game with a 80.7 passer rating. In eight home games, Goff completed 70.5% of his passes for 13 touchdowns and three interceptions, with 237.5 yards a game and a 99.5 passer rating.

Still, Goff said Wednesday that playing on the road is “nothing they won’t be prepared for.” The only difference, he said, is choosing when and how to use that silent count, a decision that will likely fall on him.

With more ownership of the offense than last season, Goff is responsible for checking plays at the line of scrimmage based on the defensive look and gettting in and out of different calls.

“It’s constant communication, really all the way up until game time and really through the game as well,” Goff said. “So in those scenarios, I do have the autonomy to do whatever. It’s fun, and it’s been working pretty well.”

But that communication becomes more difficult on the road. At Ford Field, the video screens caution fans against being too loud when the Lions have the ball, seemingly a 13th man keeping the 12th man — the fans — from overwhelming the players.

In Minneapolis, the Lions will have just their 11 players on the field to rely on.

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