Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell isn’t on hot seat but he is facing a burning decision

Detroit Free Press

His cap was slightly ajar.

His mood intense.

Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell gripped the microphone with both hands, searching for the right words. Personally, I think he wanted to scream: “Freakin’, frackin’ fudgesicles!”

Or something, perhaps, a little stronger.

I mean, what can you say when your offense scores 45 points but you end up losing to a team with a bad offense? At least, Seattle had a bad offense until it arrived in Ford Field.

“I think more than anything maybe it’s time for a deep dive,” Campbell said about his defense after the Seattle Seahawks beat the Lions, 48-45, on Sunday. “A real deep dive into it.”

Well, that’s one idea.

Another is to push the entire defense into the deep end and hope some of the stink washes off.

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“I’ve got a lot of faith in (Lions defensive coordinator) Aaron Glenn,” Campbell said. “I’ve got a ton of faith in those assistants, and I think it’s just — I think we sit down, and I think we look at everything together.”

The Lions are in such a strange position. They have a fantastic offense, which scored 45 points while missing several of their playmakers.

But the defense is so bad, it’s holding everything back.

This team won’t win four games this year if it doesn’t fix its defense.

Shoot, at this rate, why do you even think it will win again?

“Listen, it’s frustrating” Campbell said. “It’s frustrating and I have nobody to blame but myself. So, I’ll — that’s on me to handle that and can’t keep saying that, can’t keep writing that, can’t keep — so, there again I’ll look at everything. It is frustrating.”

Whatever he finds — and decides — will have an impact on everything. This team could turn a corner quickly if Campbell can just fix that defense. Or, at the very least, make it not suck so bad.

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Because the stakes are enormous — the length of this rebuild, the direction of this organization and even how long Campbell has a job could hinge on what he decides.

Should he keep Glenn?

How do they get more pass rush and generate some turnovers?

Or just a few stops.

“Well, I know this, we lack confidence,” Campbell said. “I just don’t feel our swagger.”

It’s hard to make wholesale changes during an NFL season. Your players are your players and the Lions have a clear deficiency of defensive talent.

There aren’t shutdown corners hanging out on the streets, just waiting to get picked up.

Yes, you can tweak scheme. And you can change philosophy.

They have to figure out a way to limit big plays and make opposing teams go the distance in small chunks. The Seahawks had eight plays of 20 yards or longer, including five that were 30 yards or longer.

Two of those came on third-and-long.

The Lions came on a zero blitz and the Seahawks ran the ball, as Rashaad Penny ripped off touchdown runs of 41 and 36 yards.

“It’s a zero beater obviously,” Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone said. So, it’s kind of what they got us in and kind of (expletive) out of luck when they run it. It’s just good situational football by them.”

So the Lions got outcoached.

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And tremendously out-schemed.

Remember, this was a team that came into this game averaging 15.7 points per game.

But the Lions made them look like world beaters.

“Now look, they got us in a couple of third downs there late, third-and-longs that we have not been exposed to yet,” Campbell said. “And they gutted us. They got us good. And it was good designs by them, good play designs and in critical moments, they — it was good. It was real good by them.”

Now, here is the glimmer of hope.

A year ago, the Lions offense was putrid. Campbell did a deep dive on the offense and found some fixes.

The Lions entered the bye week as a winless team. The offense was horrible, ranking 29th in the league in passing attempts. Campbell became more involved with the offense and started calling plays.

And Amon-Ra St. Brown seemed to blossom in the second half of the season.

Look at where this offense is now. It doesn’t matter who they put out there, they seem to find a way to score points.

Give credit to Campbell for that. He had the sense to make Ben Johnson the offensive coordinator.

And the offense, though not perfect, is humming.

It’s hard to win when you miss extra points and your quarterback throws a pick-6. The Lions are committing too many penalties, like jumping offsides or whacking a quarterback with a forearm.

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“We weren’t real sharp,” Campbell understated. “It wasn’t real clean, we had penalties, we had turnovers, one of those was for seven points which was the difference in the game. And then, defensively, man, we weren’t good. Special teams made some plays, but then there were a couple we gave up too. So, it was just — it wasn’t clean and that’s on me.”

Yes, it’s on him.

And he’s got to figure out how to fix this.

The bad news? Campbell’s forte is offense, not defense.

But if I were Campbell, I know what I would do. I would talk to somebody who knows something about defense.

Somebody who is already in the building.

I’d call Chris Spielman and start picking his brain on what to do. Just trying to find some solutions.

I mean, how could it hurt?

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to www.freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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