The bye week in any NFL season serves two purposes. It’s a time for teams to take a breath, step back, assess their strengths and weaknesses and have more time to prepare for their next opponent as well as the remainder of the season.
It’s also a time for fans to take a breath, step back, assess where their team is and either find some hope and encouragement in what has gone right, or fall into further despair over their team’s failings.
The Detroit Lions are 1-4 as they prepare to run face first into the defensive buzz saw at Dallas on Sunday, and it’s hard to blame anyone who isn’t frustrated by the close losses, the questionable decisions and the blowout in New England.
If you count yourself among the frustrated, your name just might be Sheila Ford Hamp.
LIONS MAILBAG:Talking NFL draft and the merits of taking a QB early in 2023
Since reporters rarely get a chance to speak with the Lions owner, I asked coach Dan Campbell on Wednesday to gauge her level of concern with the team during the bye.
“Yeah, I would say that she understands,” he said. “She’s very supportive but she’s frustrated, I mean, and she should be. We all believe we should be better than where we’re at.
“But I do know that she’s all in, and I know that she believes in what (general manager Brad Holmes) and I are doing.”
I know the Ford name is triggering and potentially harmful for a lot of Lions fans, sort like the way flashing lights aren’t good for epileptic dogs. So sorry about that.
Campbell using words like “understands” and “supportive” and “believes” and is “all in” can be boiled down to one word: patience.
Because that’s what this is going to take. But actually using the word “patience” right now is anathema to just about everyone’s feelings outside of team headquarters. I heard it and felt it everywhere I went during the bye. The question I was constantly asked was, “Are they gonna fire Campbell?”
Unless the Lions go 0-12 the rest of the way, and look hopeless while doing so, it’s hard to fathom Campbell getting fired this season. That doesn’t mean the pressure won’t build exponentially with every loss, but they should win one of their next four games and at least three of their final six.
That would still add up to just five or six wins. But wins — and losses — don’t happen in a vacuum. Wins and losses come with emotional context. A bad decision and a great play can color our perception.
LOOKING GOOD FOR SUNDAY?Lions RB D’Andre Swift ‘pushing towards’ playing vs. Dallas Cowboys
And that’s what we have to keep in mind. That could be what Hamp is keeping in mind, especially when you look at where the Lions are this year compared to last year, when they were 0-5 on their way to an 0-8 start. They also lost three of their first five games by at least eight points. This year, they already have a win and they’ve only lost one game by more than four points.
The reason for these close games has been the offense, which is way ahead of schedule in improvement under coordinator Ben Johnson. Without going into stats, I can give you one rock-solid, scientific metric that illustrates how good the offense has been this year: Not once during the bye did someone ask me, “Why does Jared Goff suck?”
The Lions quarterback has been much better by almost any metric. I asked Goff on Wednesday if he felt he has answered his critics and has felt a reduction of criticism over his play?
“Every week, do my job and do the best I can,” he said. “And in my position it’s going to be, you know, if you win, you’re a hero, if you lose, you’re the worst, right? So got to start winning and I’m not really worried about what the narrative might be.”
Goff is right. Winning cures everything. But it doesn’t answer every question. Beating a 4-2 Cowboys team playing at home with a great defense and the return of Dak Prescott, who was medically clear on Wednesday after this right thumb fracture in Week 1, would be a resounding statement for the Lions.
But even before that happens, or doesn’t, let’s not forget the statement Goff and the offense have made this year while skyrocketing to the top of the NFL’s points and yardage rankings. Even after the shutout against Bill Belichick’s beautiful mind, Goff said the offense hasn’t lost confidence because of its body of work.
SETTING UP FOR A COMEBACK:Lions CB Amani Oruwariye on benching: ‘This isn’t the end for me at all’
“So we just get back to that and treat New England as hopefully an anomaly, and that doesn’t mean we ignored it,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of things to fix in that game that I believe were addressed and we’ve kind of moved on for now, but it was a good learning experience.
“Hopefully, we can look at it like that and look back on it as something that kind of ignited something in us and allowed us to move forward in the right direction.”
It’s hard to say how much Prescott’s return from a five-week layoff will help the Cowboys. And as good as Dallas’ defense has been, the only offense it has faced as good as the Lions’ has been Philadelphia’s in last week’s loss.
I doubt many people are giving the Lions much of a chance in this game. But I think it will be closer than most think and I even give the Lions a reasonable chance to win. A victory would make a big statement and, while it wouldn’t cure everything, it sure would give Campbell and his team some much-needed breathing room.
Contact Carlos Monarrez: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.
Next up: Cowboys
Matchup: Lions (1-4) at Dallas (4-1).
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday; AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas.
TV/radio: CBS; WXYT-FM (97.1).
Line: Cowboys by 6½.