Detroit — Detroit Lions players paused, trying to think of a family-friendly way to describe their head coach and his handling of two critical situations in Sunday’s 34-23 win over the Minnesota Vikings. None of them could.
“Dude’s got some n-ts on him, bro,” said second-year right tackle Penei Sewell, talking about the decision to throw him a nine-yard pass he caught on third-and-seven — the first catch of his career — to close out the Vikings at Ford Field on Sunday.
“Like, that’s as simple as that. I couldn’t find another word, but yeah, Dan Campbell’s gonna be him and nobody’s gonna change that, and that’s what I love about him.”
Campbell returned the compliment, saying Sewell “could be a Hall of Fame tight end in my opinion too, if he wanted to lose a little bit of weight.”
“We … had good practice reps with (the play). We’d used him earlier in that fast motion, and so we just — we felt really good about it being there, because when you see him coming, you’re not going to just think he’s going to the flat, he’s going to block you one more time like he did before. So, it was a great call. We trusted him.
“Look, we know what kind of athlete he is. He’s a phenomenal athlete.”
On the crazy meter, Campbell’s decision to put the game — maybe even the season — in the hands of a guy who’s never caught a pass wasn’t even top billing for Sunday’s win.
The Lions immediately stopped the Vikings out of halftime, but looked like they’d give it right back after netting only two yards on their first three plays of the ensuing possession. Fourth-and-eight at their own 26: C.J. Moore tucked a direct snap, got blocks from Jason Cabinda and Malcolm Rodriguez, and was off to the races for a 42-yard run that demoralized the Vikings defense and would result in a touchdown to go up 21-7 later in the drive.
“We haven’t ran it that far, that long of a … down and distance, but Coach gave us the green light, and I just told the guys, ‘Let’s execute,'” Moore said. “The corner was able to see the fake right away, but Cabinda gave a great kick-out block, and then the other guys, Rodrigo, everybody just executing and blocking. I was able to cut it up and get vertical.”
Asked how he would describe the trust Campbell puts in his players, Moore said, “Man, just major n-ts. Major. Nah, but it’s gutsy, and we love a guy like that, and Coach Dan, we love that he believes in us to be able to execute that play and get the job done.
“Big shoutout to Coach Dan.”
Defense angry over Jefferson’s big day
Detroit’s defense limited star Vikings running back Dalvin Cook to 23 yards on 15 carries, and in tandem with an 11-point win in which the Lions also won the turnover battle, one would think they’d be satisfied with their performance.
But no, not according to veteran safety DeShon Elliott, who was only focused on the fact they allowed Justin Jefferson to set a new franchise record with 223 receiving yards as Kirk Cousins threw for 425 and two touchdowns.
“We gave up 200-plus yards to one receiver and that’s not good,” Elliott said. “That’s the only thing I’m thinking about right now. … I mean, yeah, we win, but like, as a defense as a whole, somebody had 200 yards. That’s crazy. Yeah, he’s a great receiver. Top-three receiver, but that’s not OK.
“We won, though, so that’s all that really matters, but still in the back of our heads defensively, like, we gotta be better.”
While nobody on the team is happy with giving up all those yards to Jefferson, Campbell said after the game that he’s just “one of those rare dudes you don’t see very often, and when you do, he’s hard to contain.”
“He’s making plays in double coverage, now. And you’re off just a little bit, you’re not quite where you need to be on your landmark to have help over the top and you se what happens. He makes a play. So, he’s a heck of a player, man.”
NFC North still up for grabs
Despite Sunday’s win over the Vikings, Detroit’s hope of winning the NFC North are still a pipe dream. The Lions would have to win out while Minnesota simultaneously loses out.
Mission accomplished on Sunday’s goal, though: Making sure the Vikings don’t clinch in Detroit.
“They’re not gonna win it here. I don’t know where they’re going to win it at, but it ain’t gonna be here,” Elliott said of the team’s mentality heading into the game.
Campbell said there was talk internally about making sure the Vikings didn’t get to celebrate winning the division on their home turf.
“Certainly, we didn’t want them to come in here and win the division at our place either. But there’s more to it than that, it still goes back to making plays that you have to make playing clean football,” Campbell said.