Despite loss to Rams, winless Lions show signs of progress

Oct 25, 2021, 4:20 AM | Updated: 4:22 pm

Detroit Lions linebacker Julian Okwara reacts after a field goal by the Los Angeles Rams during the...

Detroit Lions linebacker Julian Okwara reacts after a field goal by the Los Angeles Rams during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

(AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

DETROIT (AP) — There were a lot of positives for Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell to take out of Sunday’s 28-19 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

After all, the winless Lions, who hadn’t played a single offensive snap with the lead in their first six games, led 10-0 before Matthew Stafford got on the field and 19-17 going into the fourth quarter.

“I’m frustrated to be 0-7 like anyone would be, like our players are, but I know there’s more to get from this team,” Campbell said. “That gives me motivation and driven anger to get things right and help these guys as much as I can.”

Knowing the Lions’ young, banged-up secondary wasn’t going to be able to stop Matthew Stafford, Campbell went deep into his bag of tricks to give Jared Goff as many opportunities to put up points. After Goff threw a 2-yard screen pass that D’Andre Swift turned into a 63-yard touchdown on the first drive of the game, Campbell called for an onside kick.

The Lions recovered, but only gained 3 yards on the next three plays. Punter Jack Fox came onto the field, but threw a 17-yard pass to safety Bryan Price for a first down. The drive turned into a field goal and a 10-0 lead before Stafford got onto the field.

“We’ve had some slow starts in the last couple weeks, and we knew we needed to change that this week, especially getting the ball first,” Lions guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai said.

It didn’t last — the Lions never got back into the end zone — but Detroit’s young defense kept the team in the game until the final moments.

“We’re competing and giving ourselves a chance to win these games,” Campbell said. “We know that, and we know we’re improving every week. I see all these kids getting better and better, and that’s encouraging. They are going to pay massive dividends sooner rather than later.”

The day ended with Stafford’s 33rd career fourth-quarter comeback, moving him past Matt Ryan for third among active quarterbacks. The first 31 came for the Lions.


The Lions came into the season with serious questions about their secondary, then lost top cornerback Jeff Okudah. Facing Stafford, who came into the game averaging 9.2 yards per attempt and 13.2 yards per completion could have easily gotten ugly.

Stafford went right after Jerry Jacobs, an undrafted free-agent cornerback, but finished the game with 8.1 yards per attempt and 11.9 yards per completion.

“Jerry Jacobs went out there and did a heck of a job in a tough spot,” Campbell said.


It is the same problem the Lions have had all season — Jared Goff can’t get the ball down the field, which leaves the offense having to grind out drives with no margin for error. He threw for 268 yards against his former team, but 187 of those came after the catch.

When his receivers are consistently catching the ball within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, defenses know they don’t have to respect the deep ball.


Jacobs started his college career at Arkansas State, tore his ACL in 2019, transferred to Arkansas, then opted out after four games last season. Now he’s starting and hasn’t been a liability. He still has rookie moments — he got called for pass interference after not getting turned around on a sideline route — but he has made himself part of the long-term picture.


Goff threw two interceptions in the final five minutes and now has 10 turnovers in seven games. On an offense with almost no quick-strike ability, he can’t afford to give away possessions.


CB A.J. Parker — another undrafted rookie getting significant playing time in the Detroit secondary — injured a shoulder.

“We don’t know for sure yet, but my gut says he’s going to be out for a while,” Campbell said.


93.3 — D’Andre Swift’s average yards per game. He’s averaging 9.3 yards per reception, despite catching most passes at or behind the line of scrimmage, and he leads the team with five touchdowns. The only thing he’s missing is big plays in the running game — his longest carry is 16 yards.


Find a way to take advantage of one of their best chances at a win, a Halloween home game against the Philadelphia Eagles (2-5). The Eagles have been outscored 179-127 while losing five of their past six.


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Despite loss to Rams, winless Lions show signs of progress