The Detroit Lions’ defense stepped up in a major way to play a role in their 31-18 upset in Week 11 of the New York Giants, and the tone was set in a big way by Alim McNeill.
Detroit’s defensive tackle did a great job to show up and be active from the start of day and that was due to the mood he was in from the beginning of the day before the game even kicked off.
Speaking after the game to Dannie Rogers of DetroitLions.com on the postgame show, McNeill admitted that the team had a clear idea of what they had to do in order to step up and win the game, and it started in the trenches.
“We knew that’s what we had to do to be able to win this game. We had to be very physical with them, with a guy like Saquon (Barkley), a generational talent over there at running back and Daniel Jones is a good quarterback,” he said. “We knew if we made it hard for Saquon we had a chance to win this game and that’s exactly what we did. Respect to them for sure, but it’s what we had to do.”
As for how he did that, well, it involved waking up and having a different feeling, as well as a little chat about wanting to step up and be on the scene as a player and help the team win as well as arrive himself.
“I just woke up feeling a little different today. I was just telling myself ‘it’s time to go ahead and get myself on the scene.’ I got to do what my coaches expect me to do. It was just a lot of things I woke up with on my mind today,” McNeill said. “I was able to put it all to fruition on the field. I’m looking to keep going doing this, I don’t want this to be the only day I do this.”
First and foremost, McNeill wanted to win, but he knew if he could get some better play himself, he could help play a leading role for the team.
“The first thing on my mind was getting this (win) but then I was just thinking if there was any individual play I could help the team out, but ultimately getting that win. If I just do my job and extra we could get a win today,” he said.
Consider the job done and then some for the Lions and McNeill, who was able to step up and not only get a win, but play a leading role in the Lions claiming the victory.
A motivated McNeill is a huge advantage for the Lions moving forward, and the hope is he can remain on the scene for Detroit.
Dan Campbell Praised McNeill’ Major Day
After the game, Dan Campbell seemed pleased with what McNeill was able to do. While many saw the big game from McNeill and praised him for it, Campbell pointed out he’s been there all year long.
Speaking after the game, Campbell admitted that McNeill has played a big role for the Lions all year, so he was happy to see the team pay it off in a big win on the field in which he performed in a dramatic way.
“Big Mac, man. There’s so many things that Mac does that I don’t think goes noticed. It can go unnoticed at times. He and (Isaiah) Buggs, they do a ton of dirty work in there. They have consistently just banged away in there. They’ve helped our run defense. It’s hard to run in there with those two guys. He’s one of the biggest reasons,” Campbell said. “For him to be able to make the TFL’s today and affect the quarterback like he did, that was great to see, because we know what Mac’s capable of. He did it in a different way today. He helped us win in a different way. That was good to see.”
Obviously, Campbell liked what he saw from McNeill, and understands that McNeill is a player who makes the right moves on the field consistently.
Lions Stuffed Run Thanks to McNeill
Why did the Lions have such success? Because they were able to slow the rushing attack of Barkley, just like McNeill said.
The defensive tackle was a big reason that happened, with three tackles, a sack and three tackles for-loss on the day.
Detroit got after it in the trenches, and managed to make it a frustrating day for Barkley and his offense. It’s been rare to see Detroit’s run defense step up, but they did. As Dan Campbell said, it was a big deal for the team.
“We knew he was the key. We could not let him get going and we did that. That was huge because everything did run through him. That was the main focus of our defense this week and they performed it perfectly,” Campbell said.
Give the team credit for stepping up and gritting out a huge win, led mostly by their work in the trenches against an elite Barkley who looked very pedestrian on this day. The biggest reason may have been McNeill taking things personal and stepping up in a big way.