Hunt Report: After Blunder, Dan Campbell Clearly Still Learning on Job

Dan Campbell

Getty Dan Campbell runs off the field following a Lions loss to the Eagles in 2021.

The Detroit Lions’ 2021 season is a learning process for the general manager, roster and even head coach Dan Campbell. After another rough afternoon, it’s more obvious than ever that Detroit’s boss continues to learn on the job in plenty of ways.

This season, Campbell has come under fire for some of his aggressive decision making on fourth down. Once again, he gambled in a big way and lost, and the Lions suffered on the field in a critical moment of the game.

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Down 17-0 in the late stages of the first half, the Lions were looking for any kind of momentum heading into the locker room. Instead of finding it on fourth down with a field goal, though, Campbell rolled the dice and elected to leave his offense on the field. What happened next was an ugly sack, and no points on the board heading into half.

While the Lions didn’t lose the game directly as a result of this decision, it’s clear the problem with the mistake that was made. A coach should never avoid taking points late in a half, especially when nothing is on the board. Momentum can change quickly, and the team was unprepared to make the best type of decision in that moment. It’s a fact that Campbell admitted freely after the game when talking to the media on October 31.

“I hate what I did before halftime. I frigging hate it. I hate it. I don’t hate going for it, but I should have used a timeout going into third and one. So that didn’t help either. I got out-coached. I didn’t help these guys,” Campbell said.

Regardless of what anybody thinks of the call on the field, the fact that Campbell admits things didn’t happen the way they needed to in the moment proves he is still learning on the job. Campbell only had a handful of games as an interim coach to fall back on, and there’s a learning curve for him as much as the players.

It’s clear Campbell is struggling with the feel of the game, whether he goes for it or not. Campbell seems to teeter between aggressive and overly-aggressive. Given that, players and the staff have to be completely on the same page and keyed in when plays like that are called.

Campbell isn’t a finished product as much as his team isn’t close to being that either. Even in spite of the frustration, it’s a fact that fans have to remember when they watch things play out.

What else was learned in the loss? Here’s a look:

It Doesn’t Matter Who Plays Quarterback for the Lions

Picking on Jared Goff is en-vogue considering the problems the quarterback has had this year. In this game, Goff only had 222 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Goff didn’t look like the answer, especially with some of his fourth down mistakes such as this.

In spite of that, the Lions are devoid of playmakers offensively and aren’t protecting up front given some of their struggles in the trenches with health. David Blough came in late in the game and didn’t get anything going at all, but starting him wouldn’t matter. No matter who plays quarterback, things will be an absolute uphill battle for the Lions right now. That’s the sad reality of what is playing out on offense. Goff might not be playing great football, but he’s a product of his environment. Right now, it’s not a good one.

Detroit’s Defense Didn’t Provide Much Resistance

Did the Lions quit? It’s hard to say. Players will never admit if something like this plays out, but most of the afternoon, the Lions weren’t showing a lot of good effort on the field whatsoever. That was encapsulated by the easy way their defense seemed to allow big plays to happen.

Easy touchdowns like this were commonplace in the loss, and 236 rushing yards proved that the Lions didn’t offer much resistance on the field. Whether that means the team quit or was simply overmatched is a matter of opinion.

Lion? T.J. Hockenson, Tight End.

Hockenson was the team’s only hope at offense, as he usually is. In the game, Hockenson put up 89 yards receiving and was a weapon from the first offensive snap of the game until the finish. The Lions aren’t getting much generated on offense right now, but Hockenson is hardly the reason why. He’s been playing well and helping the team as much as he can. Hockenson is being double covered and put through the ringer on the offensive side of the ball, but he continues to play hard.

Lions’ Quote of the Game

Lions’ Stat of the Game
6, the number of sacks Detroit’s offensive line allowed on the day. Perhaps the player who struggled the most was right tackle Matt Nelson, as shown getting run by as if he was a turnstile early in the game.

Efforts like this aren’t going to get the job done, and as many people want to blame Jared Goff for the struggles of the offense, it’s clear Detroit’s line didn’t help anyone do their job at all in this game.

Lions’ Quote of the Game

“You never get used to it. All the guys in there, we’re all down. We all got a pit in our stomach. We just got to come back, we got a buy week in front of us to learn from, be able to reflect a little bit on the first eight games. Just got to come back and improve.” -T.J. Hockenson, on the Lions postgame show on October 32.

It’s clear the losing isn’t alright with Hockenson, even as the season continues to look like a work in progress for everyone.

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