Hunt Report: Many Coaching Gaffes Cost Lions Very Winnable Road Game

Dan Campbell

Getty Dan Campbell reacts to a Lions play in 2022 against the Eagles.

The Detroit Lions looked to be in command of a game against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3, but their coaching staff failed them in a massive way.

Calling an aggressive game early, the Lions seemed to have the Vikings on their heels. Ben Johnson was looking like the toast of young NFL offensive coordinators, but in the second half, Detroit fell apart.

Johnson’s decision making was lackluster, and perhaps the worst call of the game came midway through the fourth quarter. On a short-yardage situation, the Lions elected to pass the ball instead of run. The play was incomplete, and the clock stopped. Minnesota quickly found a way to score and turn the game around.

Dan Campbell didn’t help matters late in the game. Instead of punting the ball, far too often, he put his defense, already down Tracy Walker, in impossible spots. Late in the game, instead of going for a fourth down or punting the ball, he tried a field goal from 54 yards. Of course, Austin Seibert missed, and Minnesota marched down and won the game.

The Lions can’t be taken seriously as a threat to do anything until their staff dials it in and starts operating like a serious staff. Taking calculated risks on fourth down will always outweigh the macho decisions.

So far, Campbell hasn’t seemed to master the balance, and the ability to call a winning game. As a result, the Lions more often find themselves on the losing end of things in crunch time.

“I hate the decision. I wish I would have put it back in their hands,” Campbell would say afterward of his decision not to go for it on fourth down.

The Lions aren’t going to be a winning team until their coaching staff starts acting like a winning coaching staff and dialing in during crunch time. That means dialing in during key situations and making the right calls.

Detroit was in position to claim a statement win in Week 3, but instead of doing that, it was more of the same. It feels as if the Lions are a changed team, but until they prove it on the field and make the right decisions, it will be more of the same.

What else was learned this week? Here’s a look at some lessons from Detroit’s second failed hunt of the season.

Austin Seibert Isn’t the Answer at Kicker

When Austin Seibert won the Detroit kicking competition over Riley Patterson, many folks wondered if he had really had the better camp. It was tough to know without Seibert getting much preseason run.

Supposedly, Seibert won the competition because his leg offered a shot at longer field goals. In this game, he missed twice, costing the Lions a vital six points.

Seibert’s leash can’t be long if the Lions are in contention. A wobbly kicking game cost them in this game, and Seibert was as big a reason as any for the team’s loss in Week 3. It is very disappointing for Detroit.

Detroit’s Defense Needs to Play Better

The Lions are going to have to rely on their defense to step up and make a play or two this season. They can’t depend on the offense to carry them and score 30 points every week.

Frustratingly, Detroit wasn’t able to make any headway in this game. Going up 14-0, they spotted the Vikings 14 points and a tie. Then, late in the game, they collapsed, allowing 10 points to beat them late. Allowing 375 yards is just too much in a game.

While Jeff Okudah has been great, far too often, the back end has been a weakness, and the pass rush has been inconsistent. The Detroit defense needs to get heat for their performance and Aaron Glenn needs to find a way to be a lot better in terms of situations.

Injuries Might Again Curse a Lions’ Season

Detroit watched as Amon-Ra St. Brown as well as D’Andre Swift sustained injuries. Both players looked as if they were a non-factor at times in the second-half of the game in a sad turn for Detroit.

In addition to these injuries, Tracy Walker went out of the game and did not return. His presence was missed on the back end, as the Lions gave up far too many open passes down the stretch.

A year after the Lions had injuries kill them, it feels as if things are teetering again. Depth will be put to the test in a big way this season, especially as the injuries pile up early on this year.

Lions’ MVP: Jamaal Williams, Running Back

While the Lions were dealing with an injury to Swift at running back, Williams stepped up and was a bulldog for the offense. He gritted his way to an 87 yard, two touchdown day and looked to perhaps put things away with this statement score:

If Swift is banged up, Williams is going to be a critical player for the Lions the rest of the season and into the next few weeks. The hope is Swift can continue to play a big role, but Williams proved he can step up and get the job done in a big way.

Jeff Okudah was elite in coverage again, so he gets a nod on defense. Give Williams the overall respect here for helping a needy offense.

Lions’ Stat of the Game: 13

That’s the difference between the Lions conversions on third down (three) and the number of third downs they had on the day (16). It was just an ugly day for the team in terms of execution. To not be in such poor shape on fourth down, the Lions have to start to make more conversions.

While the Lions need to clean up their coaching, they also need to clean up their execution. For an offense with explosive capabilities to be this bad on third down is just a frustrating thing.

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