DETROIT (AP)Dan Campbell loves hard-nosed football.
The Detroit Lions coach just doesn’t think it is enough to build a winning team.
“We’ll always be known as a tough, physical team on offense, defense and special teams,” he said of his 4-1 Lions. “But if you are just tough and you are just physical and you have no creativity, you’re not going to do anything with it.”
That hasn’t been an issue since Campbell took over the team. Not only does he go for it on fourth down more than any other NFL coach, he seems to have an endless supply of fake kicks and trick plays.
On Sunday, when the Lions broke open the game with two second-quarter touchdowns in 29 seconds, the latter came when the Lions turned a reverse into a flea-flicker.
With the Panthers defense out of position, Jared Goff hit Sam LaPorta for a 31-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
“I think our guys enjoy those plays, and it is a little bit of eye candy, but it also sets up all the other things we do,” Campbell said Monday. “It is like when we go for it on fourth down – it isn’t a one-time thing that has a lot of pressure. Dialing up the smoke-and-mirror plays is just another part of what we do.”
After the Lions beat the Panthers 42-24, Campbell went home and watched the 49ers beat Dallas 42-10 on Sunday night. He didn’t miss the fact that San Francisco’s second touchdown came on an identical reverse flea-flicker, with Brock Purdy throwing to George Kittle for a 38-yard score.
“I watched San Francisco last night, and I think (coach Kyle) Shanahan is doing an incredible job,” he said.
“Those guys are physical and tough, but they are also so creative. That’s what makes them so difficult, adding that to an outstanding defense.”
The Lions have continued to dominate the running game on both sides of the ball. Offensively, they have rushed for more than 100 yards in all five games, including 162 yards with three touchdowns against Carolina, and they haven’t allowed any opponent to reach triple figures.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Lions let the winless Panthers and struggling rookie quarterback Bryce Young back into the game in the second half. Young completed 13 of 19 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns and was only sacked once.
It’s hard for defensive end Aidan Hutchinson’s stock to get much higher, but he had a sack, an interception and two tackles for loss. In his past three games, he’s had 4 1/2 sacks, four tackles for loss, three passes defensed, an interception, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble.
Wide receiver Jameson Williams made his much-anticipated season debut after missing four games because of a gambling suspension. He caught two passes for 2 yards and had a key drop that helped end a Lions drive. He did make several key downfield blocks, though.
Campbell confirmed Monday that cornerback Emmanuel Moseley will miss the rest of the season after tearing his right ACL. Moseley was playing his first game since tearing his left ACL in last season’s Week 5.
“I hate it for him,” Campbell said. “It’s so frustrating to put all of that work in, just to have that happen to the other side. But knowing him and knowing how he works, he’ll get right back to work and be ready when the time comes.”
Zero – the Lions played their first game this season without a turnover on Sunday. They had thrown three interceptions and lost three fumbles in their first four games, but were plus-3 in turnovers against the Panthers.
Make sure to stay focused ahead of Sunday’s game against a 3-1 Tampa Bay team that is coming off a bye.
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