DETROIT (AP) — For eight weeks, Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell has been consistent about one thing. When his team loses - and that’s all it has done - he’s going to take the blame.
“I got outcoached today; I didn’t help these guys at all,” he said after Sunday’s 44-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. “We weren’t ready to play today, and that’s on me.”
As usual, his players strongly disagreed.
“The coaches are giving us a great game plan, but they can only do so much,” safety Tracy Walker said. “They can’t put the playbook out on the field. We’ve got to go out and execute the plays that are called.
“That’s our job and the bottom line is that we aren’t doing it.”
Campbell and Jared Goff were so confident they could get off to a fast start, they chose to receive the opening kickoff after winning the toss. That surprised referee Tony Corrente - he was obviously startled when they didn’t defer - but it gave them a chance to establish early control.
The plan worked for one play - an 18-yard completion to tight end T.J. Hockenson - but that was it. The Lions ran 32 more first-half plays for 78 yards - an average of 2.4 per play - and were down 17-0 at halftime.
“The first play of the game was awesome, but then we stalled out again,” Goff said. “I’m going to watch the film closely, because I’ve got to find ways to get guys into position to make plays.”
As usual, the problem was the inability to get the ball down the field. Hockenson finished with 10 catches for 89 yards, but Amon-Ra St. Brown was the only wide receiver to catch a pass. He had two receptions for 12 yards in the first half, then added a 34-yard catch in garbage time.
“I told (Goff) to cut it loose today, but there were too many plays where he immediately had someone in his face,” Campbell said. “I don’t know what he’s supposed to do. I really don’t.
“Our offense was very anemic, but I don’t think he’s the reason.”
Detroit’s offense has struggled all year, but the defense was also a significant problem against the Eagles. Philadelphia came into the game ranked 22nd in rushing, but finished with 236 yards and four touchdowns.
“Our defensive line play wasn’t very good today, I guess that’s obvious,” lineman Michael Brockers said. “It was mostly little things, but everyone in this league is good, and they will take advantage of anything you give them.”
Brockers has played in a Super Bowl - with Goff at quarterback - so he understands how far away the Lions are from respectability.
“Our special teams have been playing at a championship level all season, I believe that. But the rest of us have to step up,” he said. “We all need to look in the mirror and decide to be better for each other, be better for the organization and be better for the city of Detroit.”
At the moment, though, they are in a place that Campbell best described while praising the effort of linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin.
“I noticed him in the sea of trash that we were floating in today.”