Motor City Bulletin: Week 6-7

We’re right around the halfway point between Weeks 6 and 7, and it’s time for my first Motor City Bulletin for Pro Football Press! This series will serve as a closing of the book on the previous week, and an early look forward to the next matchup for the Lions. In this edition, we’ll look at some comments after the Lions’ loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, as well as some comments from both the Lions and Rams sides of things as their Week 7 matchup approaches. We’ll wrap up with a very brief look at where the Lions and Rams are in the standings and a small discussion about the very obvious storyline surrounding this game. Let’s begin.

Closing The Book On Week 6

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As I mentioned in my Lions-Bengals review, frustration was apparent everywhere in the Motor City on Sunday. It was especially clear in Dan Campbell‘s post-game press conference. Speaking regarding starting quarterback Jared Goff, Campbell said, “I feel like he needs to step up more than he has. And I think he needs to help us, just like everybody else.” This is more of the now-familiar Dan Campbell brand of transparency we’ve seen since the day they hired him. Mixed in was that frustration I was talking about.

“We got whipped,” Campbell said to open his presser. “That was a beatdown,” Campbell admitted to being angry after seeing the performance. “That team is not thirty-something points better than us… we weren’t even in that fight. You look at our stats offensively, it’s because they were in Prevent Cover 2.” This version of coach Campbell comes in stark contrast to the version we saw last week in Minnesota with tears in his eyes after another heartbreaking loss. And yet, in the same vein, it’s not too different from that version of the head coach: he showed emotion. He showed, unlike past head coaches, that he cares.

After a day to clear his head, coach Campbell highlighted a bright spot to open his Monday presser. “I thought that one of the bright spots for us yesterday was that our defense, in the first half, was the most efficient we had played all year,” he said. “We just needed more of that in the second half.” Campbell said Sunday that he had “a million” ideas in his head on how to improve the team, but was vague about what exactly would change. He did mention that he liked the Lions’ offense while they were in a two-minute drill. And that while he thinks “there’s a place to huddle,” he may like to see them call everything at the line. “You gotta keep tinkering with it, and explore some of the things you haven’t done yet.”

When asked what the Lions’ offense has done well thus far, Campbell was blunt with his answer: “Not much.”

If you’d like to hear coach Campbell for yourself, you can watch Sunday’s presser here (starts at 13:50), and Monday’s here.

Looking Ahead To Week 7

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

This upcoming game against the Los Angeles Rams is interesting for multiple reasons. We’ll get to the main storyline later on, but there is still a lot of interesting bits here. Detroit’s GM Brad Holmes and assistant GM Ray Agnew were with the Rams before coming to Detroit. Defensive lineman Michael Brockers is returning to LA for the first time since they traded him this past offseason. And Brockers is already focusing on this game following the loss to the Bengals.

“We’ve had some bad losses, and some losses where we barely lost,” he told the media on Monday. “One thing I know about this game, whoever is the most focused team, the team that executes the most, usually comes out to win on Sunday.”

When asked directly about his past with the Rams, the veteran defensive lineman didn’t give it much weight. “Yes, I do have a lot of ex-teammates on that team, and a lot of good friends. You know, there was no love lost between me and the Rams when I left. It’s understanding that I made a pro decision, and I came here, and we just gotta move forward.”

Shifting gears, coach Campbell mentioned on Monday a few players that he felt were coming into their own. He mentioned rookie corner Jerry Jacobs, who covered Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase on Sunday. “Jerry’s getting better. Jerry is improving, and he’s competitive, he plays hard, and he communicates well. We like where he’s going, and he’s only going to get better with reps.” Campbell also went on to mention how he saw improvement from guys such as rookie defensive tackle Alim McNeill, rookie linebacker Derrick Barnes, veteran defenders Austin Bryant and Tracy Walker, and second-year guard Jonah Jackson.

The Quarterbacks

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The Game

I’ve avoided the main storyline up until this point, but it’s time to talk about the quarterbacks. This game will be the first time that longtime Lions starter Matthew Stafford and longtime Rams starter Jared Goff will face their former clubs since the trade. And the way this season has unfolded for these two couldn’t be more opposite.

Goff has thrown for 1505 yards in six games this season, with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. His longest pass from scrimmage was a 46-yard pass to Quintez Cephus during the Lions’ Week 2 matchup. In these last two games, Goff has barely thrown for over 200 yards. It hasn’t worked out for him in the Motor City, and there is little hope that things will get better. Goff, like the Lions, is in something of a slump.

For Stafford, it’s been a much different story. He’s coming off a four-touchdown performance in a rout of the New York Giants. Stafford has thrown for 1838 yards, 16 touchdowns, and four picks. He currently sits with a 116.6 passer rating, which would easily be a career-high. Stafford helped lead the Rams to a 5-1 record, his only loss coming to the undefeated Arizona Cardinals. He went toe to toe with and defeated legendary signal-caller Tom Brady for the second time in his career. The Rams are one of the best teams in all of football, and they look like Super Bowl contenders.

Stafford also downplayed this matchup. “In pregame, am I going to be saying hey to some old teammates and friends, the Ford family, hopefully, if they make the trip? Absolutely,” Stafford said. “I’ve got nothing but great relationships with people over there, so have a lot of respect for the organization, the team, the ownership. It will be just another football game once the ball is snapped.”

Goff offered much of the same. “Pregame may be different emotionally, seeing some of these guys, old teammates, old coaches. But once the game starts, it’s all the same,” he said on 97.1 The Ticket. “It really is. We’re so focused on our own stuff right now, we’ve got so many things to worry about cleaning up and getting right and making it work on Sundays, that I don’t think me being selfish and making it more than it is will help us in any way.”

Campbell did acknowledge that these types of media storylines can add pressure on players’ shoulders, and it’s something he’s empathetic to. “As it pertains to this week, I think it’s really how do we give him the best plan possible to have success?” Campbell said. “I would do that with anybody, not just him. Shoot, I remember, last year, it was the Tom Brady and Drew Brees deal. You don’t think a lot about it, but those two guys going at it, that was all that was being pushed that week. It was a huge story and sometimes you take it for granted, the amount of pressure that those guys are under to perform.

“I know this is a little different, but in the same regard, I know it will be a big story,” Campbell said. “So how do we calm it down, just to where he can go and play fast and efficient? And us help him offensively — run game-wise, play action, anything that we can do that’s going to take a little bit off and help him play fast.”

The Trade

Monday saw Rams head coach Sean McVay revisit his handling of the trade that saw these teams swap signal-callers. “Yes, I wish there was better, clearer communication,” McVay told the media. “To say that it was perfectly handled on my end, I wouldn’t be totally accurate in that. I’ll never claim to be perfect, but I will try to learn from some things that I can do better, and I think that was one of them without a doubt.”

In the trade’s aftermath, Goff told the LA Times he hadn’t talked to the Rams since their season ended against the Green Bay in the playoffs. The trade left him “disappointed and upset.” Eventually, he grew to like the idea of playing in the Motor City. “Talking to the Lions,” Goff said, “is what made me go, ‘oh my God, this is how it’s supposed to feel. This makes me feel great,’ how excited they were, how fired up they were.”

Goff went back on 97.1 The Ticket on Tuesday and was asked if McVay’s comments meant anything to him. “I mean, yeah, that’s good to hear, of course. That’s good to hear,” Goff said Tuesday on the Karsch & Anderson Show. “But at the same time, it was handled the way it was and there’s really not many hard feelings. It’s just the way the business is. We’ve had our talks obviously since the trade, back when it happened, but it’s alright. I mean, I appreciate him saying that, but it was handled the way it was.”

With or without this storyline, the Lions will be looking for their first win without Matthew Stafford since 2011. They are 0-14 in that stretch. To close this out, here is where the Lions and Rams are in the standings. Let’s look to see if the outcome of this game changes their divisional standing.


Detroit Lions: 0-6, 4th in NFC North. A win or loss doesn’t change their standing in the NFC North. The Vikings and Bears both have three wins, so they’re not losing ground to a one-win Lions team or a still winless Lions team.

Los Angeles Rams: 5-1, 2nd in NFC West. A win or loss won’t change their standing in the NFC West, even if the Cardinals lose to the 49ers. The Cardinals have a better head-to-head record, and therefore will retain first place even with a loss.

Featured Photo Credit: Daniel Mears/Detroit News

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The Kneecap Recap: Lions-Bengals Review

Following their loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and the Jacksonville Jaguars win over the Miami Dolphins in London, the Detroit Lions are now the lone winless team in the NFL this season. And unlike their losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings, they never had a chance. The Lions fell to the Bengals 34-11 Sunday afternoon at Ford Field, in a display that will not be fondly remembered. In my first edition of The Kneecap Recap, I’d like to look at where this game puts each team in the standings at the time of this writing, a few top performers for both teams, a big takeaway from both teams, before giving an overall closing thought.


Detroit Lions: 0-6, 4th in NFC North (next week: @ LA Rams)

Cincinnati Bengals: 4-2, 2nd in AFC North (next week: @ Ravens)

Top Performers

Detroit Lions: QB Jared Goff (28/42, 202 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT), RB D’Andre Swift (67 total yards, 1 rush TD), TE T.J. Hockenson (8 catches, 74 yards)

Cincinnati Bengals: QB Joe Burrow (19/29, 271 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT), RB Joe Mixon (153 total yards, 1 rec. TD), WR Ja’Marr Chase (4 catches, 97 yards)

Lions Takeaway: Frustration Abounds

Photo Credit: Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press

In my Lions-Bengals preview, I said that the fight that this Lions team had would prevent them from being well and truly blown out. In actuality, there wasn’t much fight from this Lions team. They replaced their fight with something else: frustration. The Detroit Lions were frustrated today, and it was clear no matter where you looked. Anytime the FOX NFL cameras focused on head coach Dan Campbell, you could see it in his expression. When you saw the Lions’ offense stall out, you could see it in their body language. Hell, anytime the cameras focused on the fans, you could see it on their faces.

And I guess I should have seen it coming. If there’s any team in the NFL you’d expect to be frustrated, it’d have to be the Detroit Lions. After all, what team wouldn’t carry some frustration with them after losing twice in three weeks on last-second 50+ yard field goals, one of which was an NFL record? Today, it just seemed like the team couldn’t bottle it up any longer. They wore their frustration on their faces, in the way they carried themselves, but they didn’t channel it into their play. And as a result, they got blown out.

Ultimately, this loss comes down to their failure to execute once again. They were consistent today, which may be a first, but they were consistently bad. They failed to execute on offense most of the game, until offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn just said to hell with it and instructed his receivers to run five-yard routes for most of the second half. And even, the offense struggled to execute much of anything. The defense, while better than the offense, eventually broke down, allowing the game to get away.

Bengals Takeaway: Exactly What They Needed

Photo Credit: David Reginek/USA TODAY Sports

This may sound like I’m down on the Bengals or their performance, but I assure you I’m not. It sounds boring to say, but this is exactly what this team needed all around. After narrowly escaping a then-winless-Jaguars team and losing in heartbreaking fashion to the Green Bay Packers, this kind of win is what the Bengals needed. They were strong on both sides of the ball and never took their foot off the gas. Unlike the Packers, who trailed at half to this same Lions team, they were never in danger of losing.

In my preview, I said the biggest mistake the Bengals could make was underestimating this Lions team. And it seems like they agreed. Taking a 10-0 lead into the half, the Bengals poured it on in the second half, scoring 24 total points to secure the win. Even when head coach Zac Taylor sat Burrow and had Brandon Allen under center, they kept pushing. And it was Allen’s TD pass to wideout Auden Tate that kept the Lions and their fans from having delusions of a comeback.

This is what good teams do. Good teams should be able to face a team like the Lions and win comfortably. And that’s exactly what the Bengals did. They have a huge test next week against the Ravens, but they’ll celebrate this one tonight.

Closing Thoughts

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I am not under any delusions of this actually happening. I don’t believe it’s even under consideration. And I really don’t want this to appear as me jumping on the bandwagon. However, as I sat back at halftime and I considered Jared Goff’s 38-yard first-half performance, I wondered what it is the Lions coaching staff sees in Goff that they don’t see in backup David Blough. He certainly won’t light the world on fire, but I feel confident that Blough will at least see open receivers and/or feel confident enough to throw further than five yards down the field more than once per game.

The Lions are on the road next week to face their greatest quarterback in franchise history. A man who’s thriving with the Los Angeles Rams in a way he never was given a chance to in Detroit. I’ll obviously have clearer thoughts about the Matthew Stafford Derby, if I may borrow a soccer term, later on in the week when it comes time for the preview. However, I don’t see an outcome that doesn’t involve Stafford unleashing years of frustration with this organization onto their defense.

I’ll see you all later this week for The Hunt For Kneecaps Preview.

Featured Photo Credit: Daniel Mears/Detroit News

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What’s Next For The Detroit Lions?

The 2021 NFL season is about a quarter of the way through its grind, but for Detroit Lions fans, it has already felt like an eternity. The team has lost their first five games of the season, and it doesn’t seem like there is much light at the end of the tunnel. No one had any delusions of grandeur for this football team. However, even the most pessimistic Lions fan has to admit that they hadn’t expected this. Saying the offense has performed poorly would be a monumental understatement, the defense is still disastrous, and the team has committed mistakes that even junior varsity coaches would yell and scream over.

Now that some time has passed and we have a clearer picture of how the team will perform, I’d like to look at what has gone wrong with the team, what are some areas of positivity, how the rest of Detroit’s schedule looks, and how the rest of the season could play out for them. I also want to look at the team’s draft prospects, and in which direction they could go in with their two first-round picks. Without further ado, let’s get started.

What’s Gone Wrong?

Detroit Lions QB <a rel=
Photo Credit: Mike Mulholland/

The glaring issue with this Detroit Lions team has been the offense. Quarterback Jared Goff, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Rams in the offseason, currently leads the NFL in fumbles. Goff added to this lead with a fumble on Sunday against the Vikings. The turnovers have become such an issue that head coach Dan Campbell is considering trimming the playbook. “That’ll certainly be something that we look at, ‘cause it has — it’s killed us a couple weeks in a row,” Campbell said during an emotional press conference after the heartbreaking loss in Minnesota. “We’ll look at everything with it, but it hurts us.”

The turnover issues shouldn’t be entirely surprising. Over his final two seasons in LA, Goff led all quarterbacks in turnovers. And according to Pro Football Focus, Goff has made five turnover-worthy plays, which puts him in the top 10 for most turnover-worthy plays. And it doesn’t help that Goff is one of the most conservative signal-callers in the league. Only 2.3% of Goff’s throws last season were big-time throws according to PFF. A big-time throw is considered “a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and into a tighter window.” Goff also ranks 37th this season in average depth of target (seven yards).

Goff’s receivers have been of little help, to be fair. He is in the top 15 for most drops with seven dropped balls, which puts him in the company of San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo and Washington’s Taylor Heinicke. He still falls just outside of the top 20 in adjusted completion percentage. To say that Goff has underperformed is a colossal understatement, even with a skeleton crew at wide receiver.


The problems aren’t all on offense, however. The defense was historically bad last season, and it has been a little better this year. The Detroit Lions have the 23rd worst rush defense and PFF has them dead last in pass coverage. Safety Will Harris grades as the worst safety in the NFL out of safeties who have started at least four games. Julian and Romeo Okwara lead the team in missed tackle percentage. Linebacker Alex Anzalone has the highest total of missed tackles with six. Anzalone has been targeted twelve times in coverage and has allowed a catch every single time. He gives up an average of 10.3 yards per reception and a total of 57 yards after the catch.

Injuries have also been a nuisance. Romeo Okwara and cornerback Jeff Okudah have been ruled out for the rest of the season with Achilles injuries. They placed wideout Tyrell Williams on IR a couple of weeks ago due to a concussion. Wideout Quintez Cephus suffered a shoulder injury against the Vikings and will likely miss a significant amount of time. Tackle Taylor Decker has been on IR all season, and Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow joined him not too long ago with a toe injury.

For all of this, there’s likely an argument to be made that the Lions could sit at 3-2 right now. However, the team has been painfully inconsistent this season. Against the 49ers, Detroit only truly showed up in the final two minutes of the game. In Lambeau, the Lions put together an entire half but imploded down the stretch against Green Bay. The Detroit Lions were a bit more consistent against Baltimore but failed to close the door. They were never truly in the game against Chicago, and the team again showed up late against the Vikings on Sunday. The Detroit Lions arguably could have picked up three wins, but have yet to put together a full four quarters of winning football.

What’s Gone Right?

Detroit Lions' OT <a rel=
Photo Credit: Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press

Not much has gone right in the Motor City but it also hasn’t been entirely poor. There have been a few bright spots. Top draft pick Penei Sewell, while having his share of struggles, hasn’t been entirely bad. He grades in the top 10 for pass and run blocking among rookie offensive linemen that have played at least 50% of their team’s offensive snaps this season. Cephus had taken some big strides before his injury Sunday and was coming off a near-100 yard performance against the Bears. Undrafted corner AJ Parker, while not excellent, has been decent in coverage throughout these first five weeks of the season. Parker’s only truly poor performance came on Week 3 against the Ravens. Rookie defensive tackle Alim McNeill has also been a bit of a bright spot, especially against the Bears.

The best thing I could probably say about the Lions right now is that they are a well-coached football team. Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn have made impressive play calls this season, which is something we didn’t see a ton from the Matt Patricia regime. And this is, in part, a reason why the Detroit Lions have been close to winning a few times this season. The problem is not the coaching, it’s the execution, especially on offense. A few times the Lions have gone for it on fourth and short, and had a man open, only for Goff to go elsewhere with the ball.

The Lions have also shown a ton of heart and haven’t backed down from anyone. Despite their offensive woes, the Lions have been aggressive, leading the league in most fourth-down attempts. They’ve also kept pushing even when the game was all but over. This is clear from their Week 1 loss to the 49ers, where Detroit trailed 41-17 with two minutes left, only to bring the game within one score on their last drive. We also saw this type of fight against Baltimore, Chicago, and Minnesota to varying degrees. This team doesn’t quit, and with the lack of depth on this team, that is quite admirable.

What’s Next?

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Cambell.
Photo Credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Rest of the Season

The Lions have 12 games remaining in their season. Seven of these upcoming games are against teams who are over .500 on the season. This includes meetings with the Matthew Stafford-led Rams (4-1), the Bears (3-2), the Cardinals (5-0), and the Packers (4-1). Realistically, there are about two games remaining that I could see this Lions team winning. Those games being the Eagles (2-3) on Halloween and the Falcons (2-3) on the day after Christmas. Remember, I base this view on what I know right now, and that this could obviously change as the season progresses.

And I believe this team will improve. Whether this improvement comes from trimming the playbook offensively, getting guys back from injury, players on defense stepping up, or a combination of these factors, I believe the Lions will improve and steal a game or two that we don’t expect. In terms of performance, the best-case scenario for the Lions in my mind is a 4-13 finish. The worst case is a straight 0-17 outing, and a middle-of-the-road prediction is 2-15. For draft order, flip the worst and best-case scenarios. Speaking of the draft…

The Draft

The Lions, barring a truly unforeseen surge, will undoubtedly have a top draft pick this season. And they have several needs to address. They could use a quarterback, wide receiver, pass rushers, corners, etc. The most valuable position would be quarterback, but the issue is that there isn’t a true franchise signal-caller in this upcoming draft. At the very least, one hasn’t emerged. Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, UNC’s Sam Howell, and USC’s Kedon Slovis have taken steps back this year and have seen their draft stock fall.

On the other side of the coin, Nevada’s Carson Strong, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder have climbed up draft boards. At wideout, Ohio State offers a pair of intriguing options in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. And on the defensive side, we see possibly the best prospects in the draft in Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr., and Texas A&amp;M’s DeMarvin Leal.

Obviously, things will change between now and draft night. This is a way, way too early to look at the draft and how things will play out. However, it is something the Lions should keep in mind as their already bleak playoff hopes die right before their eyes. As of now, the Lions would have a top-two pick in the draft. The Jacksonville Jaguars, should they pick ahead of the Lions, do not need a QB. This affords Detroit the pick of the lot as far as available quarterbacks.

If Detroit goes QB early, Corral and Ridder are the likeliest options. If they decide to go elsewhere, look for them to target an edge rusher or possibly a safety. With the first-rounder Detroit acquired from the Rams, Detroit could go with Strong or Liberty’s Malik Willis at QB. If they’ve already taken one, Detroit could use this pick to shore up their defense or get a playmaking wideout.

I hope you all enjoyed this look at the Detroit Lions so far, and I can’t wait to revisit this article down the road once the season has progressed even further.

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