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
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.”
Looking Ahead To Week 7
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.
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.”
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