Campbell promises Lions will stay on the hunt after fast start
DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Lions are in first place in the NFC North and playing as well as any team in the conference.
That’s not a position they’ve been in for a long time.
After beating the Packers 34-20 on Thursday — their third prime-time win in five games dating to last season's finale — coach Dan Campbell was asked how his team would respond to being the hunted instead of doing the hunting.
“We’re not the hunted, because we’re going to stay on the hunt,” he said. “We’ve said this since training camp — if you are hunting us, you don’t have to look for us.
“We’re going to be on your front porch when you open the doors.”
It’s been six years — since Week 2 of the 2017 season — since the Lions were alone in first place. That team finished 9-7 — well behind the 13-3 Minnesota Vikings — and missed the playoffs. Coach Jim Caldwell was fired after the season, and things fell apart under his successor, Matt Patricia.
Now the Lions are back, but it has been decades since they’ve won a division title or a playoff game. Ford Field has been open for 21 years, but the only playoff game it has hosted was the Super Bowl after the 2005 season, when Pittsburgh beat Seattle.
Campbell doesn’t want his team thinking about that.
“We just have to put our heads down and keep working,” wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown said. “We can celebrate today, but we’ve got to move on to next week and Carolina. We have to stay on the grind.”
The Lions got a surprising boost on Friday when the NFL revised its gambling policy. As part of the deal, big-threat wide receiver Jameson Williams had his suspension commuted — he could play as soon as next Sunday against the Panthers.
For the second week in a row, the Lions dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides. They sacked Jordan Love five times while only allowing Jared Goff to be taken down twice.
The Lions had a 211-27 edge in rushing yards, including 121 yards and three touchdowns from David Montgomery.
“All we do is give him a hole and he does the rest,” guard Jonah Jackson said. “Once he gets going, he is impossible to stop.”
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Goff played mistake-free down the stretch last year — throwing one interception in the final nine games — and wasn’t picked off in the opener against Kansas City.
Since then, he’s thrown an interception in three straight games. His pick-6 was a turning point of the Week 2 loss to Seattle, and Thursday's turnover allowed the Packers to take a 3-0 lead.
Aidan Hutchinson is hardly an unknown — he was the second pick of the 2022 draft and had 9 1/2 sacks as a rookie — but he mauled the Green Bay offensive line on Thursday. He posted 1 1/2 sacks, three quarterback hits and a tackle for loss.
Most of the damage was against a familiar face — fellow Michigan product Jon Runyan.
First-round pick Jahmyr Gibbs has gotten off to a slow start, with 179 rushing yards and 70 receiving yards on 14 catches. Gibbs was expected to be a receiving weapon out of the backfield, but his longest reception went for 10 yards.
“It hasn’t quite happened for him yet, but we’re not panicking,” Campbell said. “He’s going to be just fine.”
Campbell didn’t have any updates on tackle Taylor Decker or safety Brian Branch, who both have ankle injuries.
1,545 — Detroit’s total yards through four games. There are still questions about the defense, but if the offense can keep putting up almost 400 yards a week, the Lions will be in good shape.
Stay focused during a weekend off so there isn’t a letdown before hosting the Panthers on Oct. 8.
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