In a decisive 20-6 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Ford Field, Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell exhibited a conservative gamplan that deviated from his usual aggressive style. Punting six times, Campbell’s calculated conservatism favored field position over risk, putting faith in their defense to stop the Falcons.
On Tuesday, Campbell revealed on the “Stoney & Jansen with Heather” show a personal regret, considering his strategy on Sunday far too conservative.
Facing the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field this Thursday, fans wonder which version of Campbell will emerge. The ideal might be a blend of the unpredictable aggression he’s known for and the newfound conservatism.
Campbell himself admitted to applying pressure during the week’s practice, saying, “I just applied a little pressure and the guys did a heck of a job. They responded well, the coaches really did and the players did a great job.”
Aaron Glenn’s Defensive Turnaround
The week two loss to the Seattle Seahawks brought scrutiny to defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. However, Glenn’s response against the Falcons was creative and strategic, emphasizing player positioning and formation.
Campbell lauded Glenn’s effort, saying, “We really played a physical, violent game… AG did a hell of a job, and we looked like a hungry, violent defense.”
With standout performances from DB Brian Branch, DL Aidan Hutchinson, LB Derrick Barnes, DB Tracy Walker, and others, Glenn’s defense halted Bijan Robinson and the Falcons’ renowned rushing attack, holding them to a mere 44 total yards. Detroit’s defense managed seven sacks, with Atlanta QB Desmond Ridder constantly pressured.
“I thought AG did a great job with the game plan,” Campbell said, praising Glenn’s scheme. The revitalized defense hints at a brighter future for the Lions.
Ben Johnson’s Offensive Ingenuity
While much attention went to the defense, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson’s game plan also deserves acclaim. Facing injuries along the offensive line and in the backfield, Johnson crafted strategies to enable young stars and maintain ball control.
A standout element was Johnson’s consistent dedication to the run game, despite bruising RB David Montgomery’s absence. While RB Jahmyr Gibbs found more success running left of center Frank Ragnow, with an average of 6.8 yards per carry, Johnson didn’t waver. He still directed Gibbs to the right, even if the results weren’t as prolific, averaging just 1.7 yards.
This persistence wasn’t without purpose. By keeping the defense honest and maintaining a balance in running directions, Johnson set up the Falcons’ defense for the unexpected. His diligence paid off during the game-sealing RPO. Jared Goff’s play-action to Gibbs going right saw the Falcons’ defense over-pursue, allowing Goff to pull back and sprint into the endzone on the left.
Johnson’s nuanced understanding of the game and ability to exploit defensive tendencies, as seen in his strategy of running the ball and the clever RPO setup, underlines his value to the Lions.
Areas for Improvement
But no victory is without hitches. A questionable challenge on a near-interception by Tracy Walker and an alarming 10 penalties for 119 yards indicate room for improvement.
While Sunday’s game wasn’t without flaws, the Lions’ coaching staff demonstrated adaptability and ingenuity. With Aaron Glenn experimenting successfully and Ben Johnson’s diligent offensive game plan, the future looks promising. Coupled with Dan Campbell’s leadership, the Detroit Lions’ potential seems boundless. The upward trajectory of their season hinges on this continued growth and adaptability.
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
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Original Photo Credit: © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK