Digging through the scraps of another close, deflating loss for the Detroit Lions, one gem turned up yet again: D’Andre Swift. The second-year running back became the first Lions player to run for 100 yards in back-to-back games since Kevin Jones did it in 2004. Swift has been tremendous in Dan Campbell’s super-conservative game plan.
Swift has seen his carries skyrocket in the last two weeks. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he had 33 rushes and churned out 130 yards. He only got 14 carries against the Browns, but he went for 136 yards on the ground. He hasn’t just been productive; he’s been a monster for the Lions in an offense that leans heavily on him due to the wildly inconsistent play at quarterback.
Defenses are starting to focus more on Swift, and that will be the case moving forward because neither Jared Goff nor Tim Boyle is moving the needle at quarterback. Boyle got the start against the Browns and was 15 of 23 for 77 yards with two interceptions. Part of the blame surely rests on his shoulders, but it doesn’t help that Campbell has kept things close to the vest in the last few games. Although Swift has been remarkable, not trusting the passing game in any capacity doesn’t bode well in today’s NFL, especially not for a team that’s still looking for its first win of the season.
It all came to a puzzling collision when Campbell dialed up a run play on 3 and 14 with the Lions down three points with three minutes to go on Sunday. Swift, who was tremendous, churned out five yards, and Detroit punted. Feed the hot hand, sure. But it made little sense in that spot.
Campbell addressed the conservative play-calling over the last two weeks.
“Look, I get it. I’m sure there’s a lot of people that question I was too conservative, and maybe I ought to throw it a lot more,” Campbell said. “But I’m just not ready to do that with where we we’re at here. … I just didn’t feel like it was right. I didn’t feel it was the right thing to do. Do I see myself trying to win games, you know, 14-13 or 16-13 (long term)? No. But we’ll do whatever it takes to win a game. I just felt like the right thing to do was try to run it a little bit, try to take a little stress off Tim, get him going. But yeah, look, it’s no secret. We have to be better in the pass game.”
There’s a heavier weight on Campbell’s shoulders as the Lions remain winless with each passing week. Swift holds the key to this offense finding a groove, and he has shown he can be the go-to guy moving forward. Finding situational balance will still be crucial for the Lions moving ahead. Handing it off to Swift 14 times against the Browns wasn’t enough. Yet it was on a couple of those carries in spots where Detroit probably should’ve tried to cut it loose, leading to second-guessing. When asked specifically about the 3rd and 14, Campbell said he wouldn’t change a thing.
“You want to be mindful of making sure that you’re being smart with your quarterback, but yet still having a chance to win,” Campbell said. “I just felt like it was the right thing to do. I did. I thought we’d get that ball back. …[J]ust to try to take it, not put (Boyle) under duress, and that’s a pretty good rush team with (Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney) on the edge and those guys in the middle.”
Detroit has been so close, including Sunday’s game against the Browns. Still, the slightly bizarre play-calling on these third-and-long scenarios in the last two weeks may be hurting the Lions. Getting Swift 20-plus carries moving forward should be something they strive to do. Doing it in the right situations is just as necessary instead of running it on 3rd and 14 and essentially conceding a possession.
Amid all the losing, the Lions have found a star in D’Andre Swift. Swift is a bright light in an offense that doesn’t have a lot of elite talent. Detroit will need to ride him as they look for their first win of the season. They’ll also need to even it out by putting some faith into the passing game so as not to become completely one-sided on offense. Meanwhile, Swift will get a chance to show off his talents against the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving as he looks to make it three-straight 100-yard rushing performances.