Detroit Lions

The Lions Are Perfectly Embracing the 'Nothing To Lose' Mantra

Photo credit: Junfu Han (Detroit Free Press via USA TODAY Network)

Dan Campbell‘s blueprint Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams likely left purists cringing. In the first three quarters, the Detroit Lions had two successful fake punts and recovered an onside kick. For an 0-7 team searching for any means of success, the “nothing to lose” mentality is perfect for the Lions.

Detroit went six plays and 75 yards on their opening drive, and it resulted in a touchdown. An early 7-0 lead for the 17-point underdog Lions had LA fans yawning. Campbell decided to turn those yawns into slight frowns as he pulled out an onside kick call right after the touchdown, and his team recovered.

Surprise onside kicks have become increasingly obsolete. Campbell doesn’t give a damn.

That ensuing drive ended up stalling out at midfield, or so we were led to believe. On a fourth-and-seven, the Lions went back to the well with the trickery. They dialed up a fake-punt pass that went for 17 yards and a first down. At this point, even though it was the 5-1 Rams against the 0-6 Lions, the home crowd was a bit shook. Who the hell does this? An onside kick and a fake punt pass in the first quarter? An 0-6 team leaning into the idea that they have nothing to lose.

The drive resulted in a field goal and a 10-0 lead.

Alas, the Rams proved to have too much talent compared to the Lions, just like every other opponent Detroit has run into. LA emerged victorious, 28-19, and sent Campbell’s squad to 0-7.

While some will dismiss their effort, it needs to be noted that this Detroit team has not mailed it in on each other, on Campbell, or one of these games. They remain the only team in the NFL without a win this year, and they have come damn close on two occasions against the Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings. It’d be easy to mail it in when you lose on an NFL record 66-yard field goal as time expires in what has been a miserable season. When you lose two weeks later on a 54-yard field goal as time expires, you wonder if you’re cursed. Detroit hasn’t wavered, and it culminated in a near shocker in Southern California on Sunday. There are no moral victories, but this team put the fear of god into the Rams.

Per the Lions’ website, Campbell knows he is built for this kind of adversity.

“I told the team this before we ever started the season, but I’m built for adversity. This is what I do. I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it, I’ve done it. I’ve been in the high highs, the low lows, so I’m ready for this. I’m not giving up. I’m not giving up on any of these guys. I’m not listening to the lack-of-talent talk. I don’t buy into that. We’ve got more to give as a staff, these players have more to give as players, and we’re going to find a way to win a game.”

The first-year head coach for the Lions has gained many supporters for his gutsy decision-making and the emotional investment that he has made in this team. He’s worn his feelings on his sleeve, proving, if nothing else, that he genuinely cares. Despite that, Campbell knows frustration is growing.

“I’m frustrated like anyone would be. I’m frustrated like our players are, but it also gives me more motivation and driven anger, if you will, to want to make things right and help these guys as much as I can and help this staff. That’s the way I’m cut, man, it makes me want to dig in more is what it does. Maybe I’m stubborn that way.”

On Sunday, the Lions were supposed to roll over and let the Rams stomp all over them. Instead, they came in hot and played so frenetically that it had LA playing catchup early. Their play-calling indicated that they were an underdog. How they executed and played with such confidence made it harder to understand how this team hasn’t scratched out a win yet.

Jared Goff sees the improvements but knows it doesn’t matter in the NFL unless you’re winning games.

“We had our chances to win that game,” Goff said. “Make some plays, and they made a couple more than we did. We’re a lot better than our record shows. Ultimately in this league that doesn’t matter. Until we win some games we can’t really prove it.”

“I love these guys and we’re going to keep fighting until the end,” Goff continued. “We fight, we battle, we play to the best of our ability and unfortunately it hasn’t been enough, and we need to do things to fix it … but I wouldn’t do it with anyone else other than that locker room.”

The Lions turned Sunday’s game into a free-for-all, and it was wildly entertaining to watch. If they didn’t get the onside kick, if they didn’t get the two fake punts, who gives a rip? It’s an 0-6 team on the road as a 17-point underdog. Instead, Campbell and Co. forced the issue and took control early. It’s a blueprint they can replicate moving forward. They’ll just hope it isn’t as necessary in Week 8 when they welcome a woeful Philadelphia Eagles team to Detroit.

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