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Grading Lions Coaching Debut of Dan Campbell

How did the new Detroit Lions head coach fare in his first game?

As Week 1 was approaching for Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell, his primary worry was that he would have not done enough to optimally prepare his team to play against the San Francisco 49ers.

After 60 minutes of action, Campbell and Co. now have enough game film to begin to make corrections in the hopes of growing over the course of the 17-week season. 

The 45-year-old coach will be applauded for his aggressiveness on offense and for his team not giving up, despite trailing at one point by four touchdowns. 

But, significant demerits were earned based on the poor play of the defense and the offense's struggles to execute chunk plays. 

The defensive line could not pressure quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo enough to disrupt his rhythm and the secondary could actually be worse than it was in 2020.

During the second quarter, the defense was admonished by the radio broadcast for just how passive and soft the coverage was on the 49ers receivers. 

"I wanted to try to be aggressive, but not to a fault, to try to give ourselves some momentum. I knew we had to be able to stop them in the run game. That’s what they do really well and everything is built off of it. And we didn’t do that early enough," Campbell said following his team's 41-33 loss.

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Campbell added, "We just didn’t capitalize offensively. When we had our opportunities, you go for it on fourth, you have to make them count. And if you’re willing to do that, then your defense has to come back on the field and get a stop. When you dig yourselves in a 31-10 hole at halftime and you feel like you’re built on run and play-action pass and some of those things, it makes it difficult."


Despite trailing by a significant margin, Campbell's team fought until the very end, giving the hometown supporters who remained something positive to build upon.

"It’s a credit to our guys. They fought. They got themselves back into it. And ultimately my message to them was, I told them, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen in this game. You could end up being up big, you could be down big. But if you’ll just play each play’. I told you guys earlier in the week, I told them," Campbell said. "This game is never over till the very end and just keep playing it for what it is. As bad as it can be, or even as good as it can be, the game’s not over until it’s over. So just play the situation and the down as it comes and don’t worry about the rest of the stuff.”

It will take far more than average coaching for this roster, which lacks game changers all across the board, to avoid repeats of what occurred at Ford Field the first game of the regular season.

Grade: C-