Four of Detroit’s five offensive linemen were flagged for holding in the team’s 16-14 loss to Chicago on Thanksgiving. Only guard Jonah Jackson avoided a penalty.
Because of this, these penalties became a question mark hovering over a unit that is believed to be one of the league’s best offensive lines.
When asked about the calls, Lions head coach Dan Campbell didn’t point the blame in a specific direction. Rather, he explained how the offensive linemen and quarterback Jared Goff each played a role in the issues.
“I have to have a look at it,” Campbell said. “Certainly, it’s going to be the bad body positions. It will be the stuff, we’re lagging behind. Now, some of the holds, too, were -- it’s easy on some of this stuff to blame the O-line in the pass game, but there’s a couple of these now where (Jared) Goff is breaking contain and we’re protecting him in here. We’re not protecting you out there, and then it gets -- so, it’s on everybody.”
Goff, meanwhile, finished 21-of-25 passing for 171 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t throw an interception, but lost a fumble. Following the loss, he was frustrated by the calls going against his teammates.
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“I think that’s part of my job, obviously, is to make sure those guys don’t, we say, ‘Lose their stinger,’” Goff said. “They were getting these holding calls. The false starts are absolutely on us. Those can’t happen, but you can call holding on every single play. It’s no excuse. We’ve done it too much, and I know those guys are hard on themselves up front, but back there, they can throw that flag every play. To me, it seemed like it was a little too often on that call. Now, false starts are absolutely on us, and putting ourselves in those situations is on us, regardless. But, before even seeing the film, the frequency of that I think is not fair.”
In total, the unit committed eight penalties. Six of them were holding calls, including two apiece for Taylor Decker and Tommy Kraemer. It was the first start of Kraemer’s career, as he had just been recalled from the practice squad after the injury to Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
“It’s not just -- everybody’s got a hand,” Campbell said. “But, as far as the run game stuff, it’s -- I just already know without looking that it’s gonna be probably sloppy fundamentals. We didn’t step where we should have stepped, you’re a little tired, you’re a little whatever, so are they. You lag behind, and then you get caught holding.”
The penalties prevented the Lions from getting in a rhythm offensively for long stretches of the game. Goff was efficient, connecting on a long touchdown pass to Josh Reynolds on the opening drive, but couldn’t get the unit going when it needed to.
These struggles could be due to an inability to sustain drives as a result of self-inflicted penalties. This inconsistency also affected the Lions’ run game, which slowed the team’s progress throughout the afternoon.
“(Goff) made some good throws,” Campbell said. “The first drive, you come out and he hit the deep one there to (Josh) Reynolds, that was good. He did some good things. Made some throws. We just -- still trying to run it a little bit and establish the run. We had a couple there, but then we get holding calls. And when you’re trying to -- it’s one thing when you get holding and you’re passing the ball. But, when you’re trying to establish the run and then you get these holding calls trying to run it, I don’t know, it gets a little frustrating and you feel like it limits what you can do, certainly.”