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O'HARA: Lions on the right track after finishing the season strong

Dan Campbell has been a master of motivation in his first season as head coach of the Detroit Lions, and he was at his oratorical best in his speech in the locker room after Sunday's 37-30 win over the Green Bay Packers.

What they'd done in the second half of the season, and how they capped it off with a win over the Packers, would be a "springboard" to next season, Campbell said to rousing cheers from his players.

As Campbell said often throughout the season, they played with grit.

It's a quality that should hold them in good stead in 2022 to improve on their 3-13-1 record.

"The fact that they continued to bang away and never lost hope -- gave their best effort, their best foot forward and they believed in every game we could win," Campbell said Monday in his season-ending press conference.

"They really didn't believe that we were going to go in and we didn't have a chance to win a game. It didn't matter who we were playing that was important.

"Because of that, we were able to finish out with a win yesterday. That belief, and knowing that, and knowing everything at this point we bring in more competition, we'll only be better because of it."

Campbell's ability to keep an even keel and remain consistent in motivating his players despite starting the season with eight straight losses was a key to an eventual turnaround in performance.

Ultimately, they won three of their last six games, with wins over Minnesota, Arizona and Green Bay – all at Ford Field.

Assistant head coach Duce Staley was asked last week what traits allowed Campbell to get his message across.

"A true leader," Staley said. "That's what you see in Dan, day in and day out. He comes to work with a chip on his shoulder because he wants to win. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it.

"He puts in the work every day, and that energy and that juice, is injected into the coaches and is injected into this team. And he brings it every time he speaks to the team."

Quarterback Jared Goff improved steadily throughout the season. He finished with 19 TD passes against eight interceptions, despite missing three games with injuries.

He started and went the distance Sunday while still not fully recovered from a knee injury that caused him to miss the previous two games.

He threw two TD passes without an interception and clearly was in command of the offense.

"We beat a really good team yesterday," Goff said when asked about Campbell's springboard comment. "I know they took their guys out at halftime, or some of them. They still got 13 wins with anyone playing, and we beat them.

"We beat the Cardinals, and we beat Minnesota. Those all happened in the last handful of weeks. It gives us reason or optimism that we kind of know how to do it.

"We know how to win. We still have a lot to improve and a lot of things to happen. But this spring and summertime for us is going to be really fun and really important."

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