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FOUR DOWNS: Lions play complementary football in win over Panthers


Consistently good football teams in the NFL typically have one thing in common: They play complementary football in all three phases more than they don't.

Detroit's 42-24 win over Carolina Sunday at Ford Field is a perfect example of a complementary win that head coach Dan Campbell wants to become a staple for his football team.

The Lions' offense racked up 377 yards of offense and scored six touchdowns. They've had at least 350 yards of offense in every game this season. Three of those touchdowns came after Detroit's defense forced Carolina turnovers in their own territory that Detroit turned into 21 points.

"Man, talk about complementary football, we've been talking about it was time for us to get a knockout, a strip, fumble that we got," Campbell said after the game. "We talked about our d-line coming up with one and Hutch (Aidan Hutchinson) got one. Come away with three takeaways and turn those into 21 points offensively, that's complementary football."

Right now, the Lions have a top 10 offense and a top 10 defense, and both units played like it Sunday.

Kicker Riley Patterson capped all six touchdowns with extra points through the uprights and punter Jack Fox dropped both of his punts inside the 20-yard line.

All three phases played a big part in the win, and if Detroit keeps getting that kind of production, they're going to be a tough team to beat.


Quarterback Jared Goff had the best line about veteran running back David Montgomery after the game.

"He's been as steady as they come," Goff said. "Just an absolute horse for us. When he is doing his thing it's hard to stop us."

That's certainly been the case the last two weeks in two big wins. Montgomery became the first Lions running back to rush for at least 100 yards and a touchdown in back-to-back games since Kevin Jones in the early 2000s.

Montgomery had some good looks upfront Sunday on way to 109 yards on 19 carries (5.7 average) and a 42-yard touchdown run, but he's also shown a terrific ability to make plays when the looks aren't ideal or when there's not much there and the defense thinks they have him bottled up. That's when he's been equally as good and why he fits this run scheme so well.

He's tough, versatile, explosive and always seems to be gaining positive yards and keeping the offense on schedule. He's been an invaluable piece of the puzzle so far on that side of the football.


Tackle Taylor Decker is the longest tenured player on the Lions roster having been a first-round pick by the team in 2016. He's been through some dark days over the years, but said after Sunday's win vs. Carolina, the 100th start of his career, that he appreciates the current success the Lions are having even more because of it.

"I had just never really sat down and looked at it through that lens and it just makes me more grateful for the success that we're having now because I've been on the flip side of that for a long time," Decker said after the game. "It's just revitalizing. It makes you excited to get up and go to work every day."

Decker has been a stalwart upfront for the Lions at left tackle and has become an important leader in the locker room. He gutted through a high ankle sprain and bone bruise to finish the Week 1 win in Kansas City. He's played well the last two weeks since missing Weeks 2 & 3 with the injury.

Here's hoping someone like Decker who has been a part of more downs than ups over the first seven years of his career gets a special season in Year 8.


Detroit had just scored on offense to make it 21-7 late in the second quarter, and on the first play of the next Carolina possession quarterback Bryce Young threw an interception to Lions cornerback Jerry Jacobs that he returned to the Panthers' 31-yard line.

Here was a chance for the Lions to take complete control of the game.

"He (OC Ben Johnson) called it after that turnover and I kind of looked over and smiled and was like, 'Man, I love it,'" Goff said of the reverse flea flicker on Detroit's first play after the interception that led to a 31-yard Sam LaPorta touchdown.

Later on in the third quarter the Lions converted a 3rd and 6 with a 10-yard Montgomery run on a play in which center Frank Ragnow snapped the ball through Goff's legs to Montgomery, catching the Panthers' defense flatfooted.

"That was my first time running it in a game," Goff said of the snap between the legs play. "Just the timing on what I was saying. We were snapping it on 'Jamo come on' like motioning him in and when I said 'Jamo come on' (it was snapped)."

Johnson isn't afraid to dial up trick or creative plays. Detroit has called them and converted them enough that defenses always have to be on the lookout for it.

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