Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell spoke to the media Tuesday following Sunday's NFC North-clinching win over the Vikings in Minnesota.
His team kicks off a short week preparing to hit the road again in Dallas to play the Cowboys Saturday night. Here are all the key questions from Campbell's Tuesday media session:
Who stood out after watching the Minnesota game tape?
There were a lot of terrific performances, but six in particular jumped out to Campbell when watching the tape:
- Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown: 12 receptions, 106 yards, one touchdown. Always steady as a blocker in the run game.
- Quarterback Jared Goff: 30-for-40 passing for 257 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, 99.7 rating.
- Rookie defensive back Brian Branch: Six tackles, 1.0 sack, one interception, two passes defended, one quarterback hit, one forced fumble.
- Safety Ifeatu Melifonwu: Five tackles, 2.0 sacks, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, two passes defended, one interception.
- Safety Kerby Joseph: Nine tackles, two interceptions, two passes defended.
- Linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez: Campbell said Rodriguez' special teams tape jumped out.
What will be Campbell's biggest message to the players this week after the emotion of Sunday and heading into a short week?
That's going to be the biggest talking point in Campbell's speech to the players Tuesday afternoon. Winning the NFC North was a great accomplishment and a goal for this team dating back to the spring, but Campbell is on to the next goal.
"That's the biggest opponent for us right now," he said of complacency. "That is what we're going to fight from here on out."
He said he understands the celebrations the last 48 hours and the continued questions about doing something the organization hasn't accomplished in 30 years, but he and this team have bigger goals than just a division title and if they keep living in that moment, they aren't getting to the next one. Campbell made a good comparison to it being like playoff football. There's no time to celebrate a playoff win because it's immediately on to the next one. He has the same message in this instance.
"We checked the box on one thing and now it's to the next one," Campbell said. "At this point now we're fighting for the No. 2 seed. And look, if you're able to get the No. 1, so be it. But what we know we can achieve on our own is the No. 2."
If the Lions win their last two games at Dallas and home vs. Minnesota they will be the No. 2 seed.
Why has Dallas been so good at home?
The Cowboys are 7-0 at AT&T Stadium this year and 15-1 over the last two seasons.
"I just think the comfort of being there and being able to function, particularly offensively, without the crowd noise," Campbell said. "There's a number of things they are able to do I feel like opens up things they like to do because they don't have to be in silent cadence. I think they take full advantage of being at home and do it well."
Dallas (10-5) will give Detroit a great test Saturday night in primetime. Quarterback Dak Prescott is an MVP candidate, and they have weapons at the skill positions. Defensively, they can get after the quarterback and are very good at generating takeaways.
They seem to get off to great starts at home and that will be a key to the game Saturday night. Detroit can't fall behind early and get out of their game plan against this opponent on the road.
Will defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson play this week?
That's still yet to be determined, according to Campbell.
If he's ready, it's adding another weapon on defense and will give Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn the ability to come up with some packages to get Joseph, Melifonwu and Gardner-Johnson on the field together potentially.
"Look, Iffy and Kerby are playing at a high level. (Brian) Branch is coming along and playing some pretty good football," Campbell said. "Then you begin to, 'Alright, how do we build a couple packages here once you get him in there?' Look, we're going to play the best players and the guys that give us the best chance to win and put the best on the field that makes sense for what (the opponent) is doing and their personnel groups."
Any update on linebacker James Houston?
Campbell said the Lions could start Houston's practice clock this week.
Houston has been out since the second week of the season, when he suffered a broken ankle covering a kickoff. He had eight sacks in seven games to end his rookie campaign in 2022. His eventual return could provide a boost to Detroit's pass rush that ranks in the bottom 10 in the league in sacks (34).