In a moment of pure joy in the Detroit Lions' celebration after rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown caught quarterback Jared Goff's pass for a 29-27 win over the Minnesota Vikings, Goff's first reaction was to sprint to the sideline to share a victory hug with head coach Dan Campbell.
The head coach-player relationship has been strong since Goff joined the Lions in a trade with the Rams, and it got stronger when Campbell took over play-calling duties on offense four weeks ago.
The spontaneous sideline embrace celebrating the Lions' first win under Campbell as head coach was evidence of that relationship.
"We've developed a great relationship," Goff said this week as the Lions prepared for today's road game against the Denver Broncos. "Even furthermore since he took over the play-calling.
"That relationship is special as you grow together in that relationship. It tends to bring you closer together. It has with us.
"He's a guy I've been able to rely on since I got here."
Goff has played three of the four games since Campbell began calling plays, missing a 13-10 loss to the Browns because of an oblique injury. The Lions broke even in the other three games – a 16-16 tie with the Steelers, a 16-14 loss to the Bears on a last-play field goal and the win over the Vikings.
Goff has thrown five TD passes in the last two games – three against the Vikings, two against the Bears. He has looked more wiling to pull the trigger on deeper throws, especially against the Vikings. That's added a dimension to the offense.
It was his first walk-off TD pass, Goff said.
The coach-quarterback relationship is an important one because of the quarterback's impact on the game.
"It's kind of where he goes we go as a team," Campbell said. "The fact of the matter is, he's got the ball in his hand more than any other person on this team. So, the decisions he makes, the way he feels, his confidence – it has a huge bearing on it."
Goff is not exempt from criticism, or hard coaching. In a recent game, Campbell put the blame on Goff for three holding penalties called on the offensive line.
"I think you've got to hold him accountable, like anybody else," Campbell said. "You just do. And he's thick-skinned, which is good. He can handle it. As long as you're coaching him, that's what he wants.
"As long as you're direct and open, that's all that matters."
Broncos balance: It doesn't show up in the stats – 237 points scored, ranking 24th in the league – but the Broncos' balance on offense could cause problems for the Lions' defense. They can spread the ball around.
They have two productive running backs – 670 yards rushing for Javonte Williams and 605 for Melvin Gordon III – and three pass catchers have at least 40 receptions: Tight end Noah Fant (49) and wide receivers Courtland Sutton (47) and Tim Patrick (40).
"When you look at the skill players on this offense, it's probably better than last week's, which is crazy," said defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. "I told the guys this is a challenge for us."
A comparison to last week refers to Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who had 11 catches for 192 yards and a TD, and running back Alexander Mattison who rushed for 90 yards and a TD in place of Dalvin Cook.
Goff's stature: Based on what I've seen with other quarterbacks, Goff's teammates can look at him differently after that winning drive last week. Trust is a big part of any leadership position, and Goff built trust that he can come through in the clutch. It can only help.
Go for two?: A win today would give the Lions two in a row, something they've done only three times in the previous three seasons – Weeks 6-7 in 2020, Weeks 2-3 in 2019 and Weeks 5-7 (with a bye) in 2019.
Killer instinct: Glenn was generally pleased with last week's performance against the Vikings, but he didn't like how the Vikings came back from a 20-6 deficit to take the lead.
"If you're going to be the type of team and expect to have a team down by that many points, you have to have that mentality to put them out, put them away," Glenn said at his weekly press conference.
Lions-Broncos breakdown: The Broncos are coming off a loss to the Chiefs that knocked them down in the playoff standings. The Lions are coming off their first win of the season. If there's any positive impact from last week's games, the edge goes to the Lions.
Pick: Lions 27, Broncos 16.