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O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: Campbell's view on the Lions' defensive performance

Statistics don't lie in searching for an answer to explain how the Detroit Lions' defense came to life at a time when it was needed.

The pass rush, inconsistent for the first two games, played the dominant role in getting the Lions back on a winning train in a 20-6 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

It was the kind of performance that head coach Dan Campbell wanted from his team, and it's what he got.

"It's a great win," Campbell said. "It really is, knowing the opponent it came from."

That was a reference to the Falcons, who are known for their toughness and one of the NFL's top running games.

This week's Monday Countdown looks at how the Lions improved their defense, the importance of the win even in Week 3 and a battle of rookie running backs that the Lions won.

There's also takeaways on offense, defense and special teams, what's trending and the bottom line.

We start with Dan Campbell's view on how the defense came to life:

1. Playmakers: The Lions had them Sunday in a way that was missing in last week's 37-31 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The Lions had one sack in that game – their only sack in the first two games.

The Lions had seven sacks Sunday. They were spread around six players. Only Aidan Hutchinson had two.

Campbell gave credit to defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn for designing a game plan to get more pressure on the quarterback, and to the players for executing it.

"We played a physical, violent game," Campbell said. "We looked like a hungry, hungry team. Guys were flying around the football."

In addition to the seven sacks, the Lions had seven passes defended, eight quarterback hits and 11 tackles for loss.

On the offensive side, quarterback Jared Goff was not sacked, but the Falcons got to him for nine quarterback hits. Goff was able to get rid of the ball before taking a sack.

Goff took some obvious hard hits but never flinched.

"He played a tough game" Campbell said.

2. Running back battle: The top two running backs in this year's draft were Bijan Robinson, drafted eighth by the Falcons, and Jahmyr Gibbs, drafted 12th by the Lions.

After rushing for 124 yards in last week's win over Green Bay, Robinson was held to 33 yards on 10 carries by the Lions.

Gibbs, who had 17 yards on seven carries in last week's loss to Seattle, had 80 yards on 17 carries, with a long run of 21 yards in the fourth quarter.

3. The race: It's too early to make any meaningful projections in the playoff race, but not too early to show where things stand in the NFC North.

The Lions and Packers both won to make their won-loss records 2-1. Next up for both is Thursday night's game at Lambeau Field, with the winner having temporary rights to first place in the division.

That's the top of the North after three weeks. The bottom: The Vikings and Bears are 0-3.

4. Takeaways, offense:

  • Double duty: Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown pitched in one run for four yards to go with his regular duties of catching Goff's passes. He was busier there – nine catches for 102 yards.
  • Moving the ball: The Lions had 358 yards to 183 for Atlanta.
  • Early bird: Wide receiver Kalif Raymond had four catches on six targets for 55 yards in the first half. He did not get another target.

5. Takeaways, defense:

  • Rookie defensive back Brian Branch had 11 tackles. All solos. Who needs help? He also had three tackles for loss and two passes defended.
  • Plays: Atlanta got its 183 yards on 65 plays. It took the Lions only 64 plays to gain 358 yards.
  • Run stoppers: After giving up 82 yards rushing a week ago to Seattle, the Lions held Atlanta to 44.

6. Takeaways, special teams:

  • Small returns: Jack Fox had two of five kickoffs returned for an average of 13.5 yards.

7. Trending:

  • Up: Branch. He was a bargain pick by GM Brad Holmes for being drafted in the second round, 45th overall.
  • Down: Still bummed over losing to Seattle.
  • Even: Tight end Sam LaPorta. Five catches against the Chiefs and Seahawks. Eight against the Falcons.

8. Bottom line: The Lions have shown that they can win with their backups. That means they have depth – a valuable commodity when you get deep into the schedule.

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