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O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: Lions overcome injuries to notch Week 2 win

When you think you've seen it all from the Detroit Lions, they do something that makes you blink and wonder why they don't do it more often.

Sunday was one of those days.

Blink. They weren't like the team of the the previous week, when they couldn't quite get a grip on an opportunity to open the season with a win and ultimately let the Philadelphia Eagles leave town with a 38-35 victory.

The Lions put the clamps on the opportunity to win a game Sunday and wouldn't let go. They never trailed after building a 22-0 lead to emerge with a 36-27 win.

The Lions showed resilience in playing without three starters on the offensive line and starting cornerback Amani Oruwariye, and they didn't fold when the Commanders got within eight points – 29-21 in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Jared Goff's 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown gave the Lions a 36-21 lead. It was enough cushion.

This week's Monday Countdown looks at how the Lions overcame injuries to key players, and what winning their first game early in the season means.

On a day of big plays by the Lions' offense, there's a look at an unusual statistic for D’Andre Swift, takeaways on offense, defense and special teams, what's trending, and the bottom line.

We start with head coach Dan Campbell, and how his team took a step forward.

1. Grit: Campbell talks about it a lot, and although he didn't mention it in his postgame press conference it was clear he was crediting the makeup of his team for how it was able to overcome adversity.

The Lions were without three veteran starters on the interior of the offensive line – center Frank Ragnow and guards Jonah Jackson and Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Not having Oruwariye left the Lions without their most experienced cornerback.

"There's a lot of hard work put in across the board," Campbell said. "That's the best thing about it. Our guys trust the system. They believe in what we're doing as coaches, and they believe in how we're setting them up for success.

"They believe in the plan, and they execute the plan. That's a credit to those guys. They never lose hope, and they won't, either. That's how we assembled this team. They know what we're capable of. It's a step in the right direction."

2. Win value: It doesn't seem like much, but winning a game early in the season takes a huge weight off the Lions' back. They started 0-8 last year before getting a tie with the Steelers.

"That was a great win for us," Campbell said. "We needed that. That was number one."

3. Tone setters: It was a big game for the defense, especially early by holding the Commanders scoreless and getting all four of their sacks on quarterback Carson Wentz in the first half.

But the offense also played its role to keep the Commanders at bay. A touchdown pass to Swift in the third quarter and one to St. Brown in the fourth kept the Lions in control of the game.

Goff clearly is at ease with first-year offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and how he calls the game, with a mix of big plays – like the end around that St. Brown ran for a 49-yard gain.

"That was a great job by Ben," Goff said. "We got the lead early. They started to come back. Some of the plays we've been holding back, we hit some of those."

4. Takeaways, offense:

  • 50-50 man: That's Swift. He had a 50-yard run against the Eagles in Week 1 on the second play of the game. He had another 50-yarder against Washington, but it took him a little longer – all the way to the first play of their third possession.
  • On target: With four TD passes, Goff has six in the first two games.
  • Protection: Goff was sacked three times, but he wasn't under pressure nearly as much as Wentz was.

5. Takeaways, defense:

  • Run defense: The Commanders rushed for 88 yards, but 39 of them came on two runs – 18 yards by Curtis Samuel, and 21 by Wentz.
  • Pick one: With Oruwariye out with an injury, Will Harris started at cornerback. Harris got his first career interception on a deflection. He carried the ball to the sidelines, no doubt to keep as a souvenir of his first pick.
  • Tackle stats: The Lions rallied to the ball all day, and it showed in the stats. Linebacker Malcolm Rodriquez, Harris and cornerback Mike Hughes all tied for the team lead with eight tackles.

6. Takeaways, special teams:

  • Happy return: All the big plays did not come from the offense. Wide receiver Kalif Raymond contributed a 52-yard kickoff return.
  • Coverage: Part of the reason the Lions dominated the first half was due to the coverage of their special teams. In the first quarter the Commanders started two possessions at their 16-yard line and one at the three.

7. Trending:

  • Up: Rookie Aidan Hutchinson. He had three sacks. He also had six tackles and two tackles for loss.
  • Down: Second half. The Commanders scored all 27 points in the second half after getting only two first downs and no points in the first half.
  • Even: St. Brown, with nine catches, 116 yards, two TDs. Doesn't he do this every week? He added 68 yards rushing this week.

8. Bottom line: The Lions' offense is humming. It can use a little fine tuning, but Sunday's performance with three backups on the offensive line showed how lethal it can be.

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