DETROIT (AP) — The NFC North-leading Detroit Lions have their best record since 2014, putting them in a position to win a division title for the first time in three decades.
“It’s a good spot to be in,” coach Dan Campbell acknowledged.
Detroit (6-2) went into its bye with a bounce-back win against the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night after a humbling rout at Baltimore.
“Huge to go into the bye with a ‘W,’ coming off the sour taste in our mouth," quarterback Jared Goff said.
Detroit has lived up to the preseason hype despite missing key players in each game, a sign general manager Brad Holmes has assembled a deep roster that can withstand some setbacks and still have success.
The Lions are hopeful starting running back David Montgomery, along with first-string offensive linemen Frank Ragnow and Jonah Jackson will return to the lineup after being out with injuries when they travel to play Nov. 12 against the Los Angeles Chargers.
“I think we’re going to get reinforcements back when we get back for the Chargers that are going to be critical to helping us,” Campbell said.
Even though the Lions could have made major moves at the trade deadline, they chose to make only one subtle move.
Detroit dealt a 2025 sixth-round pick to Cleveland for receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones. The Detroit native and former Michigan star has 117 career catches for 1,837 yards and eight touchdowns over four seasons, giving the team depth to the position group that lost Marvin Jones when family matters led to his release.
“You always feel like you’re one injury away,” Campbell said. “That was a position we felt like, can we find a steady, reliable guy that fits us, that can play outside.”
When Detroit traded up to draft Jahmyr Gibbs No. 12 overall this year, some questioned using that high of a pick on a running back that might be limited to running and receiving on the outside. The Lions, though, didn't see it that way last spring and their view of the former Alabama star has been validated with runs between the tackles and over defenders.
“We don’t feel like he’s some finesse back,” Campbell said. “That’s not his deal and he runs on his tippy toes.”
Starting in place of Montgomery the previous two games, Gibbs had 315 yards rushing and receiving along with two touchdowns. After a solid showing against the Ravens, he had his best performance against the Raiders.
He had 26 carries for 152 yards and five catches for 37 yards in a 26-14 win over Las Vegas. He had 564 yards from scrimmage, trailing the totals of just Billy Sims (1980) and Barry Sanders (1989) through the first six games with the franchise.
Gibbs, clearly, is finding his groove.
“In the beginning, I was playing too fast,” he said. "I was a little bit nervous and stuff. These two games helped me progress as a player, and slow me down a little bit for my reads and all of that.”
Rookie Sam LaPorta is making plays, too. He's the first NFL tight end to have at least three catches and 35 yards receiving in each of his first eight games.
Detroit's dynamic duo of rookies are opening up options for Goff and an offense led by receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has had 40-plus yards receiving in 18 straight games.
“The more they’re able to do, the more they allow us to do,” Campbell said.
While the Lions did beat Las Vegas by 12 points, they could have won by much more. They stalled on three drives, settling for three points each time, had three turnovers and missed a field goal.
“We’re 6-2, we’re leading our division, playing good ball,” Goff said. "And, still feels like there’s meat on the bone. So, yeah, it feels good.”
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