Dan Campbell spent most of last week insisting that the Lions "are not as far away as it appears." That their record sold them short. That they were more competitive than 0-4, just a couple plays away from 2-2. Then 0-4 became 0-5 thanks to a couple more plays in a heartbreaker against the Vikings and Campbell broke down in his postgame press conference.
Shortly thereafter, Campbell heard from Drew Brees.
"I got a lot of respect for Drew," Campbell said Wednesday. "I probably wouldn’t be standing up here if not for Drew Brees as the QB where I came from. That’s the reality. The better he is, the better we all are."
Campbell was assistant head coach of the Saints for the final five seasons of Brees' tenure in New Orleans, during which time the QB made four Pro Bowls and the team won four division titles. When Brees, now an NFL analyst on NBC, watched the Lions push the Vikings to the brink last Sunday only to lose on a 50-plus yard field goal for the second time this season and then watched Campbell cry for his players moments later, he sent his friend a text. And he meant what he wrote.
"Shoot, he shot a text to me just talking about how impressive it was," Campbell said. "He was like, 'My god, man, those guys are fighting, those guys are not giving up.' He goes, 'You guys are close.' And he doesn’t send me a text every week. I know him well and we’re friends, but I know if he’s sending me something it’s because it means something. That’s why it kind of spoke volumes."
The Lions had a 0.1 percent chance of winning late in the fourth quarter Sunday, before rallying to take the lead. They lost because Vikings kicker Greg Joseph hit the second longest field goal of his career as time expired, second only to the 55-yarder he had drilled earlier that quarter. After falling to the Ravens on Justin Tucker's record-breaking kick in Week 3, the Lions are the first team in NFL history to lose twice in a season on 50-plus-yard field goals on the final play of regulation.
Are they 'close?' A couple times this season, the Lions have been close to winning. That doesn't mean they're close to winning consistently. 0-5 is 0-5, and Detroit's roster is extremely short on talent. But the Lions are competing for their coach, which wasn't always the case under Campbell's predecessor. That bodes well for a win in the near future, perhaps this Sunday against the Bengals.
"All I can do is try to prove it and show it, and not just me, us. All of us," Campbell said. "Look, everyone’s frustrated and I don't know all the ins and out of last year, but I do know this about this team: they came in today ready to work. They’re hungry and they're ready to go out there and improve, and that’s really all we can ask right now. In the end, it’ll pay dividends. We just gotta stay that course."