Ben Johnson learns from his up and down early days as a Lions playmaker: ‘Did I prepare everyone well?

ALLEN PARK — The Detroit Lions were slow to get out of the group, and there was more communication than usual as they approached the line of scrimmage. D’Andre Swift was late in his place on the other side of the formation. Frank Ragnow was calling an overdue check. Enough was out of sync that Ben Johnson, the first playcaller, almost jumped on the headset to tell Dan Campbell to call timeout.

He did not do it.

The result: Pick-six.

“I think in hindsight, on my behalf, I have to put on the helmet and say to the head coach, ‘Let’s go and call the clock here,'” Johnson said. “I think that could have helped the whole thing, how much I could have influenced that game. And then there were a number of guys on the pitch who could have helped fix it as well.

“I could just tell there was more communication coming out of the group than we had seen in training. I had a feeling something was wrong.

Johnson’s debut as an offensive coordinator and playmaker was successful in many ways. The Lions ranked among the top five teams in the league in rushing yards, rushing yards per carry, third downs, fourth downs and even the red zone, a long-standing problem area. They scored 35 points overall, matching their all-season high and ranked third in the league. And they did it against one of the best defenses out there.

But the attack also struggled with a torrent of missed missions and misunderstandings in the first half. Quarterback Jared Goff completed just 2 of his first 11 passes for positive yardage. Three of these balloons were abandoned. Two routes were miscommunicated. One, on an attempt by tight end TJ Hockenson, led to this pick six. Clearly, something was wrong with the setup for Johnson to consider calling time out before the snap, although he refused to get too specific. Either way, play continued and Goff threw the ball into two green shirts under duress.

Eagles cornerback James Bradberry flipped it the other way to put the exclamation point on a 21-point run from Philadelphia – a run where Detroit failed to achieve as much as a completed pass, again least a first try. It was shocking to see that from an attack basking in the sunshine of a really clean training camp.

So what happened?

“Yeah, I think everybody’s kind of responsible for what we put on tape there,” Johnson said. “Above all, I look at myself and have I prepared everyone as well as we could have been? And so I kind of look over there. Then all those players were also very responsible, whether it was a fall, a bad read or an off-target throw or something like that. I think they all watched the tape and took the criticism, and again we’ll be looking to fix and improve those things here this week.

Johnson eventually resolved the early issues with the offense. Goff has completed 18 of his last 27 passes for 204 yards and connected with DJ Chark (22 yards) and Amon-Ra St. Brown (4 yards) for touchdowns. He never returned the ball. Detroit also scored touchdowns on four of its last five possessions, and on its five trips to the red zone overall, a dramatic improvement for a team that ranked among the league’s worst in the red zone last year. last.

In short, it was the quick and successful attack we saw all summer long.

“Third downs were great, the red zone was good, the running game was good,” Johnson said. “We have some work to do in the passing game to bring that up to speed, but I think the guys have taken the practice and we’re really looking to improve in those areas here this week.”

Goff marked the lull to blemishes in Game 1 of an all-new offense that is called by a player playing for the first time.

“Lots of mental errors mostly, and stuff that could be cleaned up easily,” Goff said. “But things that cannot happen on game day. Hopefully we can attribute it to the first game stuff and hopefully next week stuff like that doesn’t happen. But just mental stuff that myself, everyone, can clean up and do better.

Charles P. Patton