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New coach, new QB, same early results for struggling Lions

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Rashan Gary celebrates against Lions, State Journal photo

Green Bay Packers linebacker Rashan Gary (52) celebrates a defensive play against the Detroit Lions during the second half at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. The Packers won 35-17.

GREEN BAY — The Detroit Lions’ new coach and quarterback are off to a start that resembles the team's previous regimes.

Detroit brought in Dan Campbell to replace the fired Matt Patricia. When longtime quarterback Matthew Stafford wanted out, the Lions sent him to the Los Angeles Rams in a deal that brought Jared Goff as his replacement.

Get to know all nine players taken by the Green Bay Packers in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The faces have changed. But the results have been the same thus far for a franchise trying to avoid a fourth straight season with double-digit losses.

The Lions (0-2) opened the season by falling way behind and nearly coming all the way back in a 41-33 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. On Monday night, they led at halftime but fell apart the rest of the way and lost 35-17 to the Green Bay Packers.

“It’s a new crew now,” Goff said. “Obviously, there has been a history of (losing), but I believe in the guys that we have here. I believe in Dan. I believe in our staff. I believe that we do believe that this is a new regime and a new energy in the building.”

The evening began with plenty of promise for Detroit.

Goff completed 13 of his first 14 passes and connected with Quintez Cephus and T.J. Hockenson for touchdowns. But he struggled the rest of the way as the Lions were outscored 21-0 over the final two periods. Goff finished 26 of 36 for 246 yards, and he threw an interception and lost a fumble in the second half.

“I’m not a negative person,” Campbell said. “I’m all about going to work. I want guys that are resilient that are willing to go back to work, they love ball, they’re going to clean up their mistakes. Those are the guys that I’m looking for, man. I’m not a sulker. You’re not going to get me down. Those are the type of people that I want around me.”

Campbell remains optimistic he has a group that can turn things around.

“I want guys that are looking for solutions,” he said. "We’re going to fix our mess, because we put ourselves in this mess. That’s what I’m looking for. I think we’re going to be just fine. We’ll be upbeat. You know what, it should sting. I hope it does sting. It stings me.”

Campbell and Goff said the offense continually shot itself in the foot. And Goff was under pressure to perform with Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers facing a depleted Lions secondary.

The Lions were already missing their top cornerback after Jeff Okudah, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 draft, ruptured an Achilles tendon in a 41-33 season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Ifeatu Melifonwu, a rookie third-round pick from Syracuse, made his first career start in place of Okudah but injured his thigh in the third quarter.

The Lions managed to take a 17-14 halftime lead by keeping Rodgers on the sidelines. Green Bay scored touchdowns on two of its first three series, but its fourth possession didn’t come until only 3 seconds remained in the first half.

Detroit seemed on the verge of forcing a punt and getting another momentum boost when Michael Brockers sacked Rodgers to force the Packers into third-and-12.

That’s when Rodgers threw deep to Davante Adams for a 50-yard gain, with Melifonwu getting injured on the play. As Melifonwu headed into the locker room, Rodgers threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan that put the Packers ahead for good.

On the next drive, Campbell made a strategic decision that didn’t pay off.

With Detroit trailing 21-17 and facing fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 25, the Lions passed up the field-goal attempt. Goff’s pass to Cephus was incomplete, and the Packers scored a touchdown on their next possession.

Goff's fumble led to another Packers touchdown, and Detroit never threatened again.

“It’s still early,” Goff said. "Obviously, 0-2 is not where we want to be, but (there's) a lot of room to improve and a lot wins to be had down the line.”

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