Detroit Lions report: Secondary goes from zero to hero against Packers
The Detroit Lions pulled off a pretty big and upset win over Green Bay Packers on Sunday, turning the tide of a tough week for the team. Let’s take a closer look at the team’s performance in our Week 9 report.
The Lions defense gave Jared Goff and the offense free possessions all day, and the Lions quarterback just couldn’t take advantage. Goff was inaccurate and somewhat reckless with the ball all game. He threw in one interception, but there probably should have been at least two or three more turnovers for Goff that day.
Jared Goff’s completion percentage exceeds expectations, by NextGenStatsit was -14.8%, the third-lowest of the week among quarterbacks.
Obviously, the context of Goff’s performance is necessary this week. He was missing DJ Chark, Josh Reynolds and TJ Hockenson—three of his top four weapons in the passing game. The entire game, he didn’t look on the same page with his receiving corps.
That said, on both of his touchdown passes, Goff showed decent patience and improved his reads to find the open receiver – which were two he rarely threw to in his career.
It was far from the best day for this running back tandem with Jamaal Williams averaging just average. 3.4 yards per carry on 24 career highs. D’Andre Swift only played 10 snaps, but he made the most of them – turning it into five touches for 50 yards. Swift was especially lethal as a receiver, with two catches that set up the Lions for first downs inside the red zone (one at the 1-yard line).
Tight ends: C
Shane Zylstra and James Mitchell scored the Lions’ only touchdowns of the day, and Mitchell also kicked a key third-down conversion on Detroit’s final offensive play. Those are the three big plays in the game.
Unfortunately, those were the only contributions the unit had for the day. In all, the Lions combined for three catches and 9 yards. It’s easy to point to the touchdown and say the Lions didn’t miss TJ Hockenson, but it’s clear the passing offense struggled without him.
Brock Wright also threw a critically bad holding penalty on a drive in the fourth quarter that would have been even more effective had the Packers not committed a personal foul a few plays later.
Wide receivers: D
It was a short-handed unit from the Lions, but the Packers secondary has also been broken and bad all year. So it was disappointing to see the Lions receiving corps not named Amon-Ra St. Brown combined for four total catches for 33 yards.
Even the performance of St. Brown — four catches on nine targets for 55 yards — was incredible. Hopefully the Lions at least bring Reynolds back next week and have a more conventional receiving corps.
Offensive line: C+
While Goff didn’t take a sack the entire game (he did, but it was nullified by a roughing the passer penalty), his pocket wasn’t as clean as you’d like. Granted, this Packers offense ranks among the top 10 units in the NFL.
What was more disappointing, however, was that the offensive line did not dominate the trenches in the running game. This was one of the worst defenses in the league, and the Lions lacked any consistency on the field. Detroit also remains incredibly frustrated in short-yardage situations. In this game, they failed to convert third-and-3 and third-and-1 on the ground, the latter of which nearly cost Detroit the game.
Defensive line: D
Detroit’s dog shortage remains a serious problem. Aaron Rodgers is a master in the pocket, and he made the Lions pay several times for their lack of passing and their undisciplined play when it came to maintaining the integrity of the margin. He converted both third-and-17 and third-and-10 with his legs after the defensive line left running lanes wide open for the 38-year-old running back.
Detroit was credited with five quarterback hits, but I’m willing to bet some of that was due to Rodgers holding the ball all day.
However, the interior of the defensive line remains solid, especially in the running game. Green Bay has one of the best rushing attacks in the league, and their running backs managed just 66 yards on 21 carries (3.1 YPC). Plus, you have to give credit to Aidan Hutchinson for the red zone interception.
While I’m sure the Lions linebackers would like a few of those Rodgers rebounds back, it was a nice day from Detroit’s second line of defense. Derrick Barnes was all over the field when Malcolm Rodriguez’s injury forced him into the lineup more than normal. Barnes finished with a team-high 12 tackles while adding a pass defense (header) that led to an interception – plus a quarterback hit for a sack.
Even Alex Anzalone had a solid game that earned him post-press conference love from Dan Campbell.
“I thought Alex played well,” Campbell said, unprompted.
It wasn’t the cleanest game for anyone in the secondary, but they made the most plays of any unit on any team, and they are the number one reason why the Lions won this game.
What I particularly liked about the Lions secondary on Sunday was their resilience. After Jeff Okuda gave up a touchdown, he knocked down a two-point attempt when Rodgers tested him again. After Jerry Jacobs was called for pass interference, he had a drive broken up a few plays later.
Then, of course, there was Kerby Joseph, who is quickly becoming the most impressive rookie on the Lions’ roster in what is increasingly looking like a stacked class. Joseph had two picks on the day and a beautiful breakup on a deep Rodgers hit. Throw in 10 total tackles, and it was the most complete game of Joseph’s young career. Let’s hope his brain injury isn’t too serious.
Special teams: B
Jack Fox had a beautiful punt—and a great recovery by Anthony Pittman—that pinned the Packers at the 1-yard line. Also, kudos to Brandon Zylstra for the fumble return that brought the Lions to the 38-yard line for the kickoff.
The punt and punt coverage units were average at best, and the Lions missed an extra point on a poor snap, but were saved by a run on a punt penalty.
Overall, the most significant play on special teams all day was Fox’s punt, so it was a net positive game.
There’s a lot to unpack, but I want to break down four critical moments in this game.
The first came in Detroit’s opener. Campbell turned up the heat again, scoring on fourth-and-1 from the Packers’ 7-yard line. I will almost always go for it on fourth and 1 in the red zone. You’re too close to a touchdown to get rid of, and fourth-and-1 is a high-percentage play, even for a Detroit offense that seems to struggle in those situations. The worst case scenario is that you turn the opponent’s offense back. I’m all for this.
Next: Campbell throws Allen Lazard deep on fourth-and-3. This turned out to be a huge decision—and a potential 15-point swing. Had Campbell not challenged, the Packers would have been set first and 10 at the Lions 12 yards. Instead, Detroit got the ball at the Packers 39-yard line and would end up scoring. Huge moment in training.
Moment 3: Third-and-1 for the Lions’ offense at the Packers’ 41-yard line with more than two minutes left. Just a terrible play call. A slow-moving counter run that the Packers completed, causing Detroit to lose 2 yards. Who posted…
Decision 4: Let’s go for it on fourth-and-3 late in the game. This was an almost identical situation to Campbell’s biggest coaching mistake of his life against the Vikings earlier in the season. Although Campbell didn’t make a field goal this time (it would have been a 61-yarder), he made a controversial choice to do so, and it almost cost the Lions the game.
This offense was not good in short yardage situations and Detroit’s offense was terrible all game long. I thought this was an unnecessarily risky play, even though the analytics supported the move. Here’s Campbell’s explanation for it:
“I felt like I liked where we were, and I thought we were going to change it. But if we didn’t, I had three timeouts in the pocket, and yeah, our defense played pretty well. So I felt like that was the way to go.”
Even if the Lions had converted, the game would not have been over. The Packers still had three timeouts, and Detroit still wasn’t quite in scoring range.
Instead, I think the real play made the Packers drive the entire field against your stingy defense. Campbell was saved anyway by his defense, but if he hadn’t, we would have a very different discussion today.
Overall, though, give Campbell — and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn — a ton of credit for navigating this team through a tough week. The Lions got rid of a beloved coach and quarterback’s security blanket, and kept him together to pull off an emotional upset. It’s a credit to the culture the Lions have worked so hard to establish.
#Detroit #Lions #report #Secondary #hero #Packers