The Detroit Lions came out with a sense of desperation on Sunday, and absolutely took it to a young Jacksonville Jaguars. The Lions barely looked recognizable from the team we saw go 1-3 into the bye week. And while many are rightfully skeptical of one great performance against a one-win team, I have to say it was a bit relieving to finally see the team perform a fairly clean overall game for once.
In the Matt Patricia era, we’ve only seen the Lions win one game by three scores—a meaningless Week 17 game against a Packers team that had already reserved tee times for the offseason. This was not only a three-score win; it could’ve—and probably should’ve—been a complete and utter blowout.
So let’s jump into our positional analysis with our Week 7 report card.
Matthew Stafford still doesn’t look right. In this game, he avoided the negative plays—outside of a tipped interception that wasn’t completely his fault—but he still just doesn’t look comfortable in this offense like he has in the past.
He’s holding onto the ball for a long time, he’s checking down to his second and third reads, and worst of all, he looks extremely inaccurate.
Per Next Gen Stats, Stafford’s completion percentage was 7.1% lower than his expected completion percentage, which was the fifth-worst mark among Sunday’s quarterbacks.
Running backs: B+
The Lions finally unleashed D’Andre Swift on Sunday, and it immediately paid dividends. His first carry of the game went for 54 yards, and the remaining 13 carries went for a respectable 62 yards (4.8 YPC). Prior to this game, Swift only had 12 career carries. With 14 in this game, he made a case for a heavy workload for the rest of the season.
The rest of the running back crew was pretty quiet and inefficient, but Swift’s performance lifts the entire crew up.
Tight ends: C+
The statline doesn’t look very impressive (three catches, 20 yards, 1 TD), but the tight ends played a big part in the team’s running success on Sunday. Especially after the Lions got into trouble at offensive tackle with injuries/dehydration, the Lions utilized both Jesse James and T.J. Hockenson in the running game, and they both did extremely well.
While you’d love to see the Lions use Hockenson more as a receiver, his impact in this game was still felt, even if it wasn’t on the box score.
Wide receivers: C-
Kenny Golladay was an absolute monster. The play he made on the free play was exactly why you pay the man.
But where the heck was everyone else? Danny Amendola and Marvin Jones Jr. combined for three catches. Marvin Hall had one catch for 6 yards.
Sure, Stafford wasn’t at his best, and, sure, they didn’t throw the ball a ton, but this was a bad Jaguars pass defense—worst in the league. Jones now has three catches for 17 yards in the past two weeks.
Offensive line: B+
180 yards rushing at 4.6 yards per attempt. Zero sacks allowed. Normally, that would get you an A or A+ performance. Throw in the fact that strange coaching decisions on the offensive line and injuries at offensive tackle forced a lot of moving parts, and you’d maybe even throw A++ into the mix.
But the reason I’m not giving this unit an A this week is the penalties. Frank Ragnow and Tyrell Crosby got holding penalties. Joe Dahl was tagged for illegal hands to the face. Taylor Decker took a false start penalty that potentially ended a chance to convert on fourth down.
A few of those were drive killers and prevented the Lions from hanging 40 on this team. Still, a phenomenal job overall from the front.
Defensive line: A
The Jaguars came into this game as the 10th best running team by DVOA, the Lions the second-worst run defense. I couldn’t have imagined a scenario in which the Jaguars rushed for just 44 yards on 16 carries (2.8 YPC). James Robinson looked like the undrafted rookie that he is.
And while the defensive linemen weren’t the ones cleaning up the mess—Nick Williams, Da’Shawn Hand and Danny Shelton combined for one tackle—they were plugging up lanes and allowing linebackers to run free and make tackles.
Additionally, the Lions were all over Gardner Minshew in this game. Romeo Okwara tallied another two quarterback hits, Trey Flowers had a critical strip sack, and Danny Shelton even got in there with a QB hit.
Just a studly performance from this unit.
This was another fantastic game from Jamie Collins Sr., who did just about everything in this game. Seven tackles, one pass defended (and near pick), and a QB hit to boot.
The unit takes a bit of a hit because there were some tackling issues here and there—the Lions should have had at least four or five sacks in this game. Also, Jahlani Tavai struggled in this game, even if his pressure led to a Minshew interception in this game.
Overall, though, the linebackers played a big part into why the Jaguars’ longest run of the game was 9 yards.
Despite the front seven finally playing a great game, the secondary continues to look sloppy. Things still haven’t clicked with Jeff Okudah, who allowed a 51-yard completion to Keelan Cole Sr. There were at least a couple of coverage breakdowns that allowed Minshew to make some easy passes.
Duron Harmon did have a perfectly played interception, and for the most part, Detroit did a great job preventing any big plays. Still, I’m concerned that a team with better weapons and a better quarterback will tear apart these defenders.
Special teams: D
The Jack Fox honeymoon is officially over. Fox had two punts on the day, and both bounced into the end zone when he had opportunities to pin the Jaguars deep.
I’m not going to bag too hard on Matt Prater for missing a 57-yard kick, but the fact that he’s 0-for-3 from 50+ yard kicks is concerning.
Coverage teams were good. Lions didn’t return a kick or punt all game.
The coaching staff performed like their jobs were on the line, and that’s because they were. The Lions were aggressive on both sides of the ball in a way we’ve almost never seen. They sent blitzes all over the place, and wouldn’t you know it... it worked:
Per @ESPNStatsInfo the Lions did pressure better Sunday.— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) October 18, 2020
Detroit pressured Gardner Minshew on 34 percent of his dropbacks (7-14, 0 TD, 1 INT).
Entering Sunday, the Lions got pressure on opposing QBs on just 16 percent of dropbacks.
On offense, they were just as aggressive. Already up 17-3 in the second half, the Lions faced a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Rather than settled for a 17-point lead, the Lions went for it and kept the pedal to the metal.
There were still some odd choices—like starting Halapoulivaati Vaitai at guard despite Joe Dahl being healthy—and reintroducing the guard rotation (you benched Jonah Jackson????). Still, Detroit showed some serious adjustments out of the bye week, and that’s exactly what this team needed.