During the NFL season, I'll be writing this consistent, small section called: What we learned. We'll be starting at week one, where the Lions took on the 49ers in their season opener. Dan Campbell was searching for his first win of his head coaching career—well, in Detroit anyway. The score that showed at the end of the game may have been deceiving of how both teams actually played. Let's get into it.
WHAT WE LEARNED: (1-0) San Francisco 49ers - 41, (0-1) Detroit Lions - 33
Penei Sewell is made for LT
Was anybody else really concerned when they saw Sewell taking over at left tackle to take on the dreaded Nick Bosa for his first official start? I was watching him a vast majority of the game, and I could feel relief flooding over me. Goff was getting sacked a lot, but there was one trend: it wasn't Penei Sewell giving up those sacks. The one he did give up was arguably a coverage sack.
The guy looked very comfortable at left tackle, a far cry from his poor preseason a few spots over on the line. He couldn't have been going against someone much better, and considering the words of praise Nick Bosa gave to Sewell, the lions 7th overall pick couldn't have gotten a better endorsement. A solid first performance.
Jeff Okudah is trending towards bust status
This may be an overreaction, I'll admit it. Yes, he's out for the year and will have the only game he played all season looming over his head. But the guy did not look comfortable out on that field. Patricia is gone. He's healed. There's no excuse for poor play now.
Okudah got torched on multiple plays: the 70+ yard score from Deebo Samuel was just the appetizer. Watching Coach Pleasant rip Okudah on the sideline was the main course. Okudah with his ruptured Achilles is the icing on the cake. This is a tough pill to swallow for Lions fans. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery. Okudah needed this year to prove doubters wrong. He's going to only have more of them now.
Lack of sacks is still an issue
I miss the days of Lions football when they'd grab three, four or five sacks a game and make the quarterbacks run for their lives. The run game defense was solid, but as expected, the pass rush was lackluster. On one hand, it was nice to see Detroit actually blitzing for once, but that's bittersweet since they got one singular sack to show for it, courtesy of Tracy Walker.
Trey Flowers made some huge plays throughout the game, so he gets a pass. Romeo Okwara had some pressures, but missed an easy sack. Getting the quarterback on the ground needs to become a priority. Sure, going against a team loaded up for a super bowl run isn't an ideal first opponent, but the issue still stands.
The run game looks... good?!
One pleasant surprise was that it seemed as though Detroit was ripping off 10 yard runs at will. Both Swift and Williams were doing great work behind a battered offensive line missing one of its key pieces. Hockenson was getting into the action blocking as well, and Sewell fit right in as well.
Maybe what was more important was that every time Detroit would run, it would seem like they wouldn't be going backwards. Well, aside from the tragedy on the first drive where Williams fell and the offensive line imploded. Aside from that, I was honestly pleased with the Lions run game. Hockenson was used admirably in the game, his services getting put to good use. San Francisco's got a decent defense, so this is notable. Let's see what week two brings.
The Dan Campbell mentality was in full bloom
Coach Campbell preached never giving up, grit and toughness. The Lions showed all of those traits this weekend. The team looked to be dead in the water after falling behind 38-10 late in the game, but somehow Detroit found themselves only down one score with the ball and deep into San Francisco territory. Consider that this is the 49ers Detroit was playing, the same team that was a year off from winning the NFC Championship.
This 49ers squad was at fully capacity, minus Javon Kinlaw. It was identical to Detroit missing star tackle Taylor Decker. Sure, they scored a lot in garbage time, but scoring 16 points and nearly three total times in less than two minutes of gameplay is absurd. In the end, this is what the Lions should be looking for: Competitive Losses. Sure, we don't want to lose too much, but it's pretty understandable that Detroit isn't ready to compete for a title this year.
But showing their passion to never throw in the towel is a beautiful thing. Overall, they could've played much better, but many were expecting worse. Not a bad first week.
What's your hot take for Monday Night football this week as the Lions travel to Lambeau? Let me know!