Jeremy let me take over this whole shebang for 2021.
If you are unfamiliar with Game Ball, here’s how it works. Each week, I’ll outline a number of players who performed well in the Detroit Lions' latest game. I’ll make a case for each of them with some statistical output for each player. Then, at the end of each article, we’ll put a poll to vote on your pick for Player of the Game (or Game Ball). Next week, we’ll award Game Ball points: 3 points to the player with the most votes, 2 points to second place, and 1 point for the player that comes third in the voting. We’ll keep track of the standing every week in this series.
Normally that would mean business as usual, but I’m biased. Anytime a player upholds my bold prediction of the week, you can guarantee they’ll be in here. Speaking of which…
Stats: 6 total pressures allowed, 2 QB hits, 0 sacks
PFF Grade: 75.6
Somehow, someway, Penei Sewell held his own on the left side on Sunday. Were there folks who played better than he did? Yes, of course. When you’re forced to switch to a position you haven’t played in almost two years on two days’ notice, however, you get a little leeway. Not to mention, he did so against one of the league’s best pass rushers in Nick Bosa.
The odds were stacked against Sewell keeping his quarterback clean on Sunday, but he pulled it off anyway. Have a day, rookie.
Stats: 4 tackles, 1 forced fumble
PFF Grade: 89.9
This one needs little to no justification if you so much as had your TV on for the end of the game. Without Trey Flowers, there would have been no close game. Flowers was his usual self by setting a strong edge all game and forcing the 49ers to run up the middle (which they did quite well, unfortunately). When it mattered most, however, Flowers came up in coverage with a tackle and forced fumble that ultimately made the game much, much more entertaining.
I don’t know why this only showed up on Twitter from NFL France, but très bien, Monsieur Flowers.
Stats: 1-of-2 field goals, 1-of-2 onside kicks
PFF Grade: 60.0
Hear me out, because you all know I’m a sucker for special teams. How dare I include a kicker who missed one of his only two field goals? Well, I can tell you off the bat he’s not on this list for the field goals made or missed.
Can you guess how many onside kicks were recovered by the kicking team last season? 50? 20? 10??? How about three. All season, across 32 NFL teams. When it mattered most, Seibert managed to convert a play that has a four percent success rate in order to, like Trey Flowers, keep the Lions in the game. For that, he earns contention for game ball.
Stats: 9 rushes, 54 yards, 1 TD; 8 receptions, 56 yards
PFF Grade: 68.1
Jamaal Williams didn’t have a specific play that highlighted the day, unlike our previous two candidates, but Williams was chugging consistently all day long. He averaged a whopping 6.0 yards per carry behind an offensive line that was shuffling pieces all week. He was even successful in some situations when everybody in Ford Field knew Williams would be running the ball. Likewise, Williams made good use of his targets on Sunday, catching eight of nine balls for 56 yards.
I’d be remiss not to mention Williams’ slip on a fourth-down run that was fairly costly early in the game, but in his defense, he wasn’t picking up the first down behind the offensive line’s horrendous blocking on that play even if he kept his footing on that play.
Stats: 7 tackles, 1.0 sacks
PFF Grade: 65.7
Tracy Walker might be the biggest reach here but I think he deserves an honorable mention. He spent a lot of the day blanketing the best tight end in the league in George Kittle, who finished the day with just four catches. Given, those four catches netted 78 yards, but considering the 49ers put up 34 points on offense, four catches and nothing in the end zone is a pretty solid day. Likewise, Tracy Walker came flying in for a huge sack in the fourth quarter to shut down a 49ers drive while they were up 21 to kickstart the Lions’ failed comeback.
Stats: 8 catches, 97 yards, 1 TD
PFF Grade: 76.4
Hockenson didn’t have any particular plays that popped the way Trey Flowers or Austin Seibert did, but he got the job done consistently all day long. He caught eight of his 10 targets, affirming the notion we’ve heard out of Allen Park all summer that he’s Jared Goff’s favorite target.
Hock’s 97 yards are more impressive when you consider Goff’s reluctance to throw the ball past the line of scrimmage, as YAC yards are anything but easy to come by against a stout 49ers defense.
Who gets the Lions’ Week 1 Game Ball?
This poll is closed