For a team that scored 29 points on Sunday, there sure aren’t a lot of winners. Tim Boyle was Tim Boyle, the offensive line struggled, the tight ends were still trying to learn the playbook, and the defense gave up 51 points. Heck, even Jack Fox and the rest of the special teams unit looked bad out there. Who does that leave for this week’s Game Ball winner? The only unit that earned an “A” grade this week in our report card: the receivers.
Here are your previous game ball winners:
Week 1 winner: Penei Sewell
Week 2 winner: T.J. Hockenson
Week 3 winner: D’Andre Swift
Week 4 winner: Kalif Raymond
Week 5 winner: Tracy Walker
Week 6 winner: Derrick Barnes
Week 7 winner: Dave Fipp
Week 8 winner: T.J. Hockenson
Week 10 winner: D’Andre Swift
Week 11 winner: D’Andre Swift
Week 12 winner: Amani Oruwariye
Week 13 winner: Amon-Ra St. Brown
Week 14 winner: Craig Reynolds
Week 15 winner: Jared Goff
Week 16 winner: Amon-Ra St. Brown
Let’s take a look at this week’s game ball candidates.
Amon-Ra St. Brown
Stats: 8 rec, 111 yards, 1 TD, 2-pt conversion, 2 rushes, 23 yards, 1 TD
PFF Grade: 88.4
The reigning NFL Rookie of the Month (and game ball winner) made it clear on Sunday why he earned the award this past week. St. Brown has unquestionably been the Detroit Lions’ MVP over the past five games, posting 451 of his 803 receiving yards on the season in that span. St. Brown is making tough catches and creating YAC out of nothing. Oh, and he’s also giving Deebo Samuel a run for his money:
I don’t think it’s far fetched to say that without St. Brown on Sunday, the Lions probably don’t put up more than about 14 points. St. Brown is (quite literally) operating at a record-setting pace:
Amon-Ra St. Brown needs 15 yards next Sunday to set the Lions' rookie receiving record, currently held by Roy Williams.*— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) January 3, 2022
(*St. Brown will have played 17 games; Williams played 14 in 2004.)
In addition, St. Brown became the only rookie receiver in NFL history with five consecutive games with eight or more catches, according to yesterday’s broadcast. Have a day, rookie.
Stats: 5 catches, 76 yards, 2 tackles
PFF Grade: 78.5
Man, poor KhaDarel Hodge finally has the coming out game we’ve been waiting for all season just to get one-upped by Amon-Ra St. Brown. While Hodge’s role has primarily been on special teams this season, the depleted receiving corps last week meant Hodge would see a sharp increase in snaps on offense.
Hodge made the most of those snaps, posting almost half of his season’s offensive production total in yesterday’s game alone. That included a 42-yard reception that Hodge laid out for after being interfered with, taking the Lions to the 1-yard line and setting them up for a later score.
Stats: 1 catch, 6 yards, 1 TD
PFF Grade: 79.7
Sunday was probably the roughest outing for the Lions offensive line all season. Boyle was kept relatively clean, but there was absolutely nothing going on the ground.
Weird but telling stats from Lions offense:— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) January 3, 2022
D'Andre Swift had 4 carries for 32 yards but got 31 on 1
Amon-Ra St. Brown: 2 carries, 23 yards. Long of 26
Craig Reynolds: 4 carries, 4 yards. Long of 4
Lions OL didn't play well but the TEs REALLY didn't play well in the run game
Those stats are quite telling, considering if I had to guess I would think Craig Reynolds gained close to 10-15 yards after contact on Sunday. We’re not here to talk about that, though, we’re here to talk about BIG MAN TOUCHDOWN!!
Decker caught his second career touchdown on Sunday, earning him a spot on this list (sorry, Matt Nelson). For the sheer amount of entertainment that one catch brings, Decker gets a game ball nomination this week.
Stats: 0/1 FG, 3/3 PAT, 1/2 onside kicks
PFF Grade: 60.0
Okay, I did say earlier that special teams was off, and rightfully so. However, this is an ode to the Lions’ more general special teams success this season, even when Patterson wasn’t involved — more specifically, their onside kicking, like this one from Sunday.
Nigel Warrior aparecendo pela primeira vez em jogada para o Seahawks. Dando o onside kick para os Lions pic.twitter.com/C4EwOPuAyn— Rapinas do Mar (Cortes) (@cortesrapinas) January 3, 2022
Perhaps this game ball nomination is then better suited for Dave Fipp, but it really lies in the hands of the kickoff specialist to curate an onside kick as they see best fit. Plus, I get a hunch that special teams isn’t going to beat out Amon-Ra St. Brown in voting for this week’s game ball.
Regardless, Patterson did well on that onside kick, and kicked another one midway through the fourth quarter almost perfectly, but the Lions couldn’t secure the ball. In spite of Patterson’s short, wide right 55-yard field goal attempt (which is a whole other discussion to be had), he executed as well as you could ask on the Lions’ two onside attempts Sunday.
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Amon-Ra St. Brown