It takes time for young teams to find ways to win games. We have heard it time and again from this regime, and with as much parity as there is in the league, that is the reality of today’s NFL.
Well, that is what you saw on Sunday afternoon. A young team finding a way to win a close game on the road. It was a wild turn of events, but the Detroit Lions made a handful of plays that sealed their 31-30 victory over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
In a lot of ways, the Lions and Bears are in similar positions in their respective rebuilds. Each have a plethora of draft capital at their disposal for the 2023 NFL draft, and if they choose—both teams will have the ability to make a few splashes in free agency. Each have rosters with a litany of holes, peppered with building blocks that can be cornerstones moving forward.
However, there is one glaring difference. The Bears have second-year quarterback Justin Fields, and the Lions have Jared Goff. After a less-than-stellar rookie campaign, Fields is beginning to hit his stride in the NFL. He is an electric runner, capable of making defenders miss in space, and lowering his shoulder to finish runs. As a passer, Chicago doesn’t ask him to do too much at this point in his young career. Against the Lions, he made several plays that other quarterbacks can only make in their dreams.
I’m not sure how sustainable this rushing attack for the Bears is over the course of multiple seasons and coaches gather tape on how they are operating—but for now, it is causing NFL defenses major issues.
What takeaways can be had from the Lions’ victory over the Bears?
Aidan Hutchinson is a difference maker
Hutchinson made a handful of huge plays against the Bears on Sunday, but maybe none as impactful as the read on Fields’ screen pass that caused an errant throw resulting in Jeff Okudah’s interception for a touchdown.
Against the run, he was a force—including this highlight-reel stop against running back David Montgomery.
Aidan Hutchinson is a Dawg pic.twitter.com/yzSrXs1ZE1— Alex (@Dubs408) November 13, 2022
Aidan Hutchinson sack!!! pic.twitter.com/62cKWRmZos— Alex (@Dubs408) November 13, 2022
Eight total tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack, and the aforementioned play that forced the pick-six for Okudah. Not bad, rookie.
Jeff Okudah is here
It feels really great to type these words into existence, but Jeff Okudah is here. Originally the third overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft, Okudah had a rocky first two seasons, where he had to deal with major injuries and multiple coaching changes.
Now he is stacking good weeks on top of one another, and is easily on his way to his best season as a professional.
Jeff Okudah picks-off his former Ohio State teammate— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) November 13, 2022
On top of his interception for a touchdown, Okudah notched a tackle and another excellent pass break up.
Jeff Okudah lockdown pic.twitter.com/RiwRKXh1Xq— Alex (@Dubs408) November 13, 2022
He has had to overcome a lot through the years, but man, am I happy for Okudah. As a football player, but even more so as a person.
Jared Goff inconsistencies are frustrating
Yes, it is great that the Lions came away with a divisional road win today. Yes, Goff made a handful of throws to aid the Lions in their comeback efforts. Still, he is making mistakes that are seriously holding this offense back, even as shorthanded as it is with so many receivers banged up. Whether it’s not seeing a blitz pre-snap, taking a bad sack on third-down, or an untimely turnover (even if it was called back)—it is becoming more clear by the week that Goff is not the long-term solution for the Lions at quarterback.
Goff was good—sometimes great—in this game. But that third quarter was especially bad from Goff and it put them in a hole they had to miraculously climb out of.
This Lions’ coaching staff is figuring it out
With all of the havoc Fields had been wreaking over the last several weeks, I was honestly (quietly) expecting him to do even more damage against the Lions’ defense. And it wasn’t like the Lions completely held him in check, as evidenced by his 147 yards on the ground and two touchdowns—including his 67-yard scamper in response to the interception he threw on the previous series.
Already shorthanded with veteran safety Tracy Walker being sidelined, the defense lost DeShon Elliott late in the first half, forcing ace special teamer C.J. Moore into the game alongside rookie Kerby Joseph. Despite the injuries piling up, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and his staff figured out a way to get it done against an offense that is currently ripping through defenses at a torrent pace.
It wasn’t perfect, but it’s progress. I will gladly take it.