With the Detroit Lions 31-30 victory on the road against the Chicago Bears, they have now won two games in a row. Of course, this development is coming off the heels of a five-game losing streak, which culminated with the Lions letting go of secondary coach Aubrey Pleasant (who is now an offensive assistant with division rival Green Bay Packers), along with some shake-ups in the starting lineup. So far, it certainly looks like those changes are paying dividends.
Contrary to popular belief among some national media members, this Lions team was never really poised to make a lot of noise in 2022. I enjoyed the process of having them in town, but I really blame “Hard Knocks” for a lot of that undeserved hype surrounding the Lions.
They have made some upgrades on the offensive side of the ball since the arrival of coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes, but with only two offseasons under their belts since tearing the roster down, there is still plenty to be done—particularly on the defense. With more money at their disposal in free agency and a stockpile of early picks in the 2023 NFL draft, we should see the Lions begin to allocate resources towards fixing what is, to put it politely, a unit that is lacking juice.
Still, despite the lack of aforementioned juice, this young defense stepped up to the plate against Chicago. Let’s take a look at how each member of the Lions’ 2022 draft class fared in their Week 10 victory against the Bears.
Aidan Hutchinson, DL
54 snaps (89% of total defensive snaps) — 1 special teams snap (8%)
PFF defensive grade: 62.7
In a game that was packed with big plays, Hutchinson left his mark on this game on a handful of occasions. With that said, he wasn’t perfect, but to be fair to him and the rest of the Lions’ defense—it’s tough to be perfect against a player like Fields.
On Fields’ first touchdown run, Hutchinson actually does a great job of defeating the block of rookie left tackle Braxton Jones. After Fields makes defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs’ miss, Hutchinson gets out of position by taking a bad pursuit angle. From there, Fields makes one more cut before finding nothing but green grass in front of him on his way to a score.
Hutch getting a little over aggressive with his pursuit angle pic.twitter.com/yYs9seqYx1— Morgan Cannon (@MCannon313) November 16, 2022
Here is another snap from early in the game when the Bears were having a lot of success on the ground. The offensive line and Fields are moving right, when the man in motion actually gets the ball on a sweep to the left. Luckily, it didn’t result in a big play, but with all of the pre-snap motion, and play-action going on in Chicago’s backfield—it isn’t a surprise that the Lions inexperienced front struggled to decipher what was really going on.
this is from early in the game, but he bites on all of the action moving right. Chicago had a lot of these in the bag. gotta get creative when you're kinda limited in what you can do pic.twitter.com/7FB7jBQ6qb— Morgan Cannon (@MCannon313) November 16, 2022
It took a while, but Hutchinson and the rest of the defense settled in a bit more as the game went on. Here is an example of him doing his usual thing against the run—crashing down the line, and making the play on the ball carrier.
Another excellent run stop, this time down near the goal line. This is really impressive when you consider Montgomery is one of those backs that seems to pride himself on being a physical, and punishing runner.
Here we have a rep from the third quarter where Hutchinson is able to hurry Fields, and force an incomplete pass. He gets his hands into right guard Michael Schofield before ripping through and chasing Fields out of the pocket.
good rush from Hutch forces an incompletion pic.twitter.com/vJrbsXI558— Morgan Cannon (@MCannon313) November 16, 2022
On the final stop for the Lions, Hutchinson came up big again, this time making short work of right tackle Riley Reiff. Another nice combination of moves to get home. After starting the season being a little too reliant on his bull rush, Hutchinson is beginning to chain moves together more frequently and successfully.
Lastly, if you are looking for a thorough breakdown of cornerback Jeff Okudah’s interception for a touchdown, you can find it here. Jeremy does a terrific job of showing the role Hutchinson played in the turnover, as well as how other members of the front contributed.
Hutchinson finished his afternoon with eight total tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack, and three quarterback hurries.
Jameson Williams, WR
DNP: On reserve/NFI while recovering from a knee injury suffered in January 2022
Josh Paschal, DL
PFF defensive grade: 54.2
Paschal’s day was cut short due to a knee injury, but not before he got a taste of what the rest of the defensive line would be dealing with. Here the rookie out of the University of Kentucky has Fields in his sights, only to come up with air. Something that seemed to happen over and over again during the Lions’ win over the Bears.
it happened to everyone, including poor John Cominsky (multiple times), but regardless- I am sure Paschal was bummed after not recording a sack here— Morgan Cannon (@MCannon313) November 15, 2022
so close. pic.twitter.com/kLVQsHRtBi
Prior to exiting the game, Paschal was integral on this sack by defensive end Julian Okwara. Once Okwara steps inside running back David Montgomery, you can see Fields’ first instinct is to escape towards his left. However, Paschal notices this, and steps back outside, freeing up his outside shoulder and getting into a contain position—where Fields can finally be brought down from behind by Okwara. One of those plays that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, but a very heady play that resulted in a teammate making the play. Sacks are an individual statistic, but more often than not, they don’t happen without teamwork. Especially against an escape artist like Chicago has under center.
now back to the good stuff from Paschal. here he steps back outside into a containment position, keeping Fields corralled before he gets brought down from behind by JO. smart play from the rookie. pic.twitter.com/INP67U4Ln1— Morgan Cannon (@MCannon313) November 15, 2022
Kerby Joseph, S
61 (100%) — 5 (17%)
PFF defensive grade: 28.0
After a monster game last week during the Lions’ win over the Green Bay Packers, Joseph tumbled back down to earth this week. And you know what? That is how things are going to be with this defense for a while. The talent is there for Joseph, and other young members of the unit, but it is difficult to be consistent in the NFL when you don’t have the requisite experience and repetitions. Just the nature of the beast in this league.
In this instance, Joseph appears to be the single high safety, with Chicago utilizing their heavy personnel package. For whatever reason, he appears to get preoccupied with the crosser in front of him, while also forgetting tight end Cole Kmet just ran by him.
welp, this one appears to be on Kerby. gonna happen with all of the youth on this defense pic.twitter.com/RW0X6hHXXr— Morgan Cannon (@MCannon313) November 16, 2022
Hard to really fault him here when everything that could have gone wrong with this run fit, went completely wrong. But as a safety and the last line of defense, Joseph has to break down here and make this stop. Instead, he overpursues Fields and is forced to hopelessly jump at his feet as he is sprinting by on his way to six points.
Despite the busted coverage and missed tackle, it wasn’t all bad for Joseph. This play is a great example of both Joseph’s range, as well as the physicality he has been showing off ever since being inserted into the starting lineup. The receiver held on to the ball, but still an impressive close and tackle nonetheless.
Joseph ended up with seven tackles on the day while being on the field for all 61 snaps.
James Mitchell, TE
15 (24%) — 11 (38%)
PFF offensive grade: 51.8
The coaching staff is still opting to bring Mitchell along gradually, but I have noticed they are beginning to trust his blocking prowess more and more by the week. Lately, when Detroit has been in short-yardage or goal-to-go situations, Mitchell has entered the game to provide more power at the tight end position.
In the passing game, Mitchell was targeted one time and finished the day with one reception for 4 yards. Coming off of a knee injury, I suspect this aspect of his game will come along a little more slowly, especially with the steep learning curve that tight ends have to endure during their transition from college to the NFL.
Like our parents and elders have told us over the years—patience is a virtue.
Malcolm Rodriguez, LB
DNP: Was inactive against the Bears due to an elbow injury
Chase Lucas, DB
DNP: Was inactive against the Bears due to an ankle injury