Heading into their divisional matchup with the Green Bay Packers this week, the Detroit Lions had the worst defense in the NFL by most metrics. They weren’t good at defending the run, and they were even worse at stopping the pass. Look no further than the previous week’s performance against the Miami Dolphins to see just how bad things had gotten for the Lions on the defensive side of the ball.
In a move that many found to be a head-scratcher, the Lions fired Aubrey Pleasant—the team’s defensive backs coach—at the start of last week. Pleasant was well-liked in the building by coaches and players alike, was interviewed for Minnesota’s defensive coordinator position last offseason, and is thought to be someone who will eventually be a head coach in this league.
Now, no Monday overreactions here, but Detroit’s defense put together its best wire-to-wire performance of the season against Green Bay and no group looked more improved than the Lions defensive backs, a unit who had nine passes defended, including two interceptions against Aaron Rodgers. But let’s take some time to dive into the numbers.
As we do every week for this Detroit Lions team—except last week because mental health is important—we have some data courtesy of Pro Football Focus that can help us better understand the football the Lions have played thus far—and how they’ll continue to play from here on out. Let’s take a closer look at the Lions by the numbers after their win over the Green Bay Packers in Week 9.
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One of the biggest worries from training camp was the absence of 2022 second-round pick Josh Paschal. After a similar scenario played itself out with 2021 second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike the previous year, the Lions defense just couldn’t afford to have another top-50 pick be relegated to the injury report for a significant period of time.
Fortunately for the Lions, the debut Paschal had against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7 helped assuage the concerns surrounding the Kentucky product. Detroit needed a boost to their defensive line in the worst way after consecutive losses to the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots, and Paschal showed up and provided exactly that against Dallas—and he stepped his game up in Week 9 against the Packers.
also, don't be fooled by the size. Josh Paschal can move for a big fella. look at him here. quick like a cat. a 278 pound cat— Morgan Cannon (@MCannon313) November 9, 2022
trying to chop me with a tight end? i think not. pic.twitter.com/sW6GOFaGoT
Paschal had five QB pressures—one hit and four hurries—and three defensive stops for a total of eight impact plays on defense against Green Bay.
Derrick Barnes, another young defender with elevated expectations after showing flashes of promise in his rookie season, had his “best game” according to Dan Campbell—and his most productive afternoon to date.
After discarding two blockers, Barnes went on to sack Aaron Rodgers, but that play wasn’t his most impressive of the afternoon. Near the end of the first quarter, the Packers once again found themselves knocking on Detroit’s door, and faced with a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, AJ Dillon was stuffed just before the goal line by Barnes.
Derrick Barnes went and had himself a DAY. beautiful linebacker play pic.twitter.com/rBMXMFfWIq— Morgan Cannon (@MCannon313) November 9, 2022
Barnes tied a career-high with four stops against the Packers, and it couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Barnes found himself stepping in for the injured Malcolm Rodriguez—arguably one of their steadiest presences on the defense this year—and he went out and led the team in tackles (12) last week.
Let’s keep stoking the flames for Kerby Joseph’s performance on Sunday because it was that damn good. Joseph earned a reputation among the coaching staff as a guy with ballhawk potential during the pre-draft process, and he’s making sure the coaches know their eyes weren’t deceived by the tape.
Kerby Joseph with quite the impressive pass breakup pic.twitter.com/LxB3OsddkN— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) November 6, 2022
Joseph notched two interceptions against Aaron Rodgers and made another pass breakup that was as equally important to the Lions keeping the Packers off the board. Overall, Joseph was targeted five times, allowed three receptions for 38 yards, and a 44.4 passer rating against—the second-best mark on the day for any defender targeted at least five times (Jerry Jacobs, 0.0).