Going into Sunday’s matchup, we knew the Detroit Lions’ offense would be facing one of its biggest challenges against a tough New York Jets defense on the road. Could offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and quarterback Jared Goff prove that they can excel against any defense?
For most of the game, the answer appeared to be no. The Lions offense failed to reach the end zone for the first 58 minutes of the game.
But in the game’s most pivotal moment, Johnson reached into his goodie bag. Facing a fourth-and-inches at midfield at the two minute warning, the Lions completely fooled the Jets defense with a play-action pass. Tight end Brock Wright slipped out of the line of scrimmage, caught a short pass and scampered all the way for a 51-yard touchdown pass that would end up being the game winner.
Here’s how the entire game played out.
The Jets won the toss and deferred, meaning we’d get our first look at the premier matchup between the Lions offense and the Jets defense. Early on, it looked like the Lions had the advantage. A couple of plays to D’Andre Swift got them to midfield, and then Kalif Raymond picked up a big third-and-6 on a perfect ball from Jared Goff. A few plays later, Goff needled a ball to Amon-Ra St. Brown on third-and-3 for a 12-yard pickup, moving Detroit into the red zone. The Lions worked their way down to the 1-yard line, but faced a fourth down. Coach Dan Campbell opted to go for it, but the Jets halted the Lions after four straight run attempts:
But the Lions defense got a quick three and out thanks to a pass breakup by Jeff Okudah on third-and-long. Kalif Raymond—who was cut by the Jets for muffing punts a few years back—took the ensuing punt to the house to give the Lions a quick 7-0 Lions lead.
The Jets offense finally picked up their first positive yards on the next drive. The offense got things going after a pass interference call on DeShon Elliott, and then Zach Wilson hit Denzel Mims for a 13-yard gain, pushing New York to their own 44-yard line. But thanks to a stingy run defense, the Lions got into a third down, and an unblocked James Houston picked up his fifth sack of the year (and one for every game he’s played).
The Lions were able to pick up a single first down, but a couple of dropped passes from running backs forced Detroit to give the ball back to New York.
Wilson would start the drive from his own 22-yard line just as the first quarter came to an end.
Garrett Wilson got wide open in the secondary and Zach Wilson hit him for a 33-yard gain. Then Wilson rolled to his left, threw to his right and hit C.J. Uzomah for a 40-yard touchdown pass. Rookie safety Kerby Joseph tried to make a play on the ball but whiffed, allowing Uzomah to score and tie the game at 7-7.
The Lions offense went back to work and quickly got their way into Jets territory after DJ Chark took a slant for 18 yards. On the next play, Goff went deep to Jameson Williams, who had a couple steps on the defender, but the pass was underthrown and broken up. That eventually set up a fourth-and-3 from the Jets’ 38-yard line. The Lions again went for it. This time, the Lions converted with an easy pass to St. Brown.
Jamaal Williams appeared to have scored a 11-yard touchdown run, but right guard Evan Brown was called for a questionable hold on the play. He was called for holding again two plays later, erasing a 9-yard run from Swift. That was enough to stall the drive, and the Lions had to settle for a field goal. 10-7 Lions.
After that lengthy Lions drive, Wilson went back to work carving up the Lions secondary. He kicked off the drive with a 21-yard pass to Elijah Moore. After a couple of third-and-short conversions, the Jets found themselves in field goal position. But the Jets imploded from there. An intentional ground penalty followed by a Romeo Okwara sack pushed the Jets out of range, and they were forced to punt with 1:10 left in the half.
With 1:03 left, the Lions had an opportunity to add to their lead before the half. A draw play to Swift picked up a quick 16 yards. But that’s all the Lions could muster, and they would punt back to the Jets with 31 seconds left.
Wilson caught the Lions secondary somehow sleeping on the drive, and found Jeff Smith for a huge 50-yard gain, giving the Jets life to score points.
Then he found Smith again for 15. While the Jets nearly scored a touchdown, they eventually ran out of time, and had to settle for a game-tying field goal as time expired in the first half. 10-10 tie.
The Jets offense took over and quickly picked up a clutch third-and-5 with a contested catch from Tyler Conklin. But Zach Wilson made a critical mistake, lofting a ball that was easy for Jerry Jacobs to pick off, and he returned it down to the Jets 15-yard line.
The Lions offense only went backward from there, though, and settled for a 34-yard field goal from Michael Badgley to make it 13-10 Lions.
A holding penalty quickly got the Jets behind the sticks, and they could not recover. New York went three-and-out on offense, and the Lions would take over at their own 34-yard line. Detroit would pick up one first down, before punting it back to the Jets, as Goff had trouble finding any open receivers against a tough New York secondary.
Detroit nearly got another three-and-out, but somehow a wobbly Wilson pass found its way into the hands of running back Michael Carter for a 16-yard pickup. Lions safety DeShon Elliott was injured on the next play. He was replaced by C.J. Moore.
The Lions defense clamped up from there, and after a tackle for loss by Alex Anzalone and an overthrow from Wilson, the Jets punted.
Yet another holding penalty—this one by center Frank Ragnow—doomed the Lions’ subsequent drive. Detroit was set to punt on fourth-and-12 as the game moved over to the fourth quarter.
The Lions defense continued to stand tall, forcing a quick three and out thanks to a third-down pressure from Houston.
The Lions offense tried to grind out a long, time-eating drive starting from their own 9-yard line. They successfully moved the ball into Jets territory with a third-down pickup from Jamaal Williams and a nice quick slant to St. Brown for another 10 yards. The Lions would have kept the drive going, but a holding penalty on Ragnow negated what would’ve been a free first down on a Jets offsides. Instead, the Lions failed to convert, attempted a 54-yard field goal, and missed.
The Jets took over on their own 44-yard line, and Wilson immediately cashed in with a 33-yard pass to Garrett Wilson.
Braxton Berrios got the Jets down to the 7-yard line, and three plays later the Jets play-actioned their way into the end zone. 17-13 Jets.
With 4:37 left starting from his own 22-yard line, the stage was set for Goff to make the biggest drive of his Lions career. He picked up an early third down after connecting with St. Brown for 10 yards. Detroit moved it to midfield, and faced a fourth-and-inches at the two-minute warning. And that’s when offensive coordinator Ben Johnson pulled a huge trick out of his bag:
Wright, who dropped a pass earlier in this drive, gave the Lions a three-point lead with 1:49 left. 20-17 Lions.
The Jets still had all three timeouts, so this game was far from over. Romeo Okwara picked up his second sack of the day to start out the drive. But Garrett Wilson got the Jets out of a jam with a 22-yard catch on Jeff Okudah. Wilson then got them to midfield. A John Cominsky sack pushed them back into a third-and-18 situation with 19 seconds left. Wilson heaved a pass downfield for a 20 yard gain, giving Greg Zuerlein an opportunity at a 59-yarder to send it to overtime. He missed and the Lions escaped.