The Detroit Lions offense was stalled for nearly the entire game. Everything the Lions tried to throw at the Jets, New York’s impressive defense seemed to have an answer. The Lions run game managed just 3.8 yards per carry. Detroit was 0-for-2 in the red zone. Jared Goff couldn’t find an open receiver more than 10 yards downfield.
But with the game on the line on a fourth-and-inches, down four points, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson cracked the code for a 51-yard touchdown that gave the Lions a lead with 1:49 left—and that would be the difference.
Let’s take a closer look at that play and why it worked so brilliantly.
Using Amon-Ra St. Brown as a decoy
The Lions used play action to maybe catch the Jets off-guard, but New York is a better defense than that. It would take more than that to fool the Jets.
Instead, the Lions used wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown—their go-to guy—as a decoy to get the entire Jets defense moving away from the middle of the field. Just look at this screenshot and where all the Jets defenders are looking:
By sending St. Brown in motion—something they do quite often—they drew all the attention his way. Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley—a Pro Bowl defender—got greedy trying to read Goff’s eyes, and you can see tight end Brock Wright starting to slip by him unnoticed.
By this moment, the play was over. The Lions had won.
Deep design clears out open field
DJ Chark and Josh Reynolds both ran deep routes with no intentions of being targeted on this play. No, their entire purpose was to turn the heads of their defenders and run them downfield.
So when Wright caught the pass, here’s a look at the field he had in front of him:
Throw in a couple of nifty moves from Wright and a light block from Reynolds, and he was gone.
But we’re not done yet because there is one unheralded hero of this play that should not go overlooked.
Justin Jackson, pass blocking extraordinaire
A play like this takes some time to develop. And when you need some extra time, it is up to pass protection to do their job or this play looks like a joke. While the offensive line did just fine, it was Jackson’s block that was absolutely key:
Unsung hero of the game: Justin Jackson for the key block on the game-winning play.— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) December 18, 2022
Give @J_ManPrime21 some love! pic.twitter.com/mrC8PV7872
The Lions left him to block safety Jordan Whitehead on his own, and Jackson absolutely put him in the dirt.
Jackson has quietly been a really important player for the Lions, especially on third downs. He has the ability to run, catch, and he just may be the best pass blocker in the backfield.
A play like this takes a village, and the Lions got it.
Watch it one more time:
Made the Wright play on 4th down!#DETvsNYJ | CBS pic.twitter.com/RkLdogmS3S— Detroit Lions (@Lions) December 18, 2022