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Lions-Jets key PFF stats: Lions figure out a new way to win in New York

Detroit went into this matchup knowing it was going to be a different kind of test against this Jets defense, but the Lions came prepared to outlast New York.

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Detroit Lions v New York Jets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Another week, another win for this surging Detroit Lions team that, as Dan Campbell said in his postgame locker room speech, “is figuring out a way to win, and that’s what winners do.”

Yeah, it’s cliche, but what’s at the heart of Campbell’s point isn’t: this football team, which got off to a 1-6 start, is figuring out ways to win football games this late into the season they couldn’t have pulled off during that disappointing start. And some other things are still getting figured out—like what distance Campbell can trust Michael Badgley kicking from with the game in the balance.

No, they don’t have it all figured out. The run game needs a shot in the arm—it feels like it’s been forever since those explosive run plays earlier in the season—and the secondary has been leaky for a couple weeks in a row now—save for Santa bringing it early for Jerry Jacobs. But they’re figuring out ways to win. Fourth-and-inches drawn up for Brock Wright, the guy who dropped a pass earlier that same drive. Penei Sewell reporting as eligible and giving the world a chance to capture his greatness. In critical moments, things are coming up Lions right now, and it’s testament to the way this young team has started to put it together when it needs to get done.

As we do every week for this Detroit Lions team, 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 New York Jets in Week 15.

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4, 26.7

During the pre-draft process, Aidan Hutchinson’s relatively high floor was usually mentioned in the same breath as his adept play in run defense. At the very least, Hutchinson’s motor was going to make him a player against the run, but drafting a player with the second overall pick, the hope is that the guy can get to the quarterback.

Hutchinson has done his fair share of getting after the quarterback—he has the most quarterback pressures and sacks of any EDGE defender in the 2022 rookie class—but he’s more than living up to the reputation that preceded him as a run defender. The Lions held a Jets team that was averaging 4.5 yards per carry and 118 rushing yards per game to just 2.3 yards per carry and 50 total rushing yards.

Four defensive stops in run defense and a 26.7 percent stop percentage (the percentage of a player’s run defense snaps where he was responsible for a stop) from Hutchinson shows the big role he played in Detroit’s success as a team grounding the Jets rushing attack. His stop percentage was the highest of any EDGE defender in Week 15 with at least 16 run defense snaps.

78.8, 0

There’s been no more divisive a topic amongst fans than Jared Goff’s future with the Lions even though all signs and actions point towards this regime believing in him to be ‘the guy.’ Over Detroit’s hot streak, Goff has put up some especially impressive numbers and been responsible with the football. One of those things these Lions have learned over the past few weeks is how costly a turnover can be, and Goff’s safety he took against the Bills on Thanksgiving was the last time he made a mistake—and it just so happens to be the last time the Lions lost a game.

The Jets had forced 18 turnovers through 13 games, but Goff never made a mistake. His 78.8 percent adjusted completion percentage was the seventh-best mark of the week—Lions receivers were credited with a league-high three drops in Week 15—and Goff’s zero turnovers was just another example of a player figuring out how they can help their team win. He comes with his set of limitations as a quarterback, but he’s playing within those limits, and we can all agree Goff is better at being the guy he is rather than trying to be more than his skillset allows.

5, 35.7, 42.9

An area where many had their doubts and concerns coming into the 2022 season for the Detroit Lions was with the linebacker room. The Lions added a sixth-round rookie in Malcolm Rodriguez and brought back former first-round pick Jarrad Davis, but for the most part, this was the group the Lions struggled with a year ago, and Detroit was counting on improvement instead of replacement.

Nobody in that room has had quite the turnaround from a year ago like Alex Anzalone.

Anzalone’s missed tackle percentage (21.2) last season was the worst among qualifying linebackers, but this season, Anzalone’s 12.5 percent missed tackle percentage is a massive improvement from a year ago. In addition to his improvement as a tackler, Anzalone’s being used in more pass rushing situations this season, and it’s to the benefit of both him and the defense.

Last year, Anzalone had 63 pass rushing snaps and four quarterback pressures in total. This season, Anzalone’s 81 pass rushing snaps have resulted in 20 quarterback pressures. In Week 15 against the Jets, Anzalone had seven pass rushing snaps and generated five quarterback pressures (outproducing his entire 2021 season), had a 35.7 pass rushing productivity mark (a PFF formula that combines sacks, hits and hurries relative to how many times they rush the passer), and 42.9 win percentage (percentage of “wins” vs blocking on non-penalty pass rush snaps). In Week 15, Anzalone was first among all qualifying linebackers in those pass rushing statistics.

14, 125, 20.8

When Zach Wilson was announced as the starter for the Jets in Week 15, plenty of Lions fans let out a sigh of relief. Wilson went on to throw the ball all around the field for a total of 317 yards on just 18 completions. It was big play after big play and no cornerback struggled in coverage as much as the team’s No. 1 corner, Jeff Okudah.

Okudah was targeted 14 times, allowed six receptions for 125 yards and 20.8 yards per reception against the Jets, his roughest outing of the season. Among qualifying cornerbacks in Week 15, Okudah was the most-targeted cornerback, allowed the second-most receiving yards, and allowed the second-most yards per reception of any cornerback who allowed at least three catches.

His comeback season has had plenty to celebrate, especially his contributions as a run defender—Okudah had the second-highest run defense grade per PFF for Detroit in Week 15—but this week, reserve receiver Jeff Smith got the best of the former third overall pick.

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