The Detroit Lions are playing a brand of football that has instilled an unbridled confidence in their fans. In our most recent SB Nation Reacts survey, 96 percent of Lions fans are confident the team is headed in the right direction, and after the way Detroit walked over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13, that number could only go up.
But this Lions team isn’t floating on hope alone. Detroit is making a case over the past month to be playing some of the best football not just in their division, not just in their conference, but in the entire NFL.
Teams that have been better than the Lions in DVOA since the beginning of November:— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) December 5, 2022
END. OF. LIST.
In their latest drubbing of the Jaguars, 40-14, the Lions played their cleanest game of football to date under Dan Campbell, dominating in each and every phase of the game. After losing by three points to the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving, Detroit’s season was going to be largely defined by their play over the final six weeks of the season. As Dan Campbell proudly proclaimed in the locker room after their win against the Jaguars, the team is 1-0, and they have five more games to play in their six-game season.
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 Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13.
Pro Football Focus’ premium statistics are an invaluable data point for football fans to better understand the game. Consider subscribing to PFF to have full access to a plethora of stats and grades to keep you informed about the NFL—and college football, too.
Maybe most apparent from this game was the play of Jared Goff. Surrounded by the healthiest group of skill players he’s had since Week 1, Goff played perhaps the best game of his Lions tenure. He was 31 of 41 for 340 passing yards and two touchdowns—with no turnovers and just two sacks where his mobility and pocket awareness limited the damage to just three yards lost.
Chark diving! #JAXvsDET | FOX pic.twitter.com/EQKVZL8zJJ— Detroit Lions (@Lions) December 4, 2022
What may have been most impressive about Goff’s afternoon was his efficiency on throws 10 yards or deeper where he was 7 of 9 for 128 yards. Aside from an underthrown pass to Jameson Williams on his lone target in his NFL debut, Goff was accurate and especially effective over the middle of the field on throws between 10 and 19 yards (5 of 5 for 67 yards and a 118.8 passer rating. Along with offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, this was some of the most aggressive downfield passing we’ve seen out of Detroit, and if Goff can be this efficient when stretching things out—again, Goff had a 77.8 completion percentage on throws 10 yards or deeper—this offense is going to continue to be one of the highest scoring in the league.
The bend of James Houston is something almost unreal to your senses. The ability to seemingly manipulate his center of gravity for that moment of burst when he gets under blockers is special. Houston put people on notice when he stepped up on Thanksgiving and tallied his first two career sacks, but with some tape out on the rookie from Jackson State, his follow-up performance was going to be under the microscope.
James Houston dipping and diving his way to a third sack in two games— Nolan Bianchi (@nolanbianchi) December 4, 2022
Houston played in limited fashion for the second week in a row, but his presence was felt more than a few times. He posted a 36.4 win percentage on pass rushing snaps, generating two pressures—one sack and one quarterback hit—on just nine total pass rushing snaps. Of any edge defender in Week 13 with at least nine pass rushing snaps, Houston’s 36.4 win percentage was the highest mark.
If the past month and some change is any indication of where this franchise is headed in terms of success, people will look back to when general manager Brad Holmes made his first selection in the 2021 NFL Draft for the blueprint. Penei Sewell is one of the pillars of this rebuild, and the stability he brings to the offensive line allows Ben Johnson to be as creative as he’s been since taking over as offensive coordinator.
Got some Lions stuff coming this week -- but before I get there, my fav Penei Sewell run call of the year so far:— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) December 6, 2022
The Sewell Bluff Counter.
My God. pic.twitter.com/Xr6G0AHd0Z
Against the Jaguars, Sewell was perfect as a pass blocker, allowing zero pressures across his 43 pass blocking snaps for a 100.0 pass blocking efficiency. Sewell ranks sixth among all tackles in the NFL in pass blocking efficiency this season (97.7) and has only allowed 18 pressures in 12 games.
Welcome back, D’Andre Swift; this offense missed your versatility.
Swift spins for six!— NFL (@NFL) December 4, 2022
: #JAXvsDET on FOX
: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/v9GIqhdjpD pic.twitter.com/F2OhH7jpsK
Swift may not be back to his normal self until he gets some extended rest and recovery for that shoulder injury, but his ankle seemed to be in better shape, and it helped him look like the guy capable of making a play like he did on the goal line.
Last year, Swift’s yardage totals were largely inflated by his usage in the short passing game, something this offense would lean on too often and limited its effectiveness. In Week 13’s matchup with the Jaguars, a healthier Swift posted his most productive day as a pass catcher this season, hauling in four passes for 49 yards. But what’s most impressive about his performance was his average depth of target was -1.5 yards, and his yards after catch per reception was 13.8 yards—leading the team for the week.
2 + 2 + 2 = 6
Everyone, myself included, owe Will Harris an apology. Miscast during the Patricia years, Harris has completely redefined—and redeemed—himself as a jack-of-all-trades defensive back. Harris has played a little bit at outside corner in a pinch over the past year and a half, but he’s settled in nicely as a nickel corner in Aaron Glenn’s defense.
Harris tallied two quarterback pressures, registered two defensive stops, and tallied two pass breakups for a total of six impact plays against the Jaguars. Harris allowed just three catches on seven targets, posting a 54.5 passer rating against when in coverage. Whether it’s his physicality in the run game or his ball skills in coverage, Harris is a versatile contributor for this defense, and a big reason why Detroit is finding major success as of late.