A very one-sided effort by the Detroit Lions on Sunday kept them in the game, but resistance from the defense, special teams, and the coaching staff resulted in the Minnesota Vikings being handed the win. It was a heartbreaker because for the first time in at least two full seasons, the Lions felt like the better team, but that didn’t stop them from finding a way to lose.
Stock up: Jeff Okudah, CB
You didn’t hear Okudah’s name called much at all Sunday, and that was a really, really good thing Sunday. Okudah shadowed the best wide receiver in the game in Justin Jefferson, and Okudah shut him down.
Jeff Okudah has mostly covered DeVonta Smith, Terry McLaurin and Justin Jefferson this season.— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) September 25, 2022
Smith: 0 yards vs. Lions, 249 yards in 2 other games.
McLaurin: 75 yards vs. Lions, 160 yards in 2 other games.
Jefferson: 14 yards vs. Lions, 232 yards in 2 other games.
That was an incredible performance from Okudah, who’s rapidly solidifying his reputation as a top-tier corner and making a compelling case for comeback player of the year. If there was a best-case scenario for Okudah’s comeback when seemingly everyone wrote him off, it has been this exact three weeks.
Stock down: Amani Oruwariye, CB
There’s a valuable lesson in having an elite CB1: it doesn’t matter how good your CB1 is if it means the opposing team can just pick on your CB2. That was the case Sunday, where Amani Oruwariye seemed absolutely lost in the midst of Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, and Kirk Cousins.
Oruwariye finished the day with six(!!!) defensive penalties, and that’s on top of some questionable no-calls, including the Vikings’ last failed fourth down conversion. To make matters worse, Oruwariye didn’t show up much in run support, opening the day with some lackluster tackling attempts. That’s not going to sit well with this coaching staff, especially when they have such a deep group of corners, most of whom show up week in and week out in run support.
Oruwariye has looked like a shell of his 2021 self through three weeks. Sunday, he didn’t look like a starting cornerback. That will have to change rapidly with a tough matchup against the Seahawks on the clock.
Stock up: Jamaal Williams, RB
D’Andre Swift got bit by the injury bug once again and that meant he was on limited snaps until he succumbed to the sideline for most of the second half. Jamaal Williams stepped up admirably in Swift’s absence in all facets of the game. Williams spoke in preseason about wanting to show his abilities in the passing game, but some ugly drops since then have not inspired much faith. Sunday, Williams looked shifty after the catch, sturdy in pass protection, and strong on the ground.
His best play of the day came on a fourth down play action attempt where he got absolutely blown up in the backfield despite not having the ball, allowing Goff to buy time and convert for a big chunk over the middle. On the ground, Williams would finish with 4.4 yards per carry and two rushing touchdowns behind an offensive line crafted primarily for pass protection Sunday. He showed he can step in in all facets when necessary, which may be the case often given Swift’s inability to stay healthy.
Stock down: Dan Campbell, HC
We have given a blank check of praise to this coaching staff through three weeks of the season for milking every ounce of potential out of their players, including Sunday. The fact that the Lions played like the better team speaks volumes. However, Campbell’s questionable decision-making down the stretch would cost the Lions the game at the end of the day. On fourth down with about 70 seconds to go, Campbell opted to trot out Austin Seibert for what would have been a career-long field goal as opposed to going for it to end the game or punting it to set up the Vikings with a long field and no timeouts.
Although Campbell admitted his mistake after, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some level of concern. The Lions almost blew their 22-point lead against the Commanders last week, and this week a 10-point fourth-quarter lead evaporated and everybody saw it coming. Early leads and a potent offense don’t mean much if the team isn’t put in a position to close out games.
DJ Chark, WR: The Lions have talked about getting Chark more touches, and after getting shut out in Week 2, Chark immediately picked up 40 receiving yards on the first three plays of the game. Chark faded down the stretch after a strong opening drive, but the Lions have so many receiving targets I don’t mind it, as they’ve proven they can get him targets should they want to.
Jared Goff, QB: Goff looked sharp on Sunday. The first two weeks of the season featured a number of passes from Goff that weren’t necessarily off target, but ever so slightly off such that it led to numerous drops. Sunday, Goff was moving around filthy pockets to hit receivers in stride in a way we’ve never seen before. With the run game hampered, Goff had to step up, and he did.
Logan Stenberg, G: Despite not playing Sunday, Stenberg did fall. He was replaced in the starting lineup this week by backup center Evan Brown playing right guard, who fares much better in pass protection than Stenberg. The hypothetical tradeoff was sacrificing Stenberg’s strong run blocking, but the Lions still managed to rush for 139 yards with their star running back getting very limited touches. I’d be shocked if Brown didn’t retain the interim starting guard spot moving forward.
Austin Seibert, K: After an Audible Dong on Seibert’s first kick and a make on the second, Seibert was called on in crunch time to make a career long 54-yard field goal. That shouldn’t be automatic by any means, but in crunch time and in a dome, that’s a big boy kick that an NFL player has to make—or at least come closer than Seibert did.
Isaiah Buggs, DT: Buggs has been the anchor of the run defense through two weeks, but you’d have no idea of that by watching the Vikings game. The entire defensive line was getting pushed several yards off the ball by the Vikings offensive line. The Lions brought in Buggs to be the big guy in the middle, but he did not impress in that role Sunday.