The Detroit Lions put up their most dominant performance of the year on Sunday, absolutely throttling the Chicago Bears to the tune of a 41-10 victory. Not only was it Detroit’s biggest win of the season, but it’s tied for their biggest margin of victory since they waxed the Denver Broncos 45-10 back in 2011.
While the team was down 10-7 after the first quarter, it was all Lions after that, and just about every position group played a part in the thorough beatdown of the Bears. As a result, the Lions have earned their highest grades of the season. Let’s break it down by position
On Sunday, Jared Goff may have had his best game as a Detroit Lion. His 10.86 adjusted yards per pass attempt was the best of his Lions career and his 133.5 passer rating was second best from his time in Detroit.
Goff was extremely accurate in this game, only truly missing one crossing route to Jameson Williams and a fairly easy third-down conversion that he lost control of while moving to his left. Otherwise, he was about as perfect as you can get, and he, again, avoided negative plays all day: zero turnovers and one sack (late in the game),
Running backs: A+
Welcome back, D’Andre Swift. That performance was Swift at his best. He was explosive running the ball, and on his two touchdowns—a screen pass and a toss play—he used his blockers perfectly, showing both patience and vision. However, his most impressive play was a give-up draw play on third-and-18 that he somehow turned into a 35-yard run:
Hell of a spin move from Swift! pic.twitter.com/EshXeLYoqQ— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) January 1, 2023
Swift’s performance alone would’ve given this group an A, but Jamaal Williams looked the best he’s been in at least a month. He ran with the kind of decisiveness he had been lacking, and he set a career-high in rushing yards (144) thanks, in part, to this explosive play.
Jamaal Williams had 150 yards remaining to hit a $250k incentive on his contract bonus.— DETmotorcity (@DETmotorcity) January 2, 2023
His coaching staff knew, his teammates knew, and all came through for him.
Look at Jared Goff running down the sideline to hype him up pic.twitter.com/Fed1zbZ3GB
Tight ends: A
Brock Wright was the tight end du jour this week, as he had yet another two-touchdown performance against the Bears. Rookie James Mitchell pitched in a nice 15-yard pickup, and Shane Zylstra had a 7-yard catch (though the turf monster got him).
Most importantly, though, this unit is starting to pick up their performance when it comes to run blocking. Go re-watch the big run Jamaal Williams, and focus on Wright on the near side and the pulling James Mitchell coming from left to right. Those are the key blocks that sprung Williams, and that was far from an isolated incident.
Wide receivers: B
Because I had to give one unit a non-A, that goes to the receivers this week. DJ Chark dropped an easy third-down conversion that nearly ended the drive (the Lions got a fourth-down pass interference call that led to a touchdown anyways). Josh Reynolds was a non-factor. Jameson Williams still isn’t on the same page as Jared Goff.
But this is all nitpicking because Chark also had an impressive one-handed grab, Amon-Ra St. Brown caught four of his five targets for 62 yards. Williams had an explosive 40-yard reverse that set up a touchdown. The wide receivers in this game weren’t dominant, but they didn’t need to be.
Offensive line: A
This was a huge bounce-back game from the offensive line after getting humbled by the Panthers last week. There were monster holes in the run game all day, and Goff only took two quarterback hits the entire game.
Per PFF, of Swift’s and Williams’ combined 222 rushing yards, 66 of those came before contact. The only real negative mark on the stat sheet for the offensive line was a holding call on Frank Ragnow that erased a 12-yard run, but the Lions scored on that drive anyways.
Defensive line: A
The defensive line also had a huge bounceback game, and it was largely because of the rookie class:
James Houston: 3.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Josh Paschal: 2.0 sacks
Aidan Hutchinson: 0.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery
That is wild production from three rookies in a single game, but credit also goes to other players along the defensive front. John Cominsky added a sack of his own, Isaiah Buggs had two quarterback hits, and even Benito Jones had a pass breakup.
The Bears may not have a good offensive line, but it is certainly better than how Detroit made them look on Sunday.
The Lions linebackers were plagued by some early mistakes in the game. On Justin Fields’ 60-yard scramble, Alex Anzalone took a bad angle and lost contain. Both Anzalone and Malcolm Rodriguez got blown out of the play on the nifty pitch to Fields.
But the position group rebounded nicely, and after the first quarter, the Bears had just 71 yards rushing on 13 carries. In the second half, Chicago rushed eight times for just 27 yards—a remarkable defensive performance against the best rushing attack in the NFL.
Even though Jeff Okudah was benched again, this unit did everything you could realistically expect them to do. They did get tagged for a couple of defensive holdings, but when the opposing quarterback completes just 7-of-21 passes for 3.6 yards per pass attempt, your secondary clearly did something right.
Most impressively, Fields could just not find an open receiver all day. A quarterback like him often extends the play with his feet, forcing the secondary to cover for an abnormally long time. He did that again on Sunday, but the Lions coverage was incredibly sticky all game, often forcing a throwaway from the Bears quarterback.
Shout out to Ifeatu Melifonwu, who rebounded from his first career safety start to tally two pass breakups and a half-sack.
Special teams: D+
The Lions gave up a 63-yard kick return that nearly gave the Bears free points at the end of the first half, and they also committed a holding penalty on a punt return that set the offense up inside their own 10-yard line. Those are two huge plays that they can’t afford to do against better teams.
Otherwise, it was a normal day from the unit.
The Lions coaching staff clearly made an effort to prop up their players in the trenches. After getting manhandled last week, the Lions wanted to regain their identity as a gritty team. Dan Campbell had only offensive and defensive linemen announced out of the tunnel for a reason.
“I wanted to do that because that was everything coming out of Carolina was about that,” Campbell said. “And for us to be—our identity to be a physical, tough, hard nose, relentless, resilient team, it all starts with the O-line, D-line. And so, I wanted to make sure that got acknowledged for the last one here.”
That strategy clearly worked—and it should have against a Bears team that is lacking in both departments.
Also, Aaron Glenn deserves nearly as much praise this week as the criticism he got last week. Detroit effectively limited Justin Fields for three-quarters of that game, and it was because the Lions adjusted. They played with just one safety for about half of the game, often deploying five-man fronts to limit the run game and keep Fields contained in the pocket. Containment was near perfect from the defensive front, so good on the coaching staff for making that a priority this week.
Most of all, it was a relief to see that a tough loss like last week wasn’t enough to emotionally bury this team for the rest of the season. This speaks highly to the character of both the players and coaches to put that one behind them and refocus against a dangerous Bears team.
Jets and Vikings: F
Screw you guys.