I don’t think there’s any better way to finish the season on a high note than the Detroit Lions did Sunday night. They showed up in a “meaningless” game in primetime, on the road, against one of the hottest teams in the league, and their young core carried them to a triumphant win on the biggest stage. Here are your movers for the week vs. the Green Bay Packers:
Stock up: Alim McNeill, DT
It won’t show up on the stat sheet, but McNeill was responsible for a galaxy brain play that may have single-handedly kept the Lions in the game prior to halftime. After the Packers fumbled the ball in the red zone with under a minute to play in the first half, Packers tight end Robert Tonyan dove for the ball with the intention of having a foot out of bounds to make it a dead ball. Alim McNeill, the first Lions defender to the ball, didn’t go for the ball—instead, he dove straight at Tonyan to keep him from touching pigskin. That kept it a live ball and cleared the way for Will Harris to come in for the recovery.
That possession set up the Lions for a field goal to enter the half down 6-9. If Tonyan touches that ball, the Packers are likely up 12-3, if not 16-3, going into the half instead.
Stock up: Alex Anzalone, LB
Anzalone opened the Lions’ first defensive series with a missed tackle that turned what would have been a tackle for loss into an 8-yard run for the Packers. It was a bad start to the game and an omen of one of those games for Anzalone.
Boy did he prove us wrong. Following a 46-yard DPI call against Jerry Jacobs that sent the Packers to the 4-yard line with first and goal, Anzalone would be responsible for two of the Lions’ three defensive stops to hold the Packers to a field goal. Most notable, on third-and-goal, he perfectly timed a peel-off from his coverage of A.J. Dillon in the end zone to go after a scrambling Aaron Rodgers and force an incompletion. Any time you can take out two offensive players as a defender, it’s a win. Doing so against a scrambling Aaron Rodgers is even more impressive, and a huge progression for someone who Rodgers had on skates during the Week 9 meeting.
Stock down: Jared Goff, QB, in the cold
Jared Goff wasn’t messy Sunday night and didn’t make huge mistakes, which is always a key to the Lions’ success. However, he consistently lacked velocity on the ball and was throwing low to his receivers. That cost the Lions numerous catch-and-run opportunities, not to mention completions.
This isn’t to take away from what Goff has done the past couple months. However, it’s hard to ignore following his struggles in Carolina that he might not be built for games in the cold. Historically, he’s not bad when it comes to interceptions, but fumbles have been his downfall. When the cold takes away your grip, that comes to bite you, and it almost did against the Packers when Goff fumbled the ball and recovered it. Against Carolina and in Green Bay, Goff wore gloves to help with his grip on the ball. However, the tradeoffs in the passing game were evident. That’s not something you can gloss over if you’re Brad Holmes and you’re looking at who is going to lead your team long term, especially if you want to play meaningful football in the coldest months of the year.
Stock up: Benito Jones, DT
The Lions’ opening defensive series featured plenty of Isaiah Buggs, who was crucial to the Lions’ success in holding the Packers to three points on the drive. Following that drive, the Lions turned to Benito Jones to fill the interior lineman role on downs with more yards to go. Jones, the only active Lions defender who weighs more than Buggs, has a more agile profile to help contain Aaron Rodgers.
Based on the eye test alone, it looked like the most we had seen of Jones all season (Note: It was. His 30 defensive snaps were a season-high). His role has gradually expanded in recent weeks, and the Lions trusting him on this big of a stage to rotate in with a guy who has been a cornerstone of the offense is a huge step forward.
Stock down: Jerry Jacobs, CB
I’ve said in multiple prior stock reports that Jacobs is a good, commendable, NFL-caliber cornerback, but he’s not CB1. Unfortunately, the Lions found themselves asking him to be that again Sunday night with Jeff Okudah out with an elbow injury.
Jacobs had a tough start to the day with a 46-yard defensive pass interference called against him on the opening drive. Later on in the third quarter, Jacobs would surrender the Packers’ lone touchdown on the day. Sunday night was an unwelcome reminder that Jacobs is a formidable CB2, but should not be relied upon as CB1. Hopefully, the Lions get him some welcome support heading into 2023 so he can thrive in an appropriate role.
Stock down: Dave Fipp, Special Teams Coordinator
The aging Mason Crosby hit every kickoff Sunday night as a low, line drive. Most of them were fielded somewhere between the goal line and the 5-yard line, and the reduced hang time usually meant the Lions had ample room to return the ball. Instead, the Lions averaged a starting field position of their own 26-yard line on five kickoff returns, just a yard past what a touchback would have provided. If you’re a special teams coach, that’s an adjustment you have to make, be it with blocking or with who you’re putting back to return the ball knowing that you’re getting short kicks.
Stock up: Kerby Joseph, S
Joseph has been in a bit of a slump in recent weeks, but he went out with a bang Sunday. He truly played sideline-to-sideline, and it led to plentiful opportunities. While Joseph dropped the first interception that came his way, he did come up with a second. Unfortunately, that was nullified by a hands-to-the-face penalty against John Cominsky. When it mattered most though, Kerby came up yet again with an interception in crunch time to put the offense in position to close out the game. Kerby Joseph is Aaron Rodgers’ daddy, and if Rodgers retires on this note, Joseph can wear that label eternally.
Kerby Joseph on Aaron Rodgers:— Colton Pouncy (@colton_pouncy) January 9, 2023
"If that's his last pass, I'm saving that ball and I'm sending it to him so he can sign it. If he don't sign it, I'll understand. But I doubt he's gonna retire. He's probably gonna try to come back, and if he comes back, more plays for me."
Aidan Hutchinson, DL: Hutchinson capped off the season with a two-sack performance, closing out a strong rookie campaign. He continues to excel beyond the sacks and the stat sheet, and he has a promising future as a cornerstone of this franchise.
Penei Sewell, OL: Sewell continues to play like a dawg and it showed up Sunday night again. He’s a mean, mean man and will maul you regardless of pass, run, screen, or anything else.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR: We already knew he had hands of steel, but apparently his butt cheeks can catch footballs too.
Amani Oruwariye, CB: Sunday concluded Oruwariye’s forgettable 2022 season. His fall from CB1 has been painful, and to say his future with the team is uncertain would be generous.