The Detroit Lions are 5-1 with three gritty road wins on their resume and four straight wins—all by multiple scores. Sunday’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was unconventional by Lions standards—they didn’t physically dominate via the running game—but perhaps more impressively, they developed a new identity and thrived in it.
Let’s break it all down in our Week 6 Lions report card.
Jared Goff didn’t have a run game. He was facing a defense that ranked second in DVOA with a complicated blitz scheme that can be extremely hard to diagnose pre-snap.
Yet despite all those hardships, Goff became the center point of the team’s offense in the second half and thrived. Throwing the ball 25 times while holding the lead in the second half, Goff completed 18 of those passes for a whopping 203 yards and 8.1 yards per attempt. He was instrumental in converting six of nine third downs in the second half, which helped bleed the clock and ensure a win.
Running backs: B-
Once David Montgomery went down with an injury, the Lions’ running game was dead for the rest of the game. Craig Reynolds is good for an occasional cutback or two, but he’s just not capable of the physical rushing attack that the Lions employ.
That said, both Montgomery and Reynolds had big gains in the passing game, with Montgomery pulling in a 19-yard catch and Reynolds cashing in a 28-yard gain. Oh, you better believe I bumped the RBs up a half grade for this block by Reynolds:
Tight ends: C
Despite playing with a hurt calf, Sam LaPorta remained an important part of the team’s passing attack. LaPorta was targeted 11 times on Sunday but only managed to haul in four catches for 39 yards. He did have one drop and had another wrestled out of his hands, but he still seemed to come up with a big play in a time of need.
Blocking was very much up and down for the Lions’ tight end crew, which may explain why the Lions utilized a sixth offensive linemen again in their scheme this game.
Wide receivers: A
Amon-Ra St. Brown is just a ridiculous human being. His routes are so precise and measured, and his chemistry with Jared Goff is off the charts.
“I just trust the hell out of him, and he’s earned it,” Goff said. “That’s really the best answer for ya. He’s one of the best players in the league at his position. We’re lucky to have him. And he keeps making plays like that, it’s fun to play with. I can throw with anticipation to him. I trust him to make the catch in traffic. Late in the game, those third downs there to kind of run some clock off, it’s huge.”
St. Brown finished with 12 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Josh Reynolds continues to make big plays whenever the Lions call on him—he caught all three of his targets for 50 yards.
Oh, right, and Jameson Williams did this:
The Lions receiving playmakers stepped up huge against a really good Bucs secondary.
Offensive line: B
The offensive line wasn’t creating many lanes in the run game and early in the contest, they struggled to identify specific blitz packages.
That said, the line really settled down quite nicely in the second half. Goff had time and space in the pocket to stay patient and deliver accurate balls to keep drives alive. While Goff was sacked three times, those were the only quarterback hits he endured, and that’s no small feat against a strong Bucs defensive line with yet another patchworked offensive front due to injury.
Defensive line: B-
It was an extremely quiet day from the edge players. Aidan Hutchinson had just three tackles and no sacks. Charles Harris and Romeo Okwara combined for just one tackle. Shout out to Julian Okwara, who played a fair amount and was the only player to notch a sack on the day—and also got a pass deflection.
This unit was carried by the team’s interior defensive line on Sunday. Alim McNeill and Benito Jones had two of the team’s four quarterback hits. Isaiah Buggs’ pass deflection led to an interception. Additionally, the Lions again plugged the middle of the defense, holding the Buccaneers to just 2.9 yards per carry on 16 rushes.
I don’t know if there has been a game that has highlighted Alex Anzalone as the heart of the defense more than this one. Not only did he lead the team in tackles (nine) and pass deflections (two), but he managed to do so on an emotional day with his parents—back from war-torn Israel—in the crowd.
Moments like this put everything in perspective. Sometimes we take family for granted, especially parents. We tend to think think they’ll always be here for us. Love you Mom and Dad, more than you know ❤️ pic.twitter.com/WygAjJRMRP— Alex Anzalone (@AlexAnzalone34) October 16, 2023
Elsewhere, Derrick Barnes and Jack Campbell appeared to get about a 50/50 split at the MIKE, and while it was far from a perfect day for the rookie, Campbell did manage to tally seven tackles on the day. Bucs tight ends were not a problem in this game for Detroit (two catches, 23 yards), and some of that credit goes to the linebackers in coverage.
While it was a bit of a rough game for Will Harris covering Trey Palmer—who would have had a much better day had Baker Mayfield hit on a couple of open deep throws—the rest of the secondary rose to the challenge that is Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Cam Sutton, Kerby Joseph, and Tracy Walker combined for four passes defended. Jerry Jacobs also had a brilliant tackle for loss on a wide receiver screen.
This unit was definitely the beneficiary of a couple of misses from Mayfield, but overall they still battled against a tough assignment.
Special teams: B
Riley Patterson missed from 52 yards, but it was nice to see him have more than enough leg on the kick. He redeemed himself by making all four of his other kicks.
Jack Fox had an absolutely perfect kick toward the end of the game, pinning the Bucs at their own 2-yard line. He even got a shout-out by Campbell in his opening statement.
“I thought Jack Fox stepped up, had two huge punts for us today. Two critical punts,” Campbell said.
The return games remain pretty uneventful, although there was another special teams penalty that erased good field position for Detroit.
The Lions offense looked a little overly conservative in the first half. Right after they forced a turnover, the Lions dialed up back-to-back runs on second-and-7 and third-and-8. But offensive coordinator Ben Johnson rectified that in the second half by leaning into the passing game and staying aggressive. That helped Detroit not only move the football but also bleed the clock late.
Defensively, while the Lions struggled to generate a lot of pressure, the overall game plan clearly worked. Detroit’s defense always stayed ahead of the sticks and forced Mayfield into some challenging situations.
As for Campbell, I didn’t really have any issues with his game management at any point on Sunday. He faced a tough decision on defense, deciding to accept a holding penalty to force a third-and-11 vs. a fourth-and-1 the Bucs would have almost certainly gone for. It was a toss-up to me, but the decision paid off.
Overall, the entire crew deserves credit for out-dueling a team that had an extra week to prepare for them.