Although he is only in his third season as a pro, Detroit Lions’ wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown has quickly cemented himself as one of the best at his position. And if you’re looking for evidence, look no further than his Week 6 performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
12 catches on 15 targets—with four of them being third down conversions, 124 yards, and a touchdown. Time and time again, quarterback Jared Goff found St. Brown in key moments. On downs where the Lions had to have it, Goff found No. 14.
Seeing Goff’s confidence in the Sun God grow has been fun to watch. Remember when he sent a text to offensive coordinator Ben Johnson back in July? “St. Brown. Huge year,” Goff said of his go-to receiver.
“I just trust the hell out of him. And he’s earned it,” Goff said during his postgame media availability Sunday. “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. They know we’re throwing it. They know it’s probably going to him. And he still gets himself open and it’s a lot of fun.”
It’s only Week 6, but St. Brown’s game has clearly reached new heights—allowing for instances like the win over Tampa Bay to take place. Let’s get into the film and see how St. Brown was able to carve up the Bucs’ secondary all afternoon.
First-and-10 on the Detroit 10. 12:57 left in the first quarter
One thing that I love about the way Ben Johnson runs his offense is that he gets his playmakers involved in a myriad of ways. Here the Lions are in 11-personnel (one running back, one tight end), with St. Brown lined up in the slot, off the line of scrimmage along with receiver Josh Reynolds.
Goff immediately opens his body and zips a pass to St. Brown. St. Brown seamlessly catches the ball, and gets his eyes upfield where right tackle Penei Sewell and right guard Graham Glasgow are out in front. Josh Reynolds gets a good block on cornerback Carlton Davis III, giving St. Brown plenty of room to operate and pick up the first down.
Sidenote: you can see St. Brown is visibly frustrated when he gets tackled, surely thinking that he should have picked up more with the blocking he had. His eye for setting up his blocks after the catch really pays off, as we will see a little bit later on.
Third-and-6 on the Detroit 29. 3:14 left in the first quarter
Later in the quarter, the Lions are again in 11-personnel with running back David Montgomery to the right of Goff, and tight end Sam LaPorta split to the left of left tackle Taylor Decker. You’ll find St. Brown at the top of your screen with the Tampa Bay defensive back playing more than eight yards off of the line of scrimmage.
Right before the ball is snapped, Bucs’ safety Ryan Neal drops back into what looks like a two-high look. Understanding the coverage and where Goff wants to put this ball, St. Brown breaks off his route right on the 40-yard line. The throw is right on time, arriving just before Neal gets to St. Brown. First down, Lions.
Third-and-13 on the Tampa Bay 27. 2:39 left in the first half
Jumping ahead to later in the half and the Lions are faced with a third-and-long. With running back Craig Reynolds to his left, Goff takes the snap out of the shotgun with two receivers to either side of the offensive line.
St. Brown is circled near the bottom of your screen, just to the left of Decker. Outside of St. Brown, receiver Marvin Jones. Jr. is running what is essentially a clearout route to give St. Brown room to run the in.
Normally, receivers are coached to get upfield once they catch the ball. However, not everyone is the Sun God. After catching the in, he runs parallel to the line of scrimmage, picking up some help from Josh Reynolds along the way.
Then, out of nowhere, Craig Reynolds flies up, and absolutely obliterates Carlton Davis III—who gets in the way of Antoine Winfield Jr. (31), allowing for a walk-in score for St. Brown.
To me, this is art, and will be one of my favorite plays for a long time.
Third-and-4 on the Detroit 33. 6:39 left in the third quarter
Operating out of the shotgun, Goff gets the offense up to the line in a hurry, not allowing the defense to make subsitutions.
To his left, the Lions are in a bunch—with Josh Reynolds closest to the boundary, St. Brown circled on the line of scrimmage, and tight end Sam LaPorta split closest to Decker.
LaPorta releases into the flat, Reynolds settles down right at the marker and is fairly open, but Goff has other plans. Almost seven yards past the first-down marker, St. Brown bends inside, giving Goff a target that ends up being a near-perfect straight line from where Goff settled into the pocket.
Davis III actually breaks on the ball well, and gets a good, clean shot on St. Brown. No problem, though. St. Brown pops up, and the Tampa Bay defense again fails to get off of the field.
Third-and-3 on the Detroit 23. 9:14 left in the fourth quarter
With the running game limited due to the rib injury running back David Montgomery sustained in the first half, the Lions were forced to put the ball in the air in order to burn up the clock.
On first down, Goff went back to the well, finding St. Brown for a 6-yard completion. The next play, Decker was guilty of a false start, setting the offense back to second-and-nine. Again, Goff found St. Brown—this time on an out route near the sideline for another six yards, which brings us to third-and-3 from the Detroit 23-yard line.
St. Brown is lined up in the slot, with Jones Jr. just to the right of him. Watch the release by both receivers once the ball is snapped. For a brief moment, St. Brown is almost directly behind the veteran receiver, and while Jones Jr. runs by, he impedes Christian Izien’s (29) ability to get out to St. Brown fast enough.
It was the same route out of a very similar look as the previous snap, but because of almost flawless execution on the part of Goff, St. Brown, and Jones Jr.—it didn’t matter.
That’s what happens when someone is in a zone like St. Brown was. It was truly a special performance against a Tampa Bay defense that is experienced, talented, and well-coached.