After soundly defeating the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3 of the 2023 NFL season, the Detroit Lions were away from Ford Field in Week 4—traveling to historic Lambeau Field for their first of two meetings with the Green Bay Packers.
If you were to ask Green Bay fans, there was far too much Honolulu blue throughout the crowd, but it appeared to put a spark under the Lions, who cruised to a 27-3 first half lead—ultimately winning the game by a final score of 34-20.
There were several standouts throughout the course of the Lions’ Week 4 victory, and I will be moving through this game in chronological order. Once again, to avoid redundant language, each video being referenced in this article will be directly under its accompanying paragraph.
Green Bay first offensive series
After Lions quarterback Jared Goff threw an interception on the first offensive series for Detroit, the defense was faced with a short field. Packers quarterback Jordan Love is working out of the gun, with five receivers split out.
At the beginning of the clip, you will notice edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson circled towards the bottom half of your screen. Lined up next to Hutchinson is defensive tackle Alim McNeill, who is lined up at the three technique. At the snap, both side of the defensive line execute what is called a “TE” stunt/game, or a “tackle-edge.” McNeill and Benito Jones are the tackles and they are responsible for penetrating, while Hutchinson and Charles Harris are the loopers.
Initially, Packers’ guard Jon Runyan, and right tackle Zach Tom do a good job of communicating and passing off the game. However, that is where the good news ends on this rep. Once Hutchinson engages, he immediately walks Runyan back into the lap of Love, resulting in a sack for the second-year defensive end.
Hutch first sack of the day pic.twitter.com/R2QRPViwaP— morgan cannon (#freedJamo) (@MCannon313) October 3, 2023
Detroit second offensive series
These next two plays are consecutive snaps for the Lions offense that lead to their first score of the evening. The first begins on the Lions’ 41-yard line, with Goff in the shotgun, and four receivers split out wide.
The motion by receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown lets Goff know that Green Bay is in some form of man-coverage on this snap. As the ball is snapped, rookie tight end Sam LaPorta gets an inside release against Packers’ cornerback Rasul Douglas. LaPorta does a nice job of keeping Douglas on his hip, and Goff delivers a perfect strike, allowing LaPorta to secure the catch, and shrug off Douglas, as he rumbles his way down to the Packers’ 25-yard line.
Goff with a dot and LaPorta with a nice catch and run pic.twitter.com/40JNENu08w— morgan cannon (#freedJamo) (@MCannon313) October 3, 2023
On the very next play below, Goff is once again working out of the gun. Towards the bottom of your screen, you will see St. Brown circled on the line of scrimmage, with running back David Montgomery split next to him, just to the right of left tackle Taylor Decker.
Montgomery releases into the flat, while St. Brown runs what Douglas thinks is a stop route of some kind. As Douglas begins to break on the route, St. Brown opens back up towards his outside shoulder, resulting in no defender being within 10 yards of him once he catches the pass from Goff. Love both the design by Lions’ offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, and the execution by the team on this one.
honestly, i am very much a fan of the villian movement here in detroit. seems very fitting for us— morgan cannon (#freedJamo) (@MCannon313) October 2, 2023
but what Amon-Ra St. Brown did Rasul Douglas here is downright diabolical
super villian/s-tier shit pic.twitter.com/twjNKaEnIm
Detroit third offensive series
Jumping to the Lions’ next offensive series after the defense forced a quick punt by Green Bay, and Ben Johnson is back in his bag. It is second-and-3 from the Packers’ own 48-yard line and the Lions have five receivers split out, with a bunch circled near the bottom of your screen.
The routes ran by St. Brown, LaPorta, and Josh Reynolds are meant to put Green Bay defenders in a bind, forcing them to pick their poison, so long as the Lions execute properly. You will see Green Bay safety Darnell Savage drive on the short stop-route ran by St. Brown, with LaPorta drawing the attention of the linebacker, leaving a large void between the hashes for Goff to find Reynolds. You can see Goff’s confidence in both his arm and Johnson’s scheme growing by the week.
how big has Josh Reynolds been for the Lions' offense? pic.twitter.com/NXHlnNp4jy— morgan cannon (#freedJamo) (@MCannon313) October 3, 2023
Detroit fourth offensive series
On the next offensive series for the Lions, Goff is once again cooking with gas, this time lined up under center with the offense in 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends).
It is first-and-10, and the Packers have eight players in the box with a single high safety. Goff quickly realizes Green Bay is in man coverage, and immediately looks at Reynolds near the top of your screen, who is working against cornerback Carrington Valentine. Goff drops a ball into the bucket, Savage is late getting over to the boundary, and Reynolds makes another tough catch.
another dot from Goff to J Rey pic.twitter.com/HPJmdXrL5W— morgan cannon (#freedJamo) (@MCannon313) October 3, 2023
Now it is first-and-10 on the Packers’ 49-yard line, and the Lions are on the move again. On the next play of the series, the offense is in 11 personnel (one back, one tight end), with wide receiver Kalif Raymond circled at the bottom of your screen.
Initially, it looks as though the Lions are running some power concept to the left, behind the pulling blocks of center Frank Ragnow and left guard Jonah Jackson. As the defense begins flowing with rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs, he flips the ball to Raymond who is looping around Gibbs, back towards the right side where there is a ton of running room for the speedster.
Raymond’s speed turns this from a nice play to a chunk, and the Lions’ offense is once again in the red zone. Shoutout to Goff for at least trying to block. Sometimes getting in the way is all that you need to do as a quarterback.
lmaoo Jared Goff gets an A for effort on the end around to Kalif Raymond pic.twitter.com/hAKyMwgwZd— morgan cannon (#freedJamo) (@MCannon313) October 3, 2023
Green Bay fifth offensive series
In an effort to slow down the Lions’ pass-rush, the Packers tried their best to incorporate things like misdirections, options, and screens. Operating out of 21 personnel, Love fakes the handoff to Dillon on the dive, before turning and getting into pitch-relationship with Jones.
Just watch everyone on this rep, from Hutchinson to rookie defensive back Brian Branch. Hutchinson does a good job of not getting sucked in too far by the play fake, while Branch immediately recognizes what is happening, avoids the block by wide receiver Romeo Doubs, and is on Love in a flash—forcing the quarterback to make the pitch to Jones.
Unfortunately for Jones, cornerback Cameron Sutton sees everything happening from a mile away, easily evading a block from tight end Josiah Deguara, and making the tackle on Jones. This is will likely be teach tape for some defensive clinics around the world.
Green Bay sixth offensive series
Thanks to some excellent special teams play, the Packers once again begin a series backed up inside their own 10-yard line.
On first down, Green Bay attempts to run play action from under center in hopes of catching the Lions’ defense being over aggressive. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn only sends four at Love, but that was all that was needed in order to make life really difficult for the Packers’ quarterback.
Hutchinson immediately wins his one-on-one against Tom, hitting the right tackle with a mean swim move that propels him into the Green Bay backfield. From there, Love is running for his life to avoid what would have been a safety. He somehow flips the ball to a receiver with his left hand to narrowly avoid another disaster scenario for the Packers.
After an offsides by the Lions gave Green Bay a fresh set of downs, McNeill made two big plays to force a third-and-long for the Packers.
On the first, he shot the gap and makes a big tackle for loss. Now with it being second-and-long, McNeill is once again lined up next to Hutchinson at the three-technique. He attacks the outside shoulder of left guard Royce Newman and does a good job of not being run off his path. McNeill eventually get to his landmark and drops Love for the sack—forcing a third-and-long that would lead to yet another punt for the Packers.
Campbell explained this play on Monday, and noted it was actually a stunt designed to free up Hutchinson.
“One of those sacks we had the other day, it was actually Mac’s, was him doing exactly what we talked about on his stunt game,” Campbell said. “He ricochets off the tackle and Hutch loops inside and the quarterback’s got nowhere to go and Alim actually ended up getting the sack out of it just trying to really set up Hutch for a sack and he got his.”
McNeill did exactly what he was supposed to—chip the left tackle—but also just slid right by him.
Detroit seventh offensive series
Fast-forwarding to the Lions’ next possession and Goff is continuing to deal. The pocket is clean for a moment, before a Packers defender breaks through the line, and forces Goff to bail out of the pocket towards his back shoulder.
As he rolls out of the pocket towards the top of the screen, LaPorta does a good job of understanding the situation, and getting into a scramble drill. At this point in the play, he has run his route, and needs to make himself available to Goff.
The rookie tight end is near the hash when he realizes what Goff is doing, and begins working towards the sideline in an effort to give his quarterback somewhere to go with the ball. Goff flips a pass his way, LaPorta climbs the ladder against linebacker Quay Walker, and the result is one of 25 first downs for the Lions offense on the night.
Green Bay ninth offensive series
This is something I noticed in real time against the Packers that I hope the Lions can continue to clean up. With the Packers down at the Lions’ 2-yard line, Green Bay elects to go with a simple, but effective rub concept at the top of the screen.
Cornerback Jerry Jacobs is circled in white, with safety Ifeatu Melifonwu circled in black. Pre-snap, you can see Melifonwu attempting to communicate with Jacobs, likely telling him that they need to switch these assignments if they do run a rub-concept.
Doubs releases inside, and for whatever reason—Jacobs decides to stick on his hip, resulting in nobody within several yards of receiver Christian Watson. It didn’t end up being a huge deal because of the Lions’ big lead, but one day red zone miscues like this one could end up costing the team. Hopefully this is another learning experience for a secondary that is still learning one another.
Detroit 11th offensive series
After the Packers scored again but failed to convert on a two-point conversion, the score was 27-17 Lions with time ticking away in the fourth quarter. If Detroit could put together another lengthy offensive series that ended with points, the game likely would be all but over.
And after a third quarter that had the offense out of rhythm, they answered the bell when they needed to. It is first-and-10 on the Green Bay 39-yard line, and Goff is working under center. Goff executes a play fake to Montgomery and continues to roll to his left, seemingly looking for Reynolds the whole way. He sets his feet and delivers a beautiful ball to Reynolds near the boundary in a place where only his receiver had a chance at catching it.
This play—along with a few more powerful runs from Montgomery—were all the Lions needed in order to salt this one away and come away with a huge division-win in Green Bay.