Under the lights for their third primetime game of the season, the first at Ford Field, the Detroit Lions hosted the Las Vegas Raiders for Monday Night Football in a big game for the Lions. Coming off an embarrassing loss to the Baltimore Ravens last week, the football world wondered if Detroit was a legit team, or if they were just pretenders with an inflated record.
With a rocking crowd filling up Ford Field, the Lions were prepared to rebound on a national stage, but they would try and do so with some starters banged up. Once again, running back David Montgomery and left guard Jonah Jackson didn’t play, but center Frank Ragnow missed his first game of the season, and right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai would not start. With these injuries, the Lions would have their seventh different starting lineup for the offensive line in eight games this season. Unlike the Lions, the Raiders didn’t have any injuries that were impactful on the matchup.
The Lions were able to pound the rock against the Raiders defense, finishing with 222 yards on the ground. The Lions' defense also did well in containing the Raiders' offense, holding them to 157 yards.
Check out who my winners and losers are from the 26-14 win against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Following up on his great game last week with another, running back Jahmyr Gibbs has now had back-to-back impressive performances. Unlike last week though, Gibbs did most of the work in significant time and not garbage time with his team down by four to five scores. He made some nice cuts, broke some tackles, and got open in space. Gibbs also found the end zone once again in the third quarter.
Gibbs was used heavily in the offense again, but this time it was more explosive. The rookie finished with 26 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown, along with five catches for 37 yards.
People were worried about what the run game would look like without Montgomery. While it hasn’t been as effective between the tackles and in goal line formations, it seems that Gibbs can be that starting-level running back for the Lions. When Montogmery returns to the team after the bye week, it will be interesting to see how Gibbs gets used along with him. We saw it earlier this season a few times and it wasn’t much, but now with Gibbs getting himself comfortable, it could be dangerous.
A player on the defense who had a great game was linebacker Alex Anzalone, who finished with seven tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks. His coverage skills were helpful, and when it came to run defense he maintained containment. For example, he was able to get a big tackle for loss on Raiders running back Josh Jacobs on a third down play. Anzalone also stopped Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from getting a first down on a third-and-long, forcing the Raiders to punt. Later in the game, Anzalone would get to Garoppolo multiple times in the backfield.
Anzalone continues to have a great season and is making the Lions' GM Brad Holmes look like a genius in bringing him back in free agency instead of letting him go.
After allowing 357 yards against the Ravens last week, the Lions' secondary erased last week's mistakes and stepped up in helping the defense slow down the Raiders’ offense. The Lions held Garoppolo to 126 yards as he went 10-for-21, and he threw an interception. That interception came up big for Detroit as on the previous play, Lions wide receiver Josh Reynolds fumbled the football on their side of the field and quickly the defense eliminated that mistake.
Cornerback Jerry Jacobs didn’t play last week and he looked to be just fine, finishing with two tackles as his name wasn’t mentioned often and that is a good thing when it comes to the cornerback position. Safety Kerby Joseph was the player who got the interception for Detroit, and he finished with two tackles as well.
This was a good game for the secondary to reset themselves and get back on track. While it wasn’t perfect—there were some missed coverages like the overthrow to Davante Adams late in the game that could have went for an easy Las Vegas touchdown had it been completed—it was a strong performance by the group. They can put the game against the Ravens behind them and go into the bye week confident off this performance.
Amon-Ra St. Brown
Move over Michael Jordan’s flu game, Amon-Ra St. Brown has entered the chat. St. Brown popped up on the injury report Sunday with an illness, leaving fans wondering if he would play this week. St. Brown dealt with his flu-like symptoms and had himself a solid game, getting six catches for 108 yards.
Doesn’t matter if this man is injured physically or ill, he will do his damned best to get on the field and play at the highest level he can. That is a Dan Campbell type of player right there.
Another weapon in the passing game that had a solid performance on Monday Night was tight end Sam LaPorta. He had eight catches for 57 yards and a touchdown as he was frequently targeted and helpful on third down on multiple occasions.
SAM LAPORTA TOUCHDOWN BEFORE THE HALF pic.twitter.com/LCb7ala8ci— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) October 31, 2023
There was a play where he was asked to block Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby, and it didn’t end well for LaPorta, but that is a tall ask for the rookie. LaPorta continues to be a focal part of this offense as he now has 434 yards on the season, on pace for 868 yards, which would be the fifth most in NFL history by a rookie tight end.
In the first Monday Night Football game in Detroit since 2018, the Ford Field crowd did their job. They were loud when they needed to be, quiet when it was called for, and maintained a presence in the game. With it being the day before Halloween too, it was cool seeing fans dressed up in costumes and many were in Lions-themed outfits to cheer their team on.
In a game where the Lions had three backup offensive linemen starting, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson decided it was a great time to pull out the bag of tricks. Throughout the first half, the Lions attempted a few different plays that were either “cute“ or meant to fool the defense.
I didn’t understand why in the red zone the Lions would try a reverse jet sweep with wide receiver Kalif Raymond, where left guard Kayode Awosika needed to keep blocking his man long enough for it to work. It's not a good spot to put your backup guard in. Then you try a trick play with St. Brown to throw a pass, again in the red zone, and he holds onto it for a loss.
Another issue Johnson had was not respecting Crosby as there were multiple plays where he was left unblocked on purpose and Crosby made the Lions pay for it with tackles for loss. Johnson usually does a good job at calling against a team's strength, but this game he looked foolish in disrespecting Crosby like he did here. The team could use the bye week to get healthy and better, Johnson is included in this.
Detroit made multiple mistakes all night long on offense and they were lucky the defense was able to avenge them for these mistakes. First, it was the fumble by Josh Reynolds after battling for the football on a catch, he never had full possession as he was stripped and lost the football. That play was just a good play by the defense in almost forcing the interception and it’s a play that he would have benefited from just dropping the pass overall.
The next turnover was a horrible interception by Goff who tried to throw the football away and instead of throwing it out of bounds so nobody could catch it, he threw it behind St. Brown and Raiders cornerback Marcus Peters read the play and went back to catch it and return it for a touchdown. Goff learned how to throw the football away as the next time he saw pressure, he sailed it high out of bounds so there wouldn’t be another chance for an interception.
The last turnover was a questionable fumble by running back Craig Reynolds who lost the ball inside the red zone in the third quarter. The play was very hard to tell if he was down when the ball came out, or if it came out afterward. While I don’t agree with the call on the field, it was a turnover in the end. Detroit can’t waste those chances when inside the red zone, and Goff can’t throw a duck and not expect an NFL cornerback to take that freebie for a score.