After an embarrassing loss to the Baltimore Ravens last week, the Lions were in desperate need of a turnaround performance with their bye week upcoming. Limping into the bye with back-to-back tough losses would have stung for the promising Lions. Thankfully, those fears were put to rest in a game that the Lions dominated—statistically, at least.
With the Lions sitting at 6-2 entering their week off, what takeaways can be had from their win over the Raiders?
Full speed, Mr. Gibbs
We have seen splashes of Jahmyr Gibbs in his rookie season, but this was his coming out party. After being one of the few bright spots against the Ravens, Gibbs notched his second-career touchdown on a stellar 27-yard run that demonstrated his electric speed. The first round pick has shined as a lead back of late while David Montgomery recovers from injury. The speed and agility were always front and center in his scouting report, but he demonstrated some solid patience and motor against the Raiders.
The offensive line, missing Jonah Jackson and Frank Ragnow, was not at its best, so Gibbs’ ability to churn out yards proved crucial towards keeping the offense alive. One of his under-the-radar runs was a first down where he bounced off the back of his lineman at the line of scrimmage and kept rolling. Gibbs was billed as a special prospect, and the nation got to witness it on “Monday Night Football.” He even singlehandedly outgained the Raiders from scrimmage:
Total yards— Colton Pouncy (@colton_pouncy) October 31, 2023
Jahmyr Gibbs: 189
The Las Vegas Raiders: 157
Are you happy now, fantasy football analysts?
McNeill is turning into an elite DT
Alim McNeill might be a household name after this game. McNeill has been having a stellar 2023 season, and he shined in the national spotlight. The big man got a pair of sacks to go with his multiple pressures on a night where he was bullying the Raiders interior. And aside from one dominant drive in the second quarter, the Raiders were unable to muster much on the ground, with McNeill’s play certainly factoring in.
He might not be an Aaron Donald or Chris Jones, but McNeill is making key plays up front that you look for from a talented defensive tackle.
Sacks are back on the menu
Blitzing was the name of the game against the Raiders. McNeill has his aforementioned two sacks, but the remaining sacks came from unexpected contributors; despite the six sacks for the team, Aidan Hutchinson was blanked. Instead, Tracy Walker, Julian Okwara, and Alex Anzalone (twice) got to Jimmy Garoppolo thanks to some timely and effective blitzes. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn dialed up a phenomenal counter to the Raiders offense—give the man credit for dialing up those blitzes that put the Raiders behind the sticks.
I don’t typically focus on opposing players, but Maxx Crosby had a night on his home turf. The Michigan native singlehandedly destroyed multiple Lions plays, and by proxy, drives. Already atop the league in generating pressures, Crosby was giving the offense nightmares. The Lions were guilty of some questionable blocking at times—Crosby versus a tight end is not a good idea—but that doesn’t take away from the noise he was making. Very little else went right for the Raiders on Monday.
There is hope among Lions fans that a Michigan reunion could occur prior to the upcoming trade deadline, and after the game he had, it’s not hard to get excited about the prospect of him in Honolulu Blue.
Seat belt gang is here
For all of Garoppolo’s struggles as a passer, the Lions secondary deserves credit for shutting down Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers. The duo combined for just two catches for 28 yards—Josh Jacobs actually finished as the top receiver on the Raiders.
The Lions were gutted by Lamar Jackson and the Ravens last week, and it is no coincidence that the return of Jerry Jacobs was crucial to a defensive rebound in Week 8. Especially in wake of Emmanuel Moseley’s torn ACL, Jacobs playing at a high level is a significant boon for the secondary. Cam Sutton was equally impressive against the Raiders, and he and Jacobs are becoming an underrated duo.
This doesn’t even factor in Kerby Joseph’s interception or Brian Branch’s relatively quiet game (typically a good thing for a defensive back). The Lions secondary, such a weakness is 2022, has had moments of shutdown play.
Too many self-inflicted wounds on offense
For as good as Ben Johnson has been at coordinating a top-tier NFL offense, Monday’s outing versus the Raiders was far from his best. Twice the Lions opted for reverse trickery, only to be stuffed for nothing. The Lions were calling multiple second-and-long runs that set themselves up for long third downs—they luckily got bailed out by the likes of Amon-Ra St. Brown, Kalif Raymond, and Craig Reynolds converting. St. Brown also had an aborted double pass that killed a red zone drive.
The Lions were dreadful in the red zone, dominating the yardage but not on the scoreboard. This led to settling for field goals that made the game far closer than it had any right to be. Sam LaPorta did add a touchdown grab, but the Lions needed to capitalize on these key opportunities.
As for turnovers, Jared Goff threw a horrible pick-six that looked like a weak armed throwaway. Josh Reynolds fumbled early on, though this was promptly met with a Kerby Joseph interception. Craig Reynolds controversially fumbled at the 3-yard line, snatching away a potential game-changing touchdown—or, given the red zone success, a field goal.
Thankfully, the Lions woke up on offense as the game wound down. Feeding Jahmyr Gibbs turned out to be a good idea.
In with the blue helmets, out with the pajama party
The Lions’ new-old blue helmets secured a victory on Monday night, but they also took a loss. The helmets themselves look great—the combination of the blue helmet, silver facemask, and retro logo stand out nicely. However, they needed to be paired better. Sadly, the Lions wore their all-gray outfit, and the pajamas completely clash with the helmet.
I think the blue dome would look incredibly crisp with a white jersey and blue pants, and I hope the Lions explore more combinations with it in the future. The gray uniforms, meanwhile, can be unceremoniously retired.
John’s Turning Point: Davante Adams’ drop on third down in the third quarter
It looks like a minor moment in the grand scheme of the game, but I think this drop proved crucial. After Craig Reynolds fumbled deep in the red zone, the Raiders had a good opportunity to close the gap in a 16-14 game—sure, it was a long field, but after back-to-back killer turnovers, the Lions were reeling.
Jimmy Garoppolo hit Adams on a sure-fire first down deep in their own end, but Adams bobbled the ball. Adams had at least 15 yards ahead of him, but the drop killed the drive. The Raiders were forced to punt from their own end zone, giving the Lions great field position. The Lions promptly marched down the field thanks to two Gibbs carries and a pass interference.
The Raiders never got close again, showcasing that this three-and-out was a missed chance to capitalize on the Lions’ woes.