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Detroit Lions report card: Defense scores high marks after dominating Raiders

Handing out positional grades for the Detroit Lions’ 26-14 win over the Las Vegas Raiders.

Las Vegas Raiders v Detroit Lions Photo by Lauren Leigh Bacho/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions made a statement on Monday night against the Las Vegas Raiders, and that statement was loud and clear: last week was not who we are.

Detroit came out and took it to the Raiders for all four quarters, and while the final scoreboard of 26-14 may not look lopsided, just about every other statistic was in Detroit’s favor. Detroit outgained the Raiders from scrimmage, 486 to 157, they produced 29 first downs to the Raiders’ 19, and perhaps most telling of all, Jimmy Garoppolo was sacked six times, while Jared Goff was kept clean all game.

So how were the Lions able to do it? Let’s take a closer look at their performance with our Week 8 report card.

Quarterback: B

Overall, it was an extremely solid game for Goff and a nice redemption after his struggles against the Baltimore Ravens. Goff was accurate with his throws, including this rifle to Sam LaPorta for his only touchdown pass of the game:

Notice how he not only splits two defenders but places that ball on LaPorta’s outside shoulder to help avoid the middle defender.

But despite a solid game, Goff made two absolutely critical mistakes that dropped him an entire grade. He panicked on one play, scrambling out of the pocket and throwing off his back foot. And I’m not sure whether he was trying to throw the ball away or wasn’t on the same page as Amon-Ra St. Brown, but either way, this pick-six is entirely inexcusable.

Goff has been really good this year about not forcing anything when a play is dead, but this was a huge mistake that gave the Raiders a legitimate shot at making this a game.

The other mistake was an overthrow on a wide-open Kalif Raymond that likely would have resulted in a touchdown, or at least a first-and-goal situation.

Running backs: A-

What an absolutely iconic performance from rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs. 152 rushing yards, 37 receiving yards, and this impressive touchdown run.

Gibbs was extremely impressive running between the tackles, displaying both his acceleration and his ability to break tackles. His 45 yards over expected was the highest mark of all backs in Week 8.

Craig Reynolds was nearly as impressive in his 14 carries, turning those into 74 yards (5.3 yards per carry). I downgraded the entire unit’s overall grade because of Reynolds’ red zone fumble, but considering it very likely wasn’t a fumble, I didn’t want to take them out of the A-range.

Tight ends: B

Detroit’s tight ends understandably had some trouble blocking Maxx Crosby—as does every player in the NFL. Sam LaPorta also had a tough drop in the game. But it’s hard not to be in awe of what LaPorta is still accomplishing in his rookie season. On Monday, he turned 10 targets into eight catches, 57 yards, and one touchdown. He now has at least four catches in seven of his eight first NFL games and ranks tied for fourth among NFL tight ends with 434 receiving yards.

Wide receivers: C+

A very quiet day from Lions receivers not named Amon-Ra St. Brown. Jameson Williams, Kalif Raymond, and Josh Reynolds combined for just five catches and 53 yards. Williams had yet another bad drop and also got dropped for a 6-yard loss on one play. Reynolds had an uncharacteristic fumble and was only targeted once.

But the glory of St. Brown was enough to carry this entire unit to an above-average grade. Despite battling an illness, St. Brown produced his fifth 100-yard game of the season. He came into 2023 having crossed the 100-yard threshold six times in his career.

Offensive line: A

Maxx Crosby was extremely disruptive in the run game, but otherwise, the Lions offensive line was outstanding despite starting backups at all three interior offensive line positions. Subtracting victory formations, the Lions racked up 224 rushing yards on 41 carries for a whopping 5.46 yards per carry. Additionally, Goff wasn’t sacked a single time, while taking five quarterback hits on 37 dropbacks.

Defensive line: B

For the second quarter of the game, the Raiders were surprisingly controlling the line of scrimmage, and Josh Jacobs finished with a season-high 4.1 yards per carry. However, outside of that, the Lions defensive line was hugely disruptive in the passing game. Alim McNeill had another monster performance, producing six quarterback pressures, two sacks, and a pass defended. Julian Okwara has now quietly notched two sacks in three games. And while he wasn’t Maxx Crosby levels of disruptive, Aidan Hutchinson continues to be someone offenses have to take account for. Despite several double (and triple!) teams, Hutch was able to pressure the quarterback five times.

Linebackers: A-

The Lions were super aggressive in the ways they used their linebackers on Monday, often sending Jack Campbell, Alex Anzalone, and Derrick Barnes on blitzes. They seemed to move away from Campbell as an edge defender, letting him roam more freely, and it paid off.

Anzalone continued his excellent season with two sacks, another tackle for loss, and a team-leading seven total tackles.

Defensive backs: A-

There were two occasions in which the Lions were beat soundly and were lucky to have Garoppolo miss an open target, but outside of that, the Lions defensive backs were in lockdown mode:

  • Davante Adams: 7 targets, 1 catch, 11 yards
  • Jakobi Meyers: 1 target, 1 catch, 19 yards
  • Hunter Renfrow: 4 targets, 2 catches, 19 yards

Throw in two passes defended—including a red-zone pick from Kerby Joseph—a sack from Tracy Walker, and a strong tackling day from Brian Branch (six tackles), and this was a well-rounded performance from Detroit’s secondary.

Special teams: C-

Riley Patterson giveth and taketh away. After drilling a 52-yard field goal, Patterson missed one literally half that distance that would have essentially put the game away with five minutes left.

Elsewhere, the Lions’ kick return game struggled, as Khalil Dorsey was stopped short of the 25-yard line on both of his return attempts. Detroit’s coverage team only had one play—an expertly squibbed kick that was muffed by DeAndre Carter and forced the Raiders to start on their own 2-yard line.

Coaching: A-

This was another strong game from Aaron Glenn, who went uber-aggressive against a non-mobile Garoppolo. A heavy dose of blitzing proved to be just what the doctor ordered in terms of creating pressures and inaccurate throws:

Offensively, it was a little more mixed. Ben Johnson was able to create a game plan that produced long, steady drives, but I think it’s fair to question some of his decisions in the red zone. Yes, the Amon-Ra St. Brown passing play produced a wide-open receiver, but part of the risk in a trick play like that is relying on a receiver to make a good read and decision. It was second-and-1, and that spoiled what would have been an excellent drive. Additionally, how about scrapping every single play that left Maxx Crosby unblocked. He’s too instinctive and athletic to try those plays, even if you’re running away from him.

I think credit is also due to Dan Campbell for how he managed the end-of-half drive. He expertly managed the play clock, bleeding enough time to prevent the Raiders from attempting a drive, while putting six on the board with time to spare. I know some were anxious about how much time he ran off with timeouts in his pocket, but the end result couldn’t have been more perfect.

Overall, it’s a testament to this team that despite several bouts of adversity in this game, the Lions never wavered or let it spiral out of control. They continued to dominate despite the turnovers and ended with a pretty comfortable win.

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