The Detroit Lions capped off a dominant day against the Carolina Panthers with a well-rounded effort. Call it complementary football or a complete game. Either way, both sides of the ball heavily contributed to the decisive win.
So it should come as little surprise that this week’s grades are positive across the board. Let’s get into it with our Week 5 Detroit Lions report card.
I’m running out of positive things to say about Jared Goff. The thing about his solid games is that they’re so effortless. He’s not playing superhero ball out here, he’s just going about his business making accurate throws and quick, decisive reads. In short, he’s doing his job, and to near perfection.
On a day he was missing his favorite target, Goff managed to complete 71.4 percent of his passes and still hit on explosion plays of 23, 27, 31, 21, and 27 yards. That’s a pretty darn efficient day for just 28 passing attempts.
Running backs: A+
David Montgomery was as close to perfection as you could realistically expect. Not only did he continue to be a perfect weapon in short-yardage situations, but he finally displayed some of the underrated explosiveness in his game.
Montgomery continues to do most of his work after first contact, which is exactly what the Lions were looking for in their primary back.
“He fits us, he fits us like a glove,” coach Dan Campbell said after the game. “His style of running and what he’s able to do in screen game, pass game, but man his running style.”
If that wasn’t enough, Craig Reynolds came in to close out the game, and the Lions' rushing attack didn’t skip a beat. He turned just seven rushes into 52 yards and his first NFL touchdown. If Jahmyr Gibbs and Zonovan Knight miss any more time, I think it’s fair to have some confidence in Reynolds.
Tight ends: A-
Sam LaPorta did have a drop on what would have been a mildly difficult catch, but it’s hard to stay mad at the rookie when he’s pulling in two touchdowns on the day and is currently leading all tight ends with 289 receiving yards through five games.
The only TEs in @NFL history to post at least 275 receiving yards and 3 TDs within their first 5-career games:— Detroit Lions PR (@LionsPR) October 8, 2023
1. @Lions TE @Samlaporta (2023)
2. TE Walter White (1975)#OnePride pic.twitter.com/VJkBVw0xNj
I’ll have to revisit this grade once I watch the tape and see the blocking performances from this unit, but it’s safe to say that the contributions LaPorta is making in the receiving game more than compensates for any shortcomings in the protection and run blocking phases.
Wide receivers: B
A few too many drops from this group, but, overall, you have to be impressed with the way this group responded to missing Amon-Ra St. Brown. Josh Reynolds continues to be one of the team’s most reliable and consistent players. His toe-tap touchdown was as brilliant as a 1-yard touchdown can be:
Fingertip catch. Perfect toe drag. Just aesthetically beautiful football right there.
Elsewhere, while people will undoubtedly fixate on the drop, Jameson Williams got a healthy 28 offensive snaps and helped in the run game. Certainly not the flashy 2023 debut some were hoping for, but Campbell said the team got what they wanted out of his performance.
“I just wanted to get him back on the grass. Get him lined up, get him some runs, we gave him a couple opportunities in the pass game and now we just grow from there,” Campbell said. “So this is all I expected, let’s just get him acclimated back in and he’ll get a few more plays next week and we’ll just continue to let him grow.”
Elsewhere, it was nice to see Marvin Jones Jr. come in and immediately give the offense a big play, even if he blew a block on the Williams screen.
Offensive line: B
Pass protection was just okay in this game, as Jared Goff took two sacks and absorbed seven quarterback hits in just 30 dropbacks. But the group did a nice job opening up rushing lanes, which finally resulted in some of the explosive plays in the ground game that were missing in the first month of the season.
The running game is really starting to come on in Detroit:
Weeks 1-3: 92 carries, 335 yards (3.64 YPC), 3 TDs
Week 4-5: 73 carries, 370 yards (5.07 YPC), 6 TDs
Defensive line: A-
At times, it felt like Bryce Young had far too much time on his hands, but the Lions’ defensive line was also responsible for some of the biggest plays of the game early. Aidan Hutchinson’s one-handed interception was likely the most impressive individual feat in the contest, and he was the one Lions defender who did consistently generate pressure. Additionally, Alim McNeill’s forced fumble immediately led to a touchdown for the offense.
And while the run defense took a mild step back, they still held Chuba Hubbard and Miles Sanders to just 67 yards on 16 carries (4.2 YPC) and kept them out of the end zone on the ground.
Let the record show that I am not taking away any points for the roughing the passer calls. Those are simply going to happen when you hit a quarterback these days, and Detroit should not change their approach.
Alex Anzalone continues to be all over the field, as he led the team with 11 tackles (eight solo) and two quarterback hits. Again, though, it felt like this was a small step back from the linebacking corps, particularly in the run game. Detroit had just two tackles for loss all game, and they both came from Hutchinson.
Jerry Jacobs’ interception was a masterclass in playing zone and baiting the quarterback into a bad decision. He continues to bounce back in a huge way after a slow start to the season. It was an up-and-down day for Will Harris, who had a great pass breakup and a fumble recovery but seemed to get picked on a bit by Young. Meanwhile, Cameron Sutton continues to quietly play very solid football for the Lions’ secondary.
I’d like to see a little more sound tackling from the safety group, but they didn’t give up any plays over the top, which was the primary concern for this team once they got out to a big lead.
Special teams: B+
Jack Fox had his best day of the season, with two punts that both pinned the Panthers inside their 20. His 55-yard boom completely flipped field position for Detroit, as they punted from their own 32-yard line, and forced the Panthers to start at their own 13.
Riley Patterson is still perfect for the year, although they have yet to trot him out for anything 40 yards or longer. Nothing of note to say from the return or coverage units, which is typically a good thing. Most importantly, no penalties on teams this week.
First of all, credit to Campbell for making sure this team took the Panthers seriously. We all have scars from “trap games” in the past, but there was no looking forward to the Buccaneers. This team was focused.
Beyond that, both coordinators deserve a ton of credit for their game plan. They used those extra three days of preparation wisely. I don’t think I need to justify giving offensive coordinator Ben Johnson credit for the trick plays and excellence in the red zone. So let’s give it up to Aaron Glenn a little.
It’s easy to point out a good offensive play call, but it’s sometimes tough to see how a defensive play call can change the game. In his post-game presser, though, Campbell pointed out how Jacobs’ interception was really the result of Glenn setting up the Panthers and rookie quarterback Bryce Young.
“That was a heck of a call by him too,” Campbell explained. “That was a bit of a bait call. Baited him into something. It was the same look as what we had been giving a couple times before, and Jerry did a great job of making it look exactly like it was.”
The one strike on the record from the coaching staff was the failed challenge early in the game. Campbell was put in a tough spot, as the Panthers hurried to the line, and there wasn’t a 100 percent clear and definitive replay. That early in the game, you probably don’t want to risk losing a challenge and guaranteeing you’ll only have one more for the rest of the game, but at the same time, it was a big play third down conversion when the game was still competitive. I’m willing to forgive and forget, especially when Campbell keeps doing this: