Back before the start of the season in May, the Lions social media team asked players which teams they were most excited to play in the upcoming 2023 regular season. David Montgomery was the first player featured in the video and chose to be “real honest” when he picked up the Chicago logo and mention how fun that one would be.
As we’ll do every week throughout the season for this Lions team, we’ll comb through some of the advanced data courtesy of PFF that can help us better understand the football the Lions have played thus far—and what to look forward to in the coming weeks. Let’s take a closer look at the Lions by the numbers after their thrilling victory over the Bears in Week 11.
Pro Football Focus’ premium statistics are an invaluable data point for football fans to better understand the game. Consider subscribing to PFF to have full access to a plethora of stats and grades to keep you informed about the NFL—and college football, too.
3.92 yards after contact per attempt
The Bears entered Week 11 with one of the best run defenses in the NFL. They were allowing just 3.2 yards per carry (first in the NFL) and sixth in rush defense DVOA. That was until the Lions ground game bumped that average up to 3.4 YPC and knocked them back to 15th in rush defense DVOA.
Jahmyr Gibbs was a dual-threat player, gaining 95 yards from scrimmage on just 14 touches—and running one in for six on a nifty play call from Ben Johnson. But there’s some healthy competition going on in Detroit’s backfield, and it was Montgomery who led the charge on the drive that saw the Lions take the lead once and for all.
Montgomery’s physicality in the run game, his ability to force missed tackles (three on just 12 carries) helped the Lions pick up extra yardage, and his 3.92 yards after contact per attempt was good for fourth among running backs in the NFL during Week 11—pending the results of “Monday Night Football.” Montgomery’s 3.17 YAC/A this season is fifth among running backs with at least 100 rushing attempts, and it’s no surprise that his running style became most effective during the fourth quarter. Four of his touches went for 13, 12, 10, and 9 yards, and the only play that went for less than a chunk of yardage was the goal line carry he ran in for the go-ahead touchdown.
Justin Fields may have had the shimmy and grin after a big play with his legs, but it was Montgomery who had the last laugh on Sunday.
11.9% run-stop rate, 0.7 average depth of tackle
Brian Branch’s versatility has granted Aaron Glenn the opportunity to move him all over the place on defense. Against the Bears, Branch lined up along the defensive line, in the box, in the slot, and at free safety. Across 42 (!) run defense snaps, Branch racked up five stops in run defense—the most among defensive backs in Week 11—and posted an 11.9% run-stop rate, the third-highest rate among defensive backs. Of any cornerback or safety in Week 11 with at least four tackles in run defense, Branch had the best average depth of tackle (0.7 yards), a testament to his ability to be a shut-down run defender.
The Lions continue to be one of the top defenses in the league against the run (eighth in rush defense DVOA), continuing the promise they showed over the second half of last season, but Branch is elevating this unit to another level thanks to some instincts that far outpace what you’d expect out of a rookie defender.
7.5% turnover-worthy play rate
In what was a very uncharacteristic performance from Jared Goff, a quarterback who played such clean football over a lengthy stretch in 2022, this season has been a different story—and Week 11 was perhaps his worst exhibit of sloppy play in Detroit.
He ended up throwing three interceptions on the afternoon, nearly throwing another one that would have likely been returned 99 yards for a touchdown had it not been dropped by Jaylon Johnson. Goff’s 7.5% turnover-worthy play rate against the Bears was the worst mark for a passer in Week 11, and the second-worst rate of his Lions career after last year’s Week 7 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys (9.1%, two interceptions and two fumbles).