Back in primetime, the Detroit Lions hosted the Denver Broncos on Saturday night to try and get one step closer to not just clinching a playoff spot, but the NFC North as well. The Minnesota Vikings are now three games back in the division after losing to the Cincinnati Bengals earlier on Saturday. The two teams meet next week in a game that could clinch the Lion's first division title since 1993. Before that though, the Lions needed to take care of business with the Denver Broncos.
Needless to say, they did. Check out my winners and losers from the 42-17 win against the Broncos.
Last week there was a change at the safety position as Ifeatu Melifonwu started over Tracy Walker III. Melifonwu did fair last week, but this week he stepped up. In the first quarter on the first drive of the game for the Broncos, Melifonwu forced a fumble on Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson. It was picked up by defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs and returned for 33 yards.
Melifonwu continued to be a big help for the defense in the game. He finished the game with nine tackles, two pass deflections, a tackle for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble. Don't expect Melifonwu to see the field as a starter once C.J. Gardner-Johnson is back from injury, but depth at the position is a good thing to have. Melifonwu playing well is a good sign to see the growth he has had as a player and something the team has been waiting for.
The rookie tight end continues to impress and be a big part of the offense. While he didn't get targeted in the first quarter, LaPorta took over in the second quarter. He helped lead the offense to the first touchdown of the game after a sluggish start.
LaPorta finished the game with five catches for 56 yards and three touchdowns. Goff continues to trust LaPorta all over. Need a big third-down catch? Throw it to LaPorta. Need a chunk play? Throw it to LaPorta. He has a chance to finish the season with over 1,000 receiving yards with three games left, he has 758 yards right now, 242 yards in three games isn’t crazy to think with the way he has played this season.
Another rookie who is having a big impact this season is running back Jahmyr Gibbs. He's slowly been getting more and more reps, and it's not just in the ground game where he's shining. Gibbs is a speedy pass-catching back who can get open in space and he's becoming a favorite weapon for Goff as a checkdown. More plays are getting drawn up for the rookie to excel at in the passing game and he's executing them well.
JAHMYR GIBBS AGAIN ‼️— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) December 17, 2023
Gibbs finished the game with 11 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown, along with two catches for 8 yards and a touchdown. Gibbs continuing to grow and improve as a player is big for this offense. The more faith Goff has in his teammates, the better the machine will run. Having two dynamic running backs is something this coaching staff loves.
Amon-Ra St. Brown
Last week was rough for wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown with multiple drops. This week it was the opposite story, as he was used often and every chance he had with the ball, he made the most of it. St. Brown finished with seven catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. It was a great rebound game for St. Brown.
AMON RA ST BROWN FLIPS INTO THE END ZONE FOR THE TOUCHDOWNpic.twitter.com/LYA8WEXmg2— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) December 17, 2023
The best defensive unit of the night was the defensive line. They were able to get pressure on Wilson throughout the night to disrupt the passing game and they slowed down the run game. Defensive lineman Josh Paschal was the top lineman of the night, finishing with three tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack.
The group held Denver to 83 rushing yards and a touchdown, averaging just 3.0 yards per carry. Denver had to rely on the passing game for the majority of the game and Wilson was pressured throughout the night, disrupting his throws and the offense in general. While the unit only got one sack total, it was a good night for them overall after the Bears had their way with them.
While the defense was able to put pressure on Wilson, there were multiple missed opportunities for more sacks and tackles for loss. It wasn't just one player, multiple Lions defenders had chances at getting to Wilson for a big play, and couldn't finish.
When you have a chance to get the quarterback down for a sack, you can't overshoot your shot. If Wilson had been faster, he could have been more dangerous to this defense. Players like him need to be taken down when you have your chance because if you miss it, it could cost your team points.
It's a rare day where punter Jack Fox has a bad night but Saturday was a rough one. To his usual standards, it was a poor night, but it wasn't anything horrific. He finished with four punts for 141 yards and a touchback. One punt landed inside the 20-yard line, but his average took a hit. Fox averages 41.5 yards per punt and tonight it was 35.3. Thankfully a rough night for Fox didn't cost the team much, as just about everyone else was rolling.