Detroit Lions rookie tight end Sam LaPorta and running back Jahmyr Gibbs combined for five touchdowns against the Denver Broncos—only the second time since the 1970 merger two rookies from the same team have scored five times in a single game, per Elias.
And after the Lions’ dominant 42-17 victory over the Broncos, Lions coach Dan Campbell had a message for some of the NFL Draft experts who questioned Detroit’s strategy of taking both players.
“I’m just going to bring it back to (Lions GM) Brad Holmes. It’s a hell of a job by him, once again,” Campbell said. “Took a lot criticism for those two picks, but they look like they’re okay. So I’m glad we got them.”
The words on the page don’t do it justice. Just watch how Campbell delivers the line “they look like they’re okay.”
The Lions faced a lot of criticism for those picks, particularly for their lack of positional value. Running backs are typically thought of as players with short career, and teams often find similar value in later rounds. Taking one in the first round is often frowned upon. LaPorta, too, went earlier than many draft experts expected, as some though this tight end class was good enough to wait until later rounds (LaPorta went 34th overall) to get a productive player.
But through 14 games, Gibbs now leads the NFL in yards per carry at 5.7 (minimum 90 carries), and he crossed over 1,000 all purpose yards (792 rushing, 296 receiving). He’s been particularly electric since halfway through the season, rushing for 613 yards on just 100 carries (6.1 YPC) since Week 7
As for LaPorta, he is crushing just about every franchise rookie tight end record in existence. He’s already set the record for yardage and touchdown for Lions rookie tight ends, and he’s starting to chip away at records for any Lions tight ends.
He’s also pretty damn close to setting NFL rookie tight end records. He is now just three touchdowns away from Mike Ditka’s record of 12 touchdowns (set in 1961), and LaPorta’s 758 receiving yards is currently sixth in NFL rookie tight end history. He’s got a ways to go to catch Ditka’s 1,076 yards, but he will very likely jump into the top four.
For Lions quarterback Jared Goff, he’s never seen anything like this.
“I was thinking about it halfway through (the game) how those two guys have made such an impact as rookies,” Goff said. “They’re two of the best rookies I’ve ever been around. What they handle mentally, and what they do every Sunday for us, they way they practice, they way they’re pros, everything. They’re as good as it gets.”
Campbell credited a lot of LaPorta’s success to his attitude and endless work ethic.
“When you watch him in meetings, watch him out at practice, the walkthrough the way he works he reminds me of (Amon-Ra) St. Brown in that manner,” Campbell said. “Very much the same way just how he goes about it, and he is highly competitive, he gets in games like this and he shows up now. He’s got this competitive edge about him.”
If everything goes right, this is just the beginning of these two talented offensive weapons for Detroit. But for now, they’re already high-impact players that are both big reasons why this team is 10-4 and on the verge of clinching their first division in 30 years.