Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints felt eerily like the 2016 matchup between the two teams—high-scoring, sloppy football that hurt to watch but kept both teams in it late. The big difference? This time, the Detroit Lions came out on top. Sunday was another huge blow to the SOL crowd. A win is a win, no matter how ugly, and I’ll absolutely take the Lions sitting at 9-3.
Here are your movers for the week:
Stock up: Sam LaPorta, TE
Stats: 9 receptions (9 targets), 140 yards, 1 TD
What can’t the man do? He continues to be a key part of the Lions’ offensive game plan, and not just in the receiving game. Before we get to that, he deserves credit for his blocking. Watch him on the right side of the second play here:
The Lions bring out the heavy personnel at the goal line and everyone in the country knows what’s coming. Sam LaPorta puts a clean block on the Saints DE to clear up a lane for David Montgomery. I just don’t see that block or that touchdown happening with an unnamed former Lions tight end.
The cherry on top? That wasn’t some random reserve lineman for the Saints. That was All-Pro DE Cameron Jordan.
Now, let’s talk about what else he brings to the table, aka his nine receptions (on nine targets!) for 140 yards, the most single-game receiving yards by a TE in Lions history. Not only did LaPorta play well, but he put the offense on his back Sunday. Jared Goff only threw for 213 total yards, meaning Sam LaPorta accounted for 66% of the team’s receiving yards. Hard to believe this guy is still a rookie.
Stock up: Jared Goff, QB
Stats: 16/25, 213 yards, 2 TD
Sunday was a much-needed rebound for Jared Goff, and getting out to an early lead was a huge help. It allowed him to settle into low-stakes play action for most of the game, and gradually move out of his shell to some longer, structured passes. He did a good job finding the sideline more than usual and looks a lot more like the Goff we’ve seen early this season than he did last week.
The biggest throw from Goff in my book wasn’t any of his flashy ones, but rather a short 12-yard completion that traveled maybe seven yards through the air—his last throw of the game.
It may not be impressive on paper, but coming from Goff, who notoriously struggles under a pressured pocket, that was huge. He absolutely ate the hit from the defender and put himself on the line to get that ball to Josh Reynolds, and it was literally the difference between winning the game and giving the ball back to the Saints with plenty of time left. Goff ends the week on a very high note.
Stock up: Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB
Stats: 6 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 QB hit
Everyone loves a star in the NFL, but often we don’t give enough love to guys who have a niche role that they’ve mastered. Jalen Reeves-Maybin is just that. He knows what kind of player he is, and he has embraced that role since his early years in Detroit. That wasn’t enough.
When Matt Patricia came to town looking for thicker linebackers, JRM simply wasn’t built for that style of play, but he stuck to what he was good at. Now under a new regime, he’s excelling again in the reserve role he’s built for.
Reeves-Maybin has continued to be a special teams ace under Dan Campbell but has also been allowed to use his thinner linebacker frame in a reserve linebacker role, particularly on longer downs and distances. On Sunday, having that was huge for the Lions with Alex Anzalone out. JRM was able to rotate across the defense alongside Jack Campbell and Derrick Barnes to fill coverage holes left by Alex Anzalone, and he came up huge.
As soon as he entered the game, JRM notched a pass breakup. He would later blow up a Saints reverse and allow Quinton Bohanna to come in on clean-up duty for a 10-yard tackle for loss in the fourth quarter. Reeves-Maybin is reaping the rewards of his patience, and so long as he continues to excel in his niche, he will have a place on this team.
Stock up: Jack Campbell, LB
Stats: 9 tackles, 2 TFL
Sunday was a lot more of what we knew Jack Campbell brings to the table. That’s a win considering the expanded volume, but he continues to show growing pains that have plagued him as a rookie. Campbell was strong in tackling when he could make his reads, but that wasn’t always the case. He was a step too slow on multiple red-zone runs by the Saints, especially when Taysom Hill had the ball.
Campbell also found himself out of place on several short passes over the middle that allowed the Saints to claw back into the game. It’s not unusual, as playing zone defense as a linebacker takes a lot of intuition that’s hard to find as a rookie. But the Lions certainly missed Alex Anzalone in that department Sunday.
Campbell continues to show incremental progress, and I was most impressed by him sniffing out a fourth-quarter screen, even though he ended up getting pancaked 10 yards down the field by an offensive lineman double team. It was a mixed bag for Campbell, with slightly more good than bad. For a much higher snap count, I’ll take that.
Stock down: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE
Stats: 2 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit
Hutchinson was a ghost on Sunday, disappearing from the stat sheet. When he showed up on film, he was more often than not getting pushed around, especially when the Saints ran the ball. It was a game to forget for Hutchinson, and one atypically poor given his usual level of play. He’ll bounce back, but this was a head-scratcher from start to finish for him.
Stock up: Bruce Irvin, EDGE
Stats: 1 TFL, 1 sack, 1 QB hit
Welcome to Detroit, Bruce Irvin! I won’t fault him for the egregious roughing the passer penalty—the man is 36 years old and is coming off of his couch, he’s played most of his career being able to tackle a quarterback like that. Most importantly, he provided some much-needed pass rush support to open up lanes for other defensive linemen in addition to a sack of his own. This is already flirting with the best-case scenario as far as signing 36-year-old pass rushers go.
Stock up: Quinton Bohanna, DL
Stats: 3 tackles, 1 TFL
Bohanna has quietly displaced Isaiah Buggs and Brodric Martin in an instant. After three practice squad elevations, it’s almost a guarantee he becomes a member of the active roster next week, and every bit of it is deserved. He has filled in the middle of the Lions run defense without any hiccups, and has the versatility for a big man to end up 10 yards in the backfield cleaning up after Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Quinton Bohanna is firmly trending up.
Stock neutral: Brian Branch, S
Stats: 7 tackles, 1 pass defended
Branch notched a solid stock up last week after stringing together two of his best games post-injury. He came out hot Sunday, with quick reflexes nabbing him a huge interception off of Derek Carr (but also robbing Jerry Jacobs of an interception later in the game).
As the game progressed, Branch found himself a step too late in coverage a couple of times, including giving up a 28-yard pass on one of Derek Carr’s longest throws of the day. It could have been a product of moving pieces at linebacker, as Jack Campbell was in Branch’s vicinity quickly after the completion, but Branch has shown that’s the kind of play he’s smart enough to make on defense. His interception was redeeming enough to keep him neutral on the week.
Colby Sorsdal, G: Sordsal continues to exceed expectations for a fifth-rounder, this time filling in admirably when Graham Glasgow shifted over in place of Frank Ragnow.
Romeo Okwara, EDGE: Good to know Romeo is still around. He got home for his first sack of the season Sunday, at a time when the Lions needed it most.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR: A quiet day for St. Brown, but his 49 yards were enough for him to surpass a guy named Calvin Johnson for the most receiving yards by a Lion in their first three seasons.
Jameson Williams, WR: Jamo’s earning the trust of the offense and getting opportunities to use his speed in more versatile ways as a result. He’s strung together three strong weeks, and should continue to see his role expand as a result.
Penei Sewell, RT: Hear me out, I know it was Sewell’s first sack allowed all season — it was bound to happen. But to slip up against a guy who doubles as a coverage linebacker? Sewell is better than that. No real change in his perception here, he remains a rock and this sack can slide.
Malcolm Rodriguez, LB: Rodrigo was back to linebacker with Alex Anzalone out, and he showed signs of rust. He also had a bad missed tackle in punt coverage on Jack Fox’s last punt of the game.