The Detroit Lions got back to their winning ways on Sunday when they caught the New Orleans Saints by surprise. Less than eight minutes into the game, the Lions had taken a 21-0 lead, and lucky enough for that early onslaught, Detroit was able to hold on for a 33-28 victory in Louisiana.
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 they pushed their record to 9-3 with a win over the Saints in Week 13.
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 run stops, 9.1% run stop rate, -0.7 average depth of tackle
With Alex Anzalone sidelined due to a wrist injury, the Lions were without arguably their most well-rounded defensive player not named Aidan Hutchinson for this Week 13 matchup against the Saints—a sentence I couldn’t have imagined typing even a year ago.
But while Anzalone was out, it was Jack Campbell’s turn to assume the role and responsibility of the MIKE linebacker spot for a Lions defense in the midst of a tailspin.
Campbell responded by putting forth one of the best performances of his young career, especially as a run defender. Despite making every effort to establish a ground game against the Lions and running the ball 36 times, the Saints only gained 113 yards for just 3.1 yards per carry. A big factor in stifling that New Orleans ground game was Campbell who recorded 3 run stops (third among linebackers in Week 13), a 9.1% run stop rate (ninth among all defenders in Week 13), and a -0.7 average depth of tackle in run defense (the best mark for all linebackers in Week 13).
Campbell’s development has been the longest to take root for Detroit’s 2023 rookie class, but with how he’s developed after moving around to various spots on this defense—from WILL to SAM to MIKE—it’s encouraging to see the positive play keep stacking for Campbell as the calendar turns to December.
7.00 yards per route run, 4 missed tackles forced, 5 first downs, 155.8 passer rating when targeted
It’s time to start talking about Sam LaPorta being a legitimate All-Pro candidate this year at the tight end position. By now, he’s exceeded even the loftiest of expectations people had for the former second-round pick, posting 64 catches, 679 yards, and six touchdowns through 12 games so far this season.
LaPorta had the biggest game of his professional career so far against the Saints, hauling in a career-high nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. The Lions needed LaPorta at various junctures of the game to keep the offense moving along, and LaPorta responded with a breakout performance that paced the way for tight ends in Week 13. In a measure of incredible efficiency, LaPorta posted a 7.00 yards per route run, four missed tackles forced, five first downs, and a 155.8 passer rating when targeted (all top marks for TEs in Week 13).
125.0 elusive rating, 5.63 yards after contact per attempt
If this game needed more of something, it was definitely Jahmyr Gibbs touching the football. Gibbs had just eight carries and one reception versus the Saints, but his nine touches were the fewest he’s recorded in a game since his Week 1 debut. Detroit clearly had a plan to impose David Montgomery and his physical running style on New Orleans from the jump, but averaging just 3.1 yards per carry on 18 attempts felt just as ineffective during the game as it’s displayed in the box score.
Gibbs, on the other hand, managed to show his big-play ability in his limited workload.
While Detroit didn’t utilize Gibbs very much on Sunday, his big play—a 36-yard run that showed the patience and burst that’s made him one of Detroit’s most important weapons on offense—put the Lions on the Saints’ doorstep during the game’s opening drive. This season, Gibbs is tied for the lead in rushes of 20+ yards (7). It also helped him post the best yards after contact per attempt among running backs with at least eight carries in Week 13—5.63 YCO/A—and the third-best elusive rating (125.0), “a PFF Signature stat measuring success and impact of a runner with the ball independently of the blocking.”