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Notes: Film analysts shower praise on Lions for Week 1 victory

It really looks like Ben Johnson’s offense picked up right where it left off last year. Oh, and the defense did stuff too.

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Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

On the heels of the absolutely incredible road win by the Detroit Lions at Arrowhead Stadium on national television, we have analysts across the football-verse posting tons of quality film content. Given there are no other NFL games until Sunday, the Thursday night season opener had several days of the undivided attention of All-22 watchers and they did not disappoint.

Let’s roll the tape.

NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger, alone, posted nine separate items on Twitter, of which the best are probably the first two: Jahmyr Gibbs’ 17-yard run in the second quarter near midfield on second-and-6 and then a couple of plays’ worth of the run blocking from the right side of the offensive line. Although the second video is labeled “Penei Moving Company,” there’s good stuff from Halapoulivaati Vaitai and even Jonah Jackson gets a mention pulling from the left side.

The importance of the mobility and athleticism of the Lions’ offensive line cannot be overstated in terms of its importance to the overall run game scheme. For example, in the first clip by Baldinger, the play call is pin and pull to the left side. Notably, Throw Deep Publishing in its guide says “(t)he offense needs to have two Guards at minimum who are able to pull and run. Without quality pullers, there is no Pin and Pull.” When you look at Jonah Jackson and Frank Ragnow out there leading on the double pull around end for a guy as fast as Jahmyr Gibbs, that’s what they mean. You see it over and over on film, like when Ragnow pulls to lead and seals the right edge for Gibbs on the critical big run on first-and-15 late in the fourth quarter.

That’s why these guys like Sewell, Jackson, and Ragnow made the Pro Bowl.

Baldinger also has clips on principles Ben Johnson uses to scheme his wide receivers open, Jahmyr Gibbs needing more touches (this one has the late fourth quarter run in it), Brian Branch’s interception, James Houston almost sacking Patrick Mahomes but still forcing him to throw an incompletion off balance, and Aidan Hutchinson being the best player on the field.

What the heck, this other one is too good to leave out, but seriously check them all out:

Speaking of Jahmyr Gibbs, was everyone as disappointed as we were when the rookie slipped on second down when the right side was wide open for him to make the first score of his career? Anyway, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson came right back and dialed up about as reliable a route combination as there could be to get the ball to the Sun God at full speed:

What’s the play call? It’s the old air raid staple: Mesh. TE Sam LaPorta carries his man up the seam and away while RB David Montgomery on the wheel route pulls the right side linebacker wide and away. That clears WR Josh Reynolds to set the rub for WR St. Brown off the back side to get an easy step on his man into completely vacated space at the sticks. In the diagram below from Dan Casey, you have LaPorta on the Wheel, Montgomery is the Rail, and Reynolds-St. Brown is the Switch Special combining for Mesh.

In fact, there’s a video from Dan Casey explaining that Mesh Rail is the “easiest way to run Mesh” and the blurb in the YouTube description says “Once I found Mesh Rail, I realized it has a place in every offense.” Looks like it has a great home in the Lions offense.

Sticking with the brilliance of offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, Fox Sports’ Emmanuel Acho has a great video providing examples of how play sequencing set up the Lions for success against the Chiefs. The former NFL linebacker calls the pairing of similar looks a “punch” and “counter-punch” way of keeping the defense on its heels:

About a month ago, The Ringer’s Ben Solak wrote about how both Ben Johnson and his quarterback Jared Goff love option routes. According to Solak:

Optionality is an enormous part of the Lions’ late-down passing game. Johnson and Goff love option routes—they’d build the whole offense out of them if they could. Using bunches, shifts, and motions, Johnson hunted for favorable matchups in 2022 for slot receivers like St. Brown and running backs like D’Andre Swift (who has since been traded to the Eagles) in the passing game. Because receivers on option routes can break outside, break inside, or settle down between zone defenders—so long as Goff and his receivers are on the same page—those routes are extremely difficult to defend.

That coordination is seemingly the secret sauce of this Lions offense.

That’s the old Run-and-Shoot choice concept made new. Here it is in action against the Chiefs, courtesy of The Athletic’s Nick Baumgardner:

I promise the defense actually did stuff on Thursday, but there’s so much out there and we can’t fit it all in. Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar put up a nice All-22 film article titled “Lions’ rookie class comes up big in upset win over Chiefs” featuring a balance between both offense and defense. The film clips he chose to focus on involved outside running from Jahmyr Gibbs, a combination of blocking and running from Sam LaPorta (there is a ton of great LaPorta blocking stuff out there), pass coverage and awareness from Jack Campbell, and Brian Branch in coverage.

To cap off what has become an offensive (mostly blocking) love-fest, let’s end with an impressive quick-hitting run block from Sam LaPorta and two hilarious clips of Penei Sewell having a grand time playing football. First up is CBS Sports’ Josh Cohen admiring LaPorta playing at full NFL speed right off the bat:

National analysts like Trench Warfare’s Brandon Thorn are seeing the same things our crew at Pride of Detroit is seeing when it comes to physical play from the offensive line:

As former NFL guard Kyle Long puts it, “big guy joy”:

Now, on to the rest of your weekend Notes:

  • This is sneakily burying all the bad film in the bullets, but we really need to acknowledge this material as well. Not EVERYTHING was good. Here’s what the Chiefs did on that second long pass completion right before the touchdown in the first half. It’s designed to attack the two-high look the Lions came out in, and it worked.

  • Also “bad,” this time on offense:

  • Okay, let’s wash that taste out with some C.J. Gardner-Johnson magnificence:

“I just wanted to show those guys that I’m here and I’m capable of doing great things,” Montgomery said. “I want to prove myself to them, so that they trust me and they know that I’m different, and that I can do a lot of things. I want those guys to be able to lean on me when they have to.

  • This Next Gen Stats video from the Lions media folks is extremely cool:

Happy birthday to the only other Lions rookie to get that pick-six debut in a season opening road game, Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1992 inductee Lem Barney:

Also, happy birthday to a true legend of pass rush theory, defensive genius, and Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010 inductee Dick LeBeau:

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