Last week, the Detroit Lions defense seemingly got exposed against the Seattle Seahawks, as Geno Smith ripped a victory away from them. Facing a ton of criticism this week, the Lions defense needed a huge bounceback performance, and they got it against the Atlanta Falcons.
Detroit held Atlanta to just three points until the final five minutes of the football game, helping an offense that stuttered at times. After picking up just one sack in the first two games, the Lions defense answered with seven sacks on Desmond Ridder.
The final score was 20-6, but Detroit held a comfortable lead for the majority of the fourth quarter and walked away with the win and 2-1 record.
The Lions won the toss and deferred, giving Atlanta the chance to score first. Despite gaining 7 yards on first down, the Falcons failed to move the chains thanks to a tipped pass from Aidan Hutchinson and a brilliant open field tackle from Alex Anzalone on third down.
But Detroit quickly went three-and-out themselves. Trying to get the ball to Jahmyr Gibbs early, the rookie running back got blown up on a screen play and his second-down run went for 0 yards. A solid punt and a holding penalty on the kick pushed the Falcons back to their own 12-yard line.
The Falcons struck the first big play of the game, with Ridder finding Drake London for 28-yard gain on third down. But that was it for the second drive of the game, as a Benito Jones sack on second down forced a third-and-long and Derrick Barnes followed it up with another sack.
Detroit dug themselves into a bit of a hole with a 15-yard chop block penalty on Matt Nelson, but back-to-back completions to Amon-Ra St. Brown and Sam LaPorta quickly erased the extra yardage and moved the chains into Falcons territory. But a pair of negative plays got the Lions behind the chains again, and they would have to settle for a 37-yard field goal attempt. Riley Patterson nailed it, and with 1:46 left, it was 3-0 Lions.
The Falcons picked up a couple of first downs to move to midfield as time elapsed in the first quarter.
Brian Branch kicked off the quarter with a nice tackle for loss on Robinson
However, Desmond Ridder was able to find holes in Detroit’s coverage and get into field goal range by targeting tight end Kyle Pitts often. But Branch again got a stop with a third-down pass breakup, forcing the Falcons to try a 48-yard field goal attempt. Younghoe Koo was good and it was 3-3 tie.
A big third down conversion to Amon-Ra St. Brown kickstarted the Lions next offensive drive. Unfortunately, the drive was interrupted by an injury to Matt Nelson—who was already filling in for an injured Taylor Decker. Nelson was immediately carted off, putting Dan Skipper—signed earlier this week.
However, the Lions came out of the injury timeout with a play-action bomb to Sam LaPorta for a 45-yard touchdown and a 10-3 Lions lead.
Detroit’s defense responded with another three-and-out thanks to another pass breakup from Branch. Meanwhile, the offense extended their lead with a steady aerial attack from Goff. He hit Kalif Raymond for gains of 22 and 14, working Detroit into a goal-to-go situation. While Detroit was initially stopped, an illegal contact on the Falcons gave Detroit a fresh set of downs. The Lions faced another third-and-goal from the 6-yard line at the two-minute warning. Goff couldn’t connect with St. Brown and despite six cracks at the endzone, the Lions settled for 3. 13-3 Lions.
Atlanta took over with 1:53 left in the half and two timeouts. On the very first play, Ridder took a sack via Alim McNeill. That put the Falcons in defensive mode, and after the Lions called a timeout, they got the ball back with just under a minute left to add to their lead.
However, Detroit could only manage a single first down, and would end up punting back to Atlanta with 19 seconds left. The Falcons had a shot at a hail mary, but Jack Campbell sacked Ridder to end the half—the Lions’ FOURTH sack of the half.
The second half started with news that backup, backup tackle Dan Skipper was dealing with a hamstring injury, so rookie Colby Sorsdal was in at right tackle.
Meanwhile, Detroit went three-and-out after fullback Jason Cabinda failed to pick up a third-and-1. Atlanta went to the ground game on offense to cut into Detroit’s lead. A horsecollar penalty on Branch pushed the Falcons to midfield. Facing a third-and-6 at the Lions’ 29-yard line, the Falcons got a little conservative and tried to catch Detroit sleeping with a draw play. Aidan Hutchinson ate the play up and forced a 47-yard field goal. This time, Koo mised it.
On the field goal, John Cominsky was injured with what appeared to be an upper-body injury.
Taking over at their own 37-yard line, the Lions were able to cross midfield. However, a holding penalty and a dropped pass from St. Brown doomed the drive and Detroit opted to try and pin the Falcons deep on a fourth-and-7 from Atlanta’s 42-yard line. The punt pinned Atlanta at the 17-yard line.
Detroit’s safeties came up with a pair of big plays to get the defense off the field. Tracy Walker laid a big hit on Falcons tight end Jonnu Smith to force an incompletion, and Ifeatu Melifonwu did the same thing on third down.
But the Lions offense was still stuck in neutral due to some offensive line struggles. The drive started with a holding penalty on Frank Ragnow, and while the Lions worked their way back into a third-and-7, Goff couldn’t find LaPorta on third down. Another three-and-out and a short punt gave Atlanta the ball back at their own 35-yard line with 1:50 left in the third quarter.
A Charles Harris sack—the team’s fifth on the day—forced a quick three-and-out for the Falcons offense, and Detroit would again take over with the opportunity to add to their 10-point lead. But Goff missed on a couple of open receivers, including St. Brown on a third-and-10. The ball was overthrown and landed directly into the waiting arms of Falcons safety Jessie Bates.
INT #3 for #3 ‼️— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) September 24, 2023
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Taking over at the Lions’ 43-yard line, the Falcons weren’t able to cut the deficit. Ridder threw two straight incompletions on third and fourth down, giving the ball right back to Detroit at the 38-yard line.
Then Gibbs finally took over. After getting stymied for most of the day, the rookie running back picked up rushes of 12 and 21 yards to get Detroit into a goal-to-go situation. On third-and-goal from the 3-yard line, the Lions ran a brilliant fake to Gibbs, with Jared Goff keeping it for the short touchdown scamper. 20-3 Lions.
Down three scores with 9:47 left, the Falcons were able to move the ball downfield thanks to a 23-yard pass to Mack Hollins. Atlanta would slowly work their way into the red zone, but Detroit tightened up and forced a field goal to make it 20-6 Lions with 4:19 left.
Atlanta opted not to onside kick, allowing Detroit to run two minutes off the clock and bleed the rest of the Falcons’ timeouts.
The Falcons were down two scores, but Hutchinson called game with a strip sack that he recovered on his own, and the Lions would walk away with a 20-6 victory.