Second time was the charm when it came to getting a win at Ford Field. The Lions have officially brought the hype train to Detroit, steamrolling a very underrated Atlanta Falcons team by a score of 20-6. Here are your movers on the day:
Stock up: Brian Branch, S
Stats: 11 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 passes defended
Where do we even start with Brian Branch on Sunday? He truly did it all, from the line of scrimmage to the back end of the secondary. Branch made everyone forget that C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Kerby Joseph weren’t playing.
Branch blanketed Kyle Pitts in coverage for a good chunk of the game. He also had several incredible run fits, playing down in the box and blowing up the Falcons backfield behind the line of scrimmage. He simply did not miss and wherever the ball was on Sunday, he was too. That includes capping off his day by knocking Bijan Robinson’s helmet off with a booming (legal) hit.
Sunday’s performance from Brian Branch was worthy of putting him in contention for Defensive Rookie of the Year. It’s remarkable to watch Branch play and think this is only his third game in the NFL. He plays like a veteran and has tremendous upside that he still has yet to unlock.
Stock up: Sam LaPorta, TE
Stats: 8 catches (11 targets), 84 yards, 1 TD
Speaking of flashy rookies, how about Sam LaPorta? He started off the game building on his reputation as Jared Goff’s safety net and the new YAC king of Detroit. He continued on, however, to take the top off of the defense for a 45-yard touchdown where there weren’t any Falcons defenders near him by the end of the play.
LaPorta is expanding his toolbox and continuing to develop his repertoire with Jared Goff. The two shared a wholesome postgame moment celebrating LaPorta’s first NFL touchdown.
Stock down: Jared Goff, QB
Stats: 22/33, 243 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Jared Goff took an absolute beating Sunday as the Lions rotated in a carousel of makeshift offensive linemen Sunday. It began to add up as the game went on, and Goff looked a little rattled as he missed on a few throws in the third quarter that he usually makes. That would eventually lead to an ugly overthrow-turned-interception on a pass intended for Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Lucky for the Lions, the Falcons weren’t able to capitalize. However, Goff’s mishap handed the ball back to the Falcons in Lions territory in a low-scoring affair. That’s a no-no, and a mistake that is highly uncharacteristic of the Goff we know now. He got back into rhythm as the game went on, and I hope he has enough time to heal up by Thursday to pick back up on point.
Stock up: Aaron Glenn, DC
I gave Aaron Glenn flack last week, so it’s only right I give him credit this week. He got his defense in order, and after managing only a single sack through two weeks, the Lions defense broke through for seven(!!) on the day Sunday. Glenn’s game plan managed to completely neutralize one of the most talented players in all of football in Bijan Robinson. The Lions also held the Falcons, as a whole, to just 44 rushing yards after they entered the game averaging over 170 yards per game. Hats off to Glenn.
Stock up: Ifeatu Melifonwu, S
Stats: 3 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 pass defended
What a day for Ifeatu Melifonwu. I know I wasn’t the only one uneasy about the Lions being down two of their safeties and what that meant as far as depth goes. Melifonwu had been little more than a liability and a disappointment for a third-round pick through two seasons.
However, after some time relegated to the inactive list and a very backup role, Melifonwu looked like he belonged on the field Sunday. He rotated in as a third safety and helped limit the Falcons offense to 183 yard of offense, notching both a pass breakup and a tackle for loss in an overall solid performance.
Stock down: Penei Sewell, OT
It was far from Penei Sewell’s best day on Sunday. He got called for holding twice—including one that pushed the Lions offense back from the Falcons’ 4-yard line. He also didn’t do much to open up the running game on the left side of the line while the right side was triaging their injured linemen. That included a whiffed assignment on one of the few well-blocked runs the Lions had Sunday late in the third, allowing his defender to swallow up Jahmyr Gibbs.
Cam Sutton, CB: Sutton has had a quiet start with the Lions, but like the rest of the secondary, he locked things up Sunday. Aside from Drake London’s spectacular sideline catch early, Sutton locked down the Falcons’ WR1.
Jerry Jacobs, CB: Are you seeing a trend yet? The Lions DBs had a stellar day, including a nice bounce-back performance from Jerry Jacobs who was picked on in Week 2.
Kalif Raymond, WR: Raymond got involved in the receiving game Sunday after a quiet start to the season. That included a stellar catch where he fell tripped on the route while the ball was in the air, but managed to get up and snag it in the red zone.
Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE: After teasing us for two weeks, Hutch finally got home for a sack and stank up Ford Field with the stankiest of stanky legs. He then wrapped up the game with a strip-sack on Desmond Ridder. Well done, Hutch.
Jahmyr Gibbs, RB: Gibbs wasn’t super flashy Sunday, but he really didn’t have much to work with considering the Lions were playing lineman roulette. He handled a bulk of the volume well, and it was nice to see him outperform fellow rookie running back Bijan Robinson.
Frank Ragnow, OL: Ragnow was the only consistent offensive lineman Sunday, opening up some nice holes so Jahmyr Gibbs had something to work with.
Zonovan Knight, RB: I can’t be the only one who expected Bam Knight to get a hefty chunk of the backfield volume Sunday. The Lions opted to use Gibbs as a workhorse instead. Thursday will be telling as to whether they just want to ramp up Knight, or if Gibbs will be the clear-cut RB1 moving forward.