The Detroit Lions stunted the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, holding the previously undefeated team to just 183 total yards and six points on offense, while scoring 20 points of their own. The Lions accomplished this by making slight, flow-of-the-game adjustments on offense, combined with larger, more purposeful changes with personnel on defense.
Let’s take a look at how the Lions' snap counts from their Week 3 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Jared Goff: 70 (100%)
Teddy Bridgewater: DNP
Nothing new here, as Goff played every snap despite taking a lot of hits that he will surely be feeling on Monday.
Jahmyr Gibbs: 42 (60%) — 1 special teams snap (4%)
Craig Reynolds: 20 (29%) — 13 (48%)
Jason Cabinda: 10 (14%) — 19 (70%)
Zonovan Knight: 7 (10%) — 7 (26%)
David Montgomery: Ruled OUT
With Montgomery unable to play, the Lions leaned on Gibbs who rushed for 80 yards as the primary ball carrier. Reynolds and Knight found the field when the Lions wanted to run more power concepts, and they produced 15 and 13 rushing yards respectively.
Sam LaPorta: 52 (74%) — 1 (4%)
Brock Wright: 29 (41%) — 13 (48%)
James Mitchell: 2 (3%) — 7 (26%)
LaPorta broke several rookie tight end records due to his accomplishments through the first three weeks of the season and his opportunities continue to grow each game. He was the Lions' second-most target player in this game as Detroit took advantage of Atlanta’s attacking linebackers.
Wright and Mitchell saw roughly the same level of snaps as in previous weeks, but beyond blocking, they’re seeing the rookie gobble up all the passing targets.
Amon-Ra St. Brown: 66 (94%) — 1 (4%)
Josh Reynolds: 54 (77%)
Marvin Jones Jr.: 29 (41%)
Kalif Raymond: 25 (36%) — 7 (26%)
Antoine Green: 13 (20%) — 6 (22%)
The other recipient of the Falcons’ aggressive front was St. Brown, as he gashed them over the middle time and time again. The Sun God quietly had nine receptions on 12 targets for 102 receiving yards—giving him back-to-back 100+ receiving yard games—while also tacking on a rush for four yards.
Reynolds continues to see starter-level WR2 snaps, while Jones Jr. and Raymond split the WR3 role. It was a bit surprising to see Jones out-snap Raymond, as Kalif continues to find ways to get open and produce. Raymond turned his six targets into four catches for 55 receiving yards, while Jones wasn’t targeted for the second game in a row.
Green once again saw his snap counts increase and it will be interesting to see if he will continue to cut into the snaps previously given to Jones and Raymond.
Penei Sewell: 70 (100%) — 4 (15%)
Jonah Jackson: 70 (100%) — 4 (15%)
Frank Ragnow: 70 (100%)
Graham Glasgow: 70 (100%) — 4 (15%)
Colby Sorsdal: 36 (51%) — 4 (15%)
Matt Nelson: 18 (26%) — 1 (4%)
Dan Skipper: 16 (23%) — 3 (11%)
Kayode Awosika: 0 (0%) — 4 (15%)
Taylor Decker: Ruled OUT
Halapoulivaati Vaitai: Ruled OUT
Glasgow replaced Vaitai for this game, creating a smooth transition at the right guard spot. The same couldn’t be said at right tackle. After Nelson was carted off with an ankle injury, his replacement, Skipper, also left the game with a hamstring injury. That opened the door for rookie Colby Sorsdal to get his first opportunity to play offense in an NFL game.
I walked over to Sorsdal in the locker room following the game and before I could even get a question out, he excitedly exclaimed:
“That was awesome,” Sorsdal told Pride of Detroit. “It was crazy! Something I’ll never forget. You always hear that ‘your time could come whenever’, right? And when it does, you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is awesome’.
Sorsdal would go on to say that while he has only sporadically been getting reps at right tackle in practice, he had no issues adjusting in-game, reminding us that he has four years of college starting experience at the position—saying it “was like riding a bike”—and will be ready to go on Thursday if called upon due to injuries.
Aidan Hutchinson: 56 (84%)
John Cominsky: 44 (66%) — 2 (7%)
Charles Harris: 41 (61%) — 3 (11%)
Romeo Okwara: 20 (30%) — 3 (11%)
Hutchinson saw his snaps called back just a bit from previous weeks, and he was used all over the field depending on the situation. He took snaps at right and left end, as well as inside in both passing and rushing situations.
Cominksky continues to see his snaps increase and he has been close to level (or above) with Harris the past two weeks. Expect this trend to continue, as his positional versatility allows the Lions to be very creative upfront.
The Hutchinson-Cominsky combination was a problem for the Falcons’ tackles and guards, and set up a lot of situations where the Lions deployed a more athletic front-six, and a lot of three edge rusher looks.
Alim McNeill: 40 (60%) — 3 (11%)
Isaiah Buggs: 18 (27%)
Benito Jones: 17 (25%) — 3 (11%)
Levi Onwuzurike: 9 (13%) — 1 (4%)
Brodric Martin: INACTIVE
With the Lions wanting to get more athletic upfront, the defensive tackles all saw their snaps reduced, with Jones seeing the biggest decline, as he was also splitting starting reps with Buggs—who was active for the first time this season.
Alex Anzalone: 67 (100%)
Derrick Barnes: 48 (72%) — 6 (22%)
Jack Campbell: 38 (57%) — 13 (48%)
Malcolm Rodriguez: 20 (30%) — 20 (74%)
Jalen Reeves-Maybin: 3 (4%) — 23 (85%)
Anthony Pittman: 0 (0%) — 22 (81%)
The other half of the move to get more athletic upfront was the increase in linebacker usage. To counter the Falcons’ aggressive rushing attack (which uses a lot of movement), the Lions leaned on their linebackers a lot more, using three linebacker sets for almost half the game.
The most notable changes came with Barnes and Campbell, who not only saw an uptick in overall snaps, but both also got time SAM (the Lions' pass-rushing outside linebacker spot), with Barnes lining up there eight times, and Campbell 26.
This alteration was so effective, that it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Lions stick with this combination of snap deployment moving forward.
Brian Branch: 67 (100%) — 4 (15%)
Cam Sutton: 67 (100%)
Jerry Jacobs: 66 (99%)
Will Harris: 1 (1%) — 23 (85%)
Chase Lucas: 0 (0%) —22 (81%)
Steven Gilmore: 0 (0%) —11 (41%)
Emmanuel Moseley: Ruled OUT
Branch saw around 70% of defensive snap through the first two weeks of the season, as the Lions only spent that amount of time in nickel sets. But this week, despite running roughly the same amount of nickel looks, Branch saw his role expand to safety, allowing him to never leave the field.
And it paid off, huge. Not only did Branch lead the team with 11 tackles (all solo), but he also had three tackles for loss and two pass breakups. An absolute stud performance.
Sutton played every snap on the outside, while Jacobs only left the field for one snap, due to injury, and was replaced by Harris.
Tracy Walker: 67 (100%) — 1 (4%)
Ifeatu Melifonwu: 48 (72%) — 3 (11%)
Brandon Joseph: 0 (0%) — 6 (22%)
Kerby Joseph: Ruled OUT
Walker played every snap in his return to the starting lineup, while Melifonwu stepped up as an injury replacement and performed quite well. Melifonwu ceded snaps to Branch at safety in this game, and it will be interesting to see if this trend continues moving forward—even when Kerby returns.
Jack Fox: 15 (56%)
Scott Daly: 10 (37%)
Riley Patterson: 4 (15%)
Fox is an absolute weapon and the Lions leaned on him in this game, asking him to punt six times and pin the Falcons deep, forcing them to operate on a long field.