The Detroit Lions are shining under the national spotlight.
The Lions made a statement in Week 1 upsetting the Kansas City Chiefs on national television, and their Week 4 outing against the Green Bay Packers was no different. The league has been put on notice as the Lions rolled the Packers on “Thursday Night Football.” The fireworks came early and often enough to bury the Packers 34-20.
Now sitting at 3-1 in the NFC North, the Lions are not only looking like a division favorite, but perhaps a true threat to the best of the best in the NFC.
But before we get too far ahead, let’s review this tilt:
A first half like no other
When the Lions beat the Packers to close out the 2022 NFL season, it was a moment of triumph. This one felt similar yet different altogether. Rarely has Lambeau Field been showered with boos, and for those boos to occur at halftime is nigh unheard of.
Yet the on-field product did more than enough to warrant the Cheesehead audience to let their feelings known. Jared Goff and the Lions offense started horribly with an interception deep in their own territory, yet it became a distant memory as the half rolled on. The Lions scored 27 unanswered points to take a 27-3 lead at the half, and that still undersells how one-sided this affair was.
The Packers offense had just 21 total yards in the first half, struggling in every facet. The passing game was nonexistent, as Jordan Love looked bewildered. The Packers run game was similarly invisible, totaling a paltry seven yards on five carries. The struggles on the ground and in the air can be attributed to a weakened Packers offensive line, as the Lions front seven dominated to the tune of four first half sacks. After starting the first two weeks with a single sack, the Lions pass rush has turned it around dramatically. The Lions were firing on all cylinders in the first half.
Second half slumber
As good as the first half was, the second half was a complete turnaround for the wrong reasons. Aided by some controversy (we’ll get to that), the Packers looked like the team in charge in the second half, shrinking the Lions’ lead to nervous levels. The Lions had a single touchdown drive in the second half, and if it weren’t for a sleepy Packers offense, the game may have ended closer than it did.
It seemed like the Lions were playing safer in the second half, but Dan Campbell stayed aggressive when it counted. After being gifted another chance at a red zone possession, Campbell opted to trust his offensive line on fourth down, a gamble that paid off when they punched it in.
The Lions can be an explosive offense, but hopefully these lulls become rarer as the season progresses.
From fearing a long-term injury to back after a week off, David Montgomery had a night against the Packers. The average might look unimpressive (3.8 yards per attempt), but that is a byproduct of some critical short yardage runs. Montgomery dominated the touches (32 carries for 121 yards), adding three touchdowns of 1, 2, and 3 yards. He earned many of those yards with more of his signature tough running and solid blocking in front of him. People may be disappointed that Jahmyr Gibbs had just eight carries, but it was a game where the Lions needed a battering ram on offense. The Lions offense prides themselves on winning in the trenches, and Montgomery is a near-perfect fit.
A new Lions DB owns a Packer quarterback
With resident Packer owner Kerby Joseph out with injury, the Lions needed another defensive back to step up against new starting quarterback Jordan Love.
Enter Jerry Jacobs.
Jacobs had struggled in recent weeks, but he chose a clutch game to turn it around. Jacobs got an interception in the first half that set up the Lions for a short touchdown. Yet more crucially was his second half pick of Love. Despite it leading to no points, it quelled a Packers desperation drive. The Lions have some playmakers on their defense. Speaking of which...
Week 3 was no fluke: the defensive line is here
The Lions finished the game with five sacks, bringing their two-week total to 12 sacks. In their first two games, they had one, and it came on an Alex Anzalone coverage sack! Something has clicked for the Lions pass rush, and they are making it rough for opposing offenses.
Little needs to be said about Aidan Hutchinson, looking like an elite pass rusher and menace. It was some of the unsung heroes stepping up on Thursday night as well, though. John Cominsky, Alim McNeill, Charles Harris, and Isaiah Buggs each contributed to the sack attack.
Perhaps more impressive is yet another stalwart outing against the run. The Lions again limited their opponent to minuscule production on the ground: the Packers finished with just 27 rushing yards on 12 carries. The pass rush is waking up, but the run defense is entering elite territory.
Quay Walker with another bullheaded move
I don’t often talk about an opposing player as a takeaway, but what in the world is happening with Quay Walker?
After shoving a Lions athletic trainer last season and gifting the Lions a first-and-goal in that game, the linebacker may have saved the Lions by gifting them with another first-and-goal in this game. With the Lions settling for a field goal to make it a 30-17 game, Walker was penalized for jumping over long snapper Scott Daly. This gave the Lions the ball back with fresh downs at the Green Bay six-yard line, and they turned it into a touchdown that put the game out of reach.
From a Packers perspective, it’s a shame because Walker was having an otherwise impressive game, including a pair of solid tackles on Jahmyr Gibbs. Yet a dumb decision will overshadow it all.
Controversial officiating? Well I never!
It’s an annual tradition for the Detroit Lions to end up on the wrong end of controversy.
Putting aside the weak personal foul penalties that kept Green Bay’s first touchdown drive alive, the officials made one of the more egregious mistakes you will see in a football game. With the clock obviously at 0:00 to mark the end of the third quarter prior to the snap, the Packers aired it out on a deep 44-yard reception. The play clock is subjective, as the Lions learned last season thanks to more controversy helping the Packers. The game clock, however, is not up for debate: when it hits zero, the quarter is over—or at least it is meant to be.
On the game clock, the 0:00 is a hard stop. Unlike the play clock, the line officials have to observe both simultaneously, so usually the down-box operator will count down the game clock for the down judge while they monitor the snap. Clearly that was missed here. Not reviewable— Fᴏᴏᴛʙᴀʟʟ Zᴇʙʀᴀs (@footballzebras) September 29, 2023
Why this is not a reviewable play is beyond me. This isn’t gray like pass interference or what is a catch, the clock should be a black-and-white issue.
Don’t cry over spilled beer
We get it, Packers fans. You aren’t used to being owned by the Detroit Lions. But that doesn’t mean you should waste your $10 beer: