WELCOME TO THE 2023 NFL SEASON, YOUR DETROIT LIONS ARE 1-0!
It was close at times and nerve-wracking quite often, but the Lions pulled off the stunner against the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL’s kickoff game. The Lions finally secured a Week 1 victory, something that had eluded head coach Dan Campbell since taking over. With the win, they can set their sights on the Seattle Seahawks and a potential 2-0 start.
But before we jump too far ahead, let’s review the upset we just witnessed.
NOT YOUR SAME OLD LIONS
It’s one thing to come into Kansas City and emerge from Arrowhead Stadium with a win. It’s another thing to do it in the very first game of the NFL season against the defending Super Bowl champions. You can argue that the Chiefs were without stars Travis Kelce and Chris Jones, but that should not detract from the Detroit Lions proving themselves in the spotlight as legitimate competitors.
Hutchinson wreaking havoc
The sophomore slump hasn’t affected Aidan Hutchinson yet. If anything, his play on Thursday night elevated to another level. On a night where Patrick Mahomes was his usual dangerous self, Hutchinson was making the 2022 league MVP work for it. The Lions’ defender finished the night without a sack, but his five pressures and three quarterback hits topped the team, and those numbers don’t do him justice:
Hutchinson put the motor in Motor City against the Chiefs.
...But his partners in crime were MIA
Kansas City and their jumpy offensive line aside, the Lions were struggling to establish a pass rush next to Hutchinson. True, John Cominsky had a near-sack early on, Levi Onwuzurike had some decent penetration at times, and Josh Paschal came up with a clutch run stop, but on the whole, Mahomes was largely unchallenged inside and outside of the pocket. For as deep as the pass rushing group is (Romeo Okwara was a healthy inactive) it was not an impressive outing for the players around Hutchinson.
The Brian Branch Hype Train is full speed
Oh, were you hyped about Brian Branch earning a starting spot? How about this:
Branch provided a stellar breath of life for the Lions, as the offense was sputtering after scoring early in the game.
However, Branch was injured on a non-contact play late in the third quarter, and limped off the field to the locker room. Yet much like when C.J. Gardner-Johnson suffered a similar non-contact injury in training camp, the injury was revealed to be minor: cramping. Whew. The hype train remains on the rails.
Gibbs is a rocket, man
Some may have been surprised by the limited use of Jahmyr Gibbs, but I believe it was always destined to be a committee early in the season. That being said, when Gibbs was on the field, his electricity was evident. His speed and agility look like star-caliber assets, and you have to imagine his usage will see an uptick as he gets himself familiar with the NFL. It wasn’t a lot of touches (9), but opposing coaches should be on alert: Gibbs is a weapon.
Week 1 trickery
It may have been the first game of the 2023 NFL regular season, but that wasn’t stopping Dan Campbell and his play-calling tricks. Deep in their own end, the Lions’ special teams unit pulled off a bold fake punt to keep an early drive alive. That culminated in an Amon-Ra St. Brown touchdown catch after a 14-play, 91-yard drive.
The Lions were known for pulling off surprise plays on a frequent basis, but to pull off such a move early in their Week 1 game is a testament to how Campbell runs his team: all out.
A reunion to forget for Marvin Jones Jr.
I don’t think anyone expected Marvin Jones Jr. to return to his 2016-2020 form when he re-signed with the Lions. However, his performance on Thursday night was about as bad as could be. Jones had six targets but corralled just two of them, and one of them resulted in a fumble. It was a helmet-on-football induced fumble, a difficult hit for most ball carriers, but it only added to a disappointing night. Kalif Raymond, meanwhile, was hardly targeted in the passing game but came up with a big 20-yard reception in the second half. While we shouldn’t jump to conclusions, it seems like Raymond should see an expanded role at Jones’ expense.
Please change the DPI penalty
Look, we understand that calling defensive pass interference is difficult—it’s why they experimented with making it reviewable. However, I don’t want to get into the details of what is or isn’t a penalty. Instead, I want to focus on the absurdity that is a spot foul. Cam Sutton was dinged for a 41-yard penalty on a play where the receiver lost sight of the ball (and Sutton did not).
Should it have been a penalty? At this point, I don’t care. What I do care about is having such a penalty be worth 41 yards. A receiver catching a 41-yard pass is a massive play. Why does a penalty—on a ball that may or may not have been caught—reward an offense with a similar result? Along with automatic first down penalties, this rule needs to change.