Stock up: Brian Branch, S
Stats: 3 tackles, 1 INT for a TD
I could leave it at this. However, on the night as a whole, Branch was seamless in coverage and did his job to the fullest extent. He played so well it didn’t even hit me until well into the third that I simply hadn’t seen Tracy Walker on the field all night. Also, a huge stock up for Branch that he simply had cramps, and not what we all feared when we went down on the field without contact.
Stock up: C.J. Gardner-Johnson, S
Stats: 5 tackles, 2 passes defended
Not bad for a guy who was on the roster bubble (for those who don’t get the joke, this is sarcasm). We all knew what CJGJ would bring to the table in pass defense, and he did not disappoint against one of the league’s most prolific quarterbacks. Where he earns his upgraded price target, however, is his stellar run support. Gardner-Johnson finished the night with five tackles and a lot of smack talk. Oh, and his postgame comments were fun to say the least.
Stock down: Marvin Jones Jr., WR
Stats: 2 receptions (6 targets), 8 yards, 1 fumble
What a reality check for Lions fans and MJJ alike. I’m firmly in the camp that he’s still a talented receiver with a lot to offer, but Thursday simply was not his night. The Lions turned to him on several occasions that would be better supported by another top-tier receiver, preferably with some top-end speed — hit me up if you know where we can get one of those. That’s not Marv, though, at least not at this point in his career, and it showed.
Marvin Jones can’t stay on the field at this point.— Ryan Mathews (@Ryan_POD) September 8, 2023
A couple of bad drops really stalled the Lions offense in critical moments. I’m not mad at all about the fumble; Marv had two hands wrapped around the ball. When a defender drives his helmet into the ball at such a well-calculated angle there’s truly little you can do. This stock down is strictly for his otherwise lackluster performance.
Stock down: Jonah Jackson, OG
Jonah Jackson didn’t do himself any favors as far as contract extension talks go on Thursday night. He struggled early and often, whiffing on pulling assignments in the run game and often getting manhandled in pass protection:
I have to wonder how much of Jackson’s struggles may have contributed to Ben Johnson’s reluctance to run the football throughout the middle of the game. It’s especially tough considering a missed assignment from Jackson can neutralize whatever benefit you get from running behind Frank Ragnow and Penei Sewell. Tough night for Jackson, but he’s a good player who will bounce back.
Stock up: Brad Holmes, GM
Can we get some love for Brad Holmes? He rebuilt this team from the ground up, and that was emphasized Thursday night by players like Jared Goff, Aidan Hutchinson, and Penei Sewell. Even then, this win doesn’t happen without key plays and significant snap share by Sam LaPorta, Jahmyr Gibbs, Brian Branch, and Jack Campbell. To get four significant Week 1 contributors against the defending champions out of a draft is absolutely absurd. Hats off to Holmes, and I’m sorry for ever using the term “positional value.”
Stock up: Sam LaPorta, TE
Stats: 5 catches (5 targets), 39 yards
Speaking of LaPorta, whew. The man looks like he’s already a veteran tight end. It’s a brutal learning curve that LaPorta seems well ahead of. He’s also already a much more capable blocker than T.J. Hockenson ever was. Also, probably already has more career yards after the catch than Hockenson does.
Sam LaPorta's five receptions tonight are the most for a rookie tight end in Week 1 since 2019 when T.J. Hockenson had 6.— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) September 8, 2023
Sam LaPorta had an 83% snap share and 72% route participation in his first NFL game— Adam Koffler (@AdamKoffler) September 8, 2023
Locked and loaded starter for those that waited on tight end this season at a minimum until Jameson Williams comes back
And to be honest I’m not sure Williams’ return in Week 7 matters that much
LaPorta is clearly going to be one of Goff’s favorite options moving forward, and one of Ben Johnson’s too. Did I mention he’s good at blocking? Good lord, this is borderline NSFW:
Well-blocked on David Montgomery’s 8-yard TD pic.twitter.com/hW0nMztPvj— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) September 8, 2023
Stock down: David Montgomery, RB
Stats: 21 carries, 74 yards, 1 TD
Don’t get me wrong, this is not about Montgomery’s abilities to run with the football. He did that well and made the most of his carries Thursday night. It was in the passing game where Montgomery struggled. On several occasions he was simply out-leveraged in pass protection by defenders. They didn’t result in sacks, but more often than not ended up with Montgomery getting thrown backwards into Jared Goff to collapse the pocket.
On one play in particular, Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton blew up Montgomery and Montgomery was flagged for tripping while on the ground. Not his finest work. This may be the limiting factor from the Lions truly having two do-it-all backs if Montgomery can’t be trusted in clear passing situations.
Stock down: Brodric Martin, DT
Isaiah Buggs caused a lot of commotion this week when he revealed the Lions told him he’d be inactive for Week 1. That led many to the conclusion that Benito Jones and Brodric Martin would fill in amidst Buggs’ absence. Jones did do so, but Martin (like Buggs) was also a scratch for Thursday night’s game.
That’s not exactly what you want to see out of a third-round pick who’s healthy. That doesn’t bode well for how Martin is progressing at all, but it’s still obviously very early in his career.
Stock down: Riley Patterson, K
Stats: 3/3 extra points
Fourth-and-3 at the Kansas City 40-yard line. If you’re not going for that, you’re at least trying for three points. Well, maybe about 28 other NFL teams are. Not the Lions. They’ve seemingly committed to this identity of fourth down aggression in the “no man’s land” that a short-range kicker gives you. If you’re gonna commit to that, you’ve gotta stay committed. Punting in that situation is not the answer (surely I’ll never regret putting this in writing).
This is the very unique predicament that may occur two to four times a year that the Lions have put themselves in by not upgrading the kicker position the last two years. It’s easy to write it off as a rare occurrence, but one of these rare occurrences is going to cost the Lions a win, and it almost happened Thursday. I’m going to spend a lot of time this season wondering why the Lions didn’t pursue Brandon McManus more aggressively when he was a free agent, especially considering they were willing to give up assets for Patterson given his limitations.
Giving this stock down was a tough decision — Riley Patterson made all three extra point Thursday (crucially, I might add) and did all that was asked of him. He’s not the one making the decision to punt on fourth down. I’m not sure if this situation is the responsibility of Dave Fipp, Brad Holmes, or Dan Campbell, but all three are lucky this situation didn’t come back to bite the Lions Thursday night. For now, however, the most obvious finger to point is at the one who hasn’t earned the trust of making that kick.
Stock up: Aidan Hutchinson, DE
Stats: 4 tackles, 3 QB hits
Hutch didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, but he has firmly entrenched himself in the DPOY conversation after Thursday’s win. He was unstoppable and without a doubt the team MVP. He did it all in the face of, well, cheating:
NBC's Terry McAulay on Chiefs' RT Jawaan Taylor: "He's really not remotely close, and it's really putting the defensive end at a tremendous disadvantage when you can be that far back."— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) September 8, 2023
Taylor appeared well behind the LOS and appeared to start early throughout the game. pic.twitter.com/2UrkTH8bTo
Hutch was a faster, better version of his 2022 self somehow. That’s a sight to behold. Considering how many times he was inches from sacking Mahomes, I anticipate big things from him the rest of the season.
Ben Johnson, OC: Johnson was firmly trending downwards until the fourth quarter of the game. The Chiefs loaded the box in run defense early and often, and Johnson seemingly forgot running the ball between the tackles was an option through the second and third quarters, even when the Chiefs were showing very undermanned boxes. He wisely went back to it in the fourth, and it’s the reason the Lions won.
Aaron Glenn, DC: Every level of the defense anchored this Lions team to a win, and for that Glenn deserves credit. However, the frequent miscommunications in the secondary are becoming a hallmark of his defenses no matter how much talent they have, and eventually the buck stops with Glenn. If the Lions didn’t finish the job Thursday night, we’d be talking very differently about the several mishaps in the secondary.
Jahmyr Gibbs, RB: We knew he was flashy and fast, but good lord can the man take a hit and keep running. Incredible balance and strength on display Thursday. He’s gonna be a problem.
Levi Onwuzurike, DT: Frankly, most people thought this guy would never play football again, myself included. He played a significant snap share Thursday night. It didn’t translate to anything in the box score, but getting through that healthy is a huge win for Levi after a long road back.
Jared Goff, QB: To say Goff was poised would be an understatement. He stood firm in the pocket and made several throws he wouldn’t have even looked at in 2021 or even 2022. Clean, well executed game from him, and glad to see him building on last season.
Josh Paschal, DT: Paschal, like Levi, has balanced high expectations with a barrage of injuries. He was back Thursday night and came up when it mattered most with a huge TFL in crunch time.
Jason Cabinda, FB: He’s back to doing what he does best. No need to ask your former linebacker to be a receiving back.
Jason Cabinda with a great fake and then absolutely SOLD in pass pro, you love to see it— Hamza Baccouche #BNL (@HamzaPOD) September 8, 2023