SAME OLD BRAND NEW LIONS BABY, THE DETROIT LIONS HAVE WON A PLAYOFF GAME!
Here are your movers for the week:
Stock down: C.J. Gardner-Johnson, S
Stats: 7 tackles
For all the hype around Ceedy Duce’s return, he laid a dud against the Rams. All day, Gardner-Johnson seemed a step behind where he needed to be. On the play where Puka Nakua cooked Cam Sutton for a 50-yard touchdown, number two was nowhere to be found with over the top help until Nacua had made it about 40 yards downfield. When Gardner-Johnson did show up, he completely whiffed on the tackle and Nacua walked in for a touchdown. But that wasn’t all. On the next drive, he got tagged with a holding penalty to hand the Rams a first down.
To Gardner-Johnson’s credit, he had a nice fourth-quarter PBU against Cooper Kupp to force a Rams field goal. On the day, though, he didn’t make a strong case to move past the safety rotation he didn’t want.
Stock neutral: Jahmyr Gibbs, RB
Stats: 8 rushes, 25 yards, 1 TD, 4 receptions, 43 yards
Gibbs started the game red-hot, and was hitting every hole to carve up the Rams defense. His first six touches on that day went for 31 rushing yards (including an 11-yard touchdown run) and 43 receiving yards.
Somewhere around the two-minute warning, however, Gibbs hit a wall. The rookie started running more east and west than he did north and south. The rest of his five carries through the end of the third quarter gained a total of just four net yards. The biggest mistake, though, was when Gibbs ran out of bounds inside of the two-minute warning of the first half. That left an extra forty seconds on the clock when the Rams would eventually get the ball back. Fortunately, it didn’t come back to hurt the Lions, but after a hot start, the Lions missed Gibbs down the stretch.
Stock up: Michael Badgley, K
Stats: 1/1 FG, 3/3 PAT
Badgley’s story this season has been an incredible one. After doing all the team asked of him in 2022, the Lions let him go in favor of trading for their ex in Riley Patterson. The grass wasn’t greener, though, and it became evident early in the season that the Lions didn’t trust Patterson to kick in games.
About midway through the season, Badgley was brought back to the Lions practice squad. We would eventually learn that he won a five-week long in-season kicking competition that ended with Patterson and the Lions parting ways.
Now, on the biggest stage that the Detroit Lions have had in decades, Badgley trotted out for a 54-yard field goal, the Lions’ longest of the season, and left no doubt. What a redemption story for the Money Badger.
Stock up: Jared Goff, QB
Stats: 22/27, 277 yards, 1 TD
On the biggest stage of the season, Goff also came to play. He and the Lions offense started out red-hot, with Goff hitting all of his passes on the opening touchdown drive. Goff played one of his most complete games from start to finish, connecting with all sorts of receivers Sunday night. He started with several shots to his fellow ex-Ram Josh Reynolds, pivoted to feeding Jahmyr Gibbs, got bionic Sam LaPorta involved, and of course, eventually turned to Amon-Ra St. Brown.
His most impressive play was converting a 3rd-and-15 well beyond the sticks down the sideline to St. Brown. I’ve poured on Goff all season and said he couldn’t make that throw, but on the biggest stage, he proved me wrong.
Of course, I’d be remiss not to mention Goff’s boneheaded pass attempt-turned-fumble. Take that out of the equation, though, and it was about as close to a perfect game as you can get for Goff.
UPDATE: Dan Campbell agrees.
Oh, and he got to stick it to the coach who let him go and end Sean McVay’s season. What a night for Goff.
Stock neutral: Cam Sutton, CB
Stats: 2 tackles, 1 pass defended
In the Week 16 Stock Report, I wrote something about the circle of life for Detroit Lions cornerbacks:
The Detroit Lions have a clear circle of life when it comes to their cornerbacks. It goes something like this: (1) show up with low expectations -> (2) outperform expectations against a WR2/WR3 -> (3) get thrown in as CB1 due to injury or lack of CB1 -> (4) get torched -> back to step one.
Sutton has been firmly entrenched in step four for a few weeks now, and it showed on Sunday. In the games against the Vikings in December, Sutton was caught flat-footed several times. That struck again Sunday, when Puka Nacua ran right by Sutton en route to a 50-yard touchdown. The back half of the season has been a long one for Sutton, and it has become painfully clear he is not the answer at CB1.
Sutton did get away with an arguable no-PI call on the Rams’ last drive to stop the Los Angeles offense and give Detroit the ball back to seal the deal. Another week ahead means another ride on the Cam Sutton rollercoaster.
Stock up: Penei Sewell, OT
Just days after being named a first-team All-Pro, Penei Sewell earned his keep. It was the rematch we’ve wanted since Sewell went head-to-head against Aaron Donald in Sewell’s rookie year, and it did not disappoint. On the Lions’ first drive of the game, Sewell led the Lions offensive line in manhandling the Rams defense en route to an emphatic touchdown. The rest of the game, the Lions offensive line didn’t look back. It was nothing new for Sewell, but a reminder of why he earned his All-Pro nod in the biggest moments.
Jake McQuaide, LS: McQuaide, similar to Badgley, was let go by the team, but came back midseason and has held his own since. He’s also another former Ram who was able to get a very meaningful win against his former team.
Josh Reynolds, WR: The list of former Rams continues, and could go on all night. However, Reynolds was especially good tonight, in one of his signature games as Goff’s favorite target early on.
Kerby Joseph, S: Joseph’s biggest play Sunday night was drawing a personal foul penalty for yanking a Rams player off of a pile. It was a boneheaded play that you simply can’t have in a game as big as this one. He also had a bad missed tackle midway through the fourth that handed the Puka Nacua another 15 yards or so after the catch.