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Detroit Lions report card: Jahmyr Gibbs, Aaron Glenn get high marks vs. Bucs

Handing out positional and coaching grades for the Detroit Lions’ Divisional Round victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Detroit Lions Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions are moving on to the NFC Championship game, and it took a full team effort against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to get there. The Lions offense exploded in the second half, thanks in large part to rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs, while the defense created several disruptive plays and got off the field six times.

Let’s take a closer look at Detroit’s divisional round win with our weekly report card.

Quarterback: A

For the third straight game in a row, Jared Goff played turnover-free football on Sunday. It was a bit of a slow start for Goff and the offense—completing just 6-of-10 passes for only 34 yards in the first quarter. However, the rest of the way, Goff was fantastic. In quarters 2-4, Goff completed 22-of-33 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns for a 114.5 passer rating in those quarters. But nowhere was he better than in Detroit’s 14-point fourth quarter. In fact, he nearly set a NFL playoff record for his performance in that final frame:

No pass was better than the game-winning touchdown to Amon-Ra St. Brown. Let’s watch it again:

Running backs: A-

Sunday night was a tough night for the analytics draft crowd (points to self). Jahmyr Gibbs was absolutely electric against the Buccaneers, finishing with 114 scrimmage yards and this phenomenal touchdown run:

Oh, and don’t think I forgot about Gibbs’ ridiculous blitz pickup earlier in the game.

It wasn’t all sunshines and rainbows for the backs, as Detroit only had 39 yards on 12 rushes in the first half of the game. But it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish, and Gibbs finished as one of the stars of the game.

Tight ends: A

Sam LaPorta led every player on the field with nine receptions, even though they only went for a total of 65 yards. It was Brock Wright who had arguably the biggest play of the day for the Lions offense, a near carbon-copy of his game-winning catch against the New York Jets in 2022.

Unfortunately, Wright ended up breaking his forearm in this game, meaning the Lions will almost certainly have to go tight end shopping this week, but this was a strong performance from the guys they had.

Wide receivers: B

Amon-Ra St. Brown had an uncharacteristic and costly drop, and at times, it felt like the Lions were creating a ton of separation, but it’s pretty hard to complain about anything else.

St. Brown: 8 catches, 77 yards, 1 TD
Jameson Williams: 2 catches, 35 yards
Josh Reynolds: 2 catches, 27 yards, 1 TD

A modest, but strong day from the receivers.

Offensive line: B

Pass protection was fantastic against a heavy-blitzing Bucs defense. Here’s the proof:

That said, the loss of Jonah Jackson proved to be pretty costly, as his replacement, Kayode Awosika was credited with a team-high seven pressures, per NextGenStats.

Run blocking was inconsistent against the Bucs, but came up big when they needed to.

Defensive line: C-

The Lions still struggle to generate any sort of pressure without sending extra players, and this wasn’t exactly the defensive front’s best game against the run (89 yards, 5.9 YPC for Bucs). However, Aidan Hutchinson’s ridiculous sack streak continues (8.0 sacks in four games) and he added an additional two quarterback hits, John Cominsky tallied a pass breakup, and Tyson Alualu even got a QB hit.

This group still needs a James Houston-like bump.

Linebackers: B+

Derrick Barnes’ game-sealing interception bumps this group’s overall grade up a full letter. It was a huge play and absolutely textbook coverage from the third-year linebacker. Jalen Reeves-Maybin also continues to make plays in limited defensive playing time, tallying a half-sack against the Bucs. And Alex Anzalone continues to be the heartbeat of the defense, finishing with six tackles.

Defensive backs: C+

Cameron Sutton had another tough game, as Detroit gave up another 350+ passing yards. Detroit was particularly poor at the end of each half, giving the Bucs far too many chunk plays to keep them in the game.

That said, the Lions secondary, again, came up with some of the biggest plays of the game. Brian Branch led the team with nine tackles, including a sack and another tackle for loss. Ifeatu Melifonwu also had nine tackles, with 1.5 sacks. C.J. Gardner-Johnson had an interception, while Sutton and Kerby Joseph each tallied a pass breakup.

Overall, the good plays outweighed the bad.

Special teams: B

The Lions made all their kicks, didn’t give up a single return yard in the punt or kick game, and Jack Fox was great again—pinning the Bucs inside their own 20-yard line on three of five punts.

Coach: A-

The bad: Detroit’s poor management at the end of the first half cost them big. With 1:40 left, they were up 7, at midfield with the ball facing a third-and-1. Instead of running it, the Lions opted to pass, Goff was sacked, and 90 seconds later it was a tie game.

Detroit also missed an opportunity to challenge a play that could have saved them from the Bucs scoring a touchdown. Baker Mayfield was clearly down on this second-down scramble, but it was ruled incomplete.

The very next play, Mayfield threw a touchdown pass.

But aside from that, I thought this was a phenomenal day from the coaching staff. Yet again, the Lions went for it on a fourth-and-goal situation, and again, it paid off huge. Their red zone play calling was also good enough to convert on three-of-four opportunities against one of the best red zone defenses in football.

But more than anything, I thought this was a brilliant day from Aaron Glenn. Nearly every single blitz he called resulted in a free rusher. Detroit tallied four sacks, eight quarterback hits, and a handful of rushed, inaccurate passes from Mayfield. Now, the Bucs were able to use his aggressiveness against Glenn on a screen pass touchdown, but Glenn’s game plan resulted in four punts and two interceptions, which was more than enough for the Lions offense to take it from there.

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