"I didn’t learn anything, I got verification of what I already knew." Those were Dan Campbell’s words moments after the Detroit Lions walked off the field at Arrowhead Stadium, having defeated the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs.
The entire offseason the Lions' hype train gained speed, so much so that they were awarded the opportunity to open the season against the Super Bowl champions on Thursday Night Football. It was the first game of the season, a chance to play against the best.
And the Lions began this season the way they ended the last: Walking into a hostile stadium and beating a favored home team with the whole world watching them in primetime.
Here are our Lions grades after an epic win.
Detroit Lions Grades: Week 1 vs. Chiefs
Offense - 2.5/5 Stars
With all the hype for the Lions' offense, it’s easy to forget just how much changed for this group. Both starting running backs were replaced, DJ Chark left, Marvin Jones Jr. was brought back, Sam LaPorta was brought in, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai returned from a season-long absence. There was, and still is, a lot of chemistry that needs to be developed.
In the first game of the season, the offense was okay. That’s about as high as the praise can go. There were large portions of the game where the offense was practically useless. On third downs, especially, it was painful to watch at times. The offense was letting the defense down in a major way.
Thankfully, they pulled it together when they needed to. The ground game found life in the fourth quarter, resulting in the go-ahead touchdown. Then, in the final two drives, the ground game led the way as Detroit grinded out the rest of the clock.
That being said, it still was not a good night offensively. There were moments, but they were too few and far between. There is a significant lack of explosiveness on the offense outside of Jahmyr Gibbs. The Lions need to find a way to create big plays.
Offensive Player of the Game: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown
Consistent as always, the Lions’ top target did what he does against the Chiefs. St. Brown finished with six receptions (on nine targets) for 71 yards and a score. Considering the Chiefs were giving him extra attention all night, especially on third downs, that’s a nice stat line.
Beyond that, the Lions were using St. Brown to create better looks for others as well. On one occasion, he lined up at fullback just to scare the defense into opening up to defend the outside zone, opening up the middle for David Montgomery. St. Brown’s impact goes beyond the stat sheet; he’s a player opposing defenses have to pay extra attention to.
Defense - 4/5 stars
Here is a list of the point totals the Chiefs have put up in Week 1 since Patrick Mahomes became their starter: 38, 40, 34, 33, 44. Against the Lions on Thursday night? 20. Yes, Travis Kelce missed this game, but that’s still a team with the best offensive mind calling plays and the best quarterback in the league. You have got to give the Lions props for that.
The run defense is a bit difficult to evaluate since the Chiefs aren’t exactly a good team on the ground. That being said, Detroit still did a good job there. Mahomes provided plenty of challenges as he routinely got outside the pocket and extended plays.
However, the Lions' defensive line was clearly not being instructed to contain Mahomes the same way they would with, say, Justin Fields. The defensive line pinned their ears back and just rushed. It didn’t work (more on that later), but don’t be too alarmed at the lack of containment because getting pressure was more important against Mahomes.
For any flaws the defense did have, they really clamped down in the second half. They allowed only six second-half points on two field goals. The Chiefs went 0-for-7 on third down in the second half.
Are there areas to improve? Absolutely. Did Detroit get bailed out by drops from Chiefs’ receivers? Definitely. However, it’s pretty hard to complain about that defensive effort--especially considering the opponent.
Defensive Player of the Game: DE Aidan Hutchinson
There has been a lot of buzz regarding how much better Hutchinson looked in training camp heading into his second season. After what he did against the Chiefs, he looks ready for a breakout campaign.
The get-off time is important. Against tackles that don’t line up as deep as Jawaan Taylor did (and against tackles that don’t false start every play), that quick first step will show up more prominently.
Lions fans should be very excited for what the Hutchinson can bring to this defense this season.