Detroit Lions Week 1 Report Cards: Lions deliver a stunner in Kansas City, taking down Chiefs 21-20

The Detroit Lions walked into Arrowhead Stadium, and walked out with a win over the defending champion the Chiefs in the season opener.
Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs
Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages
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Brian Branch, Detroit Lions

Rookie Report

To no surprise, Jahmyr Gibbs, Jack Campbell, Sam LaPorta and Brian Branch had prominent roles in their first NFL games and all did well.

Starting with Gibbs, he didn’t quite have the usage that you would associate with a 12th overall pick or his fantasy owners wanted. He was relegated to the role D’Andre Swift held most of last season, as a change-of-pace back. Gibbs’ usage will surely grow as the season progresses, but he made the most of his nine touches against the Chiefs. His two receptions were nice. He had a few runs get clogged near the line of scrimmage, but he showed what can happen when he gets out in space.

Jack Campbell didn’t necessarily flash in the same way, but he was noticeable on special teams and made a few plays defensively. His best play of the night was undoubtedly a diving pass deflection just a few plays before Brian Branch's pick-six. Campbell also did a nice job plugging gaps and reading the play against the run.

LaPorta, in a similar vein to Campbell, didn't flash in the biggest ways. What he did do, however, was show consistency Detroit was looking for when they drafted him. He hauled in all five of his targets for 39 yards, and he made a crucial block on Montgomery's touchdown. LaPorta will have better receiving games this season, but the blocking is what will keep him atop the depth chart.

Finally, Brian Branch, the name that has gotten about as much hype as any Lions’ player since the start of training camp. He will be the one who makes the headlines due to a pick-six, but his impact was more profound than that. He was effective in coverage from the nickel corner spot, and he made an impact against the run as well. The noise has been building for weeks. Now Branch is a name the entire league knows.

Area for improvement: Pass-rush outside of Aidan Hutchinson

As mentioned earlier, Hutchinson was a disruptive force. Unfortunately, he was the only one making an impact as a pass-rusher. Alim McNeill was pretty invisible for most of the game, aside from one play where he was egregiously held but couldn’t get the call. Charles Harris played a lot but never really stood out much on the end opposite Hutchinson. John Cominsky and Josh Paschal contributed against the run but didn’t generate much when they kicked inside on passing downs. And James Houston, aside from where he fell and grabbed hold of Mahomes’ ankle, didn’t do much in his limited snaps.

Detroit went light on the defensive line in hopes of deploying their edge depth more. That goal was accomplished, but the result was too little pushback against the Chiefs' offensive line. Detroit’s secondary held up enough to keep Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense in check, but you can’t rely on them to do that every game with no passrush support.

Play of the Game: Brian Branch’s pick-six

Talk about an all-time “welcome to the NFL” moment for a rookie. A few minutes into the third quarter, the Lions were down 14-7. Kansas City had the ball, and the game could have quickly started to tilt in the Chiefs' favor. Fortunately, the Lions got a bounce, off the hands of Kadarius Toney, and right into the arms of second-round rookie Brian Branch.

Just like that, the game was tied, and Detroit got a much-needed spark.

Now the Lions are 1-0 and have extra days off to prepare for their home opener against the Seahawks. Ford Field will surely be rocking as Detroit chases a 2-0 start.

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