Defense: 3.5/5 stars
This was a weird game to grade for the defense. Chicago held the ball for over 40 minutes, running the ball 46 times.
Yet, they Lions only allowed 338 yards on an astronomical 71 plays (4.7 yards per play), despite being on the field so much due to the four turnovers.
Adjusting for the circumstances, this was a pretty solid day for the defense and outside of the first drive of the game (10 plays, 75 yards) they were mostly very good.
Defensive player of the game: DB Brian Branch
It’s been a few weeks since Branch has been as impactful as he was against the Bears. Branch was an absolute force all over the field, breaking up passes and stepping up for multiple tackles for loss in the run game.
He did draw a couple penalties in crucial situations, though one of them was very questionable. On the whole, Branch was one of the only defenders who consistently played well on Sunday.
Leaving aside Branch, let's move to the rest of the rookies.
Jahmyr Gibbs had another good day. He didn’t have as much success on the ground as he has had (eight rushes for 36 yards) but he added six catches for 59 yards to get to 95 total yards along with a rushing touchdown.
It’s time to start having an uncomfortable conversation about Jack Campbell. None of the linebackers had a good game on Sunday, and Campbell was the one who stuck out the most for the wrong reasons. Campbell really struggled in space against Justin Fields on multiple occasions, and he had multiple missed tackles on receivers after allowing a catch. He still has moments that remind you why he was drafted in the first round, but he needs to start stringing them together more frequently. Right now it’s difficult to justify giving him a bigger workload, especially when the other linebackers have been playing noticeably better.
Sam LaPorta had a quiet game, which has been very rare this season. Three receptions match his season low, and 18 yards is by far the lowest total he’s had. LaPorta has proven to be a key part of the offense, he just wasn’t one of the key contributors this week.
Colby Sorsdal started in place of the injured Jonah Jackson at left guard on Sunday. Overall the results were pretty good. He had an early holding penalty on a run play when he was surprised by the defender taking a quick step inside, but aside from that he held up pretty well. He’s a better run blocker than pass blocker at this point, but he’s grown enough to where he is the guy the coaching staff turns to when there’s an injury at either guard spot.
Needs improvement: Turnovers
You are not going to find much success when you turn the ball over four times. You rarely win games when you have as many mistakes as Detroit had on Sunday. It was a rare off-day for the offense and more specifically Jared Goff.
The level of sloppiness and lack of attention to detail is not something the Lions offense has been known for. It should be expected that this is a one-off, but regardless it is an issue that needs to be fixed.
Play of the game: Aidan Hutchinson’s game-winning strip-sack
Dan Campbell told his defense before the last drive, “It doesn’t get any better than this,” and it really doesn’t. 29 seconds to go, defending a lead, a stop seals the win. On the first play of the final drive, who else would you expect to close out the game?
A big-time play from the Lions’ best defender. It's also the second game-sealing strip sack he’s had this season.