Defense: 4.5/5 stars
The Lions' defensive performance should silence the critics for at least a week. A first-half shutout then only 10 points allowed before a garbage time touchdown in the waning moments of the game.
Much like on the offensive side of the ball, Detroit's defense owned the trenches. The Broncos' run game was completely shut down, forcing them into a lot of third and long situations. The pass rush pressure was good, taking pressure off what had been a struggling secondary.
A lot of credit goes to the players, but Aaron Glenn also deserves his flowers. He dialed up all sorts of creative blitzes and unique looks to disguise pressure. It was reminiscent of the 2021 season, in which Glenn had to be creative due to a lack of talent. When he gets creative with talent at his disposal, it has the potential to be pretty exciting to watch.
Defensive player of the game: S Ifeatu Melifonwu
In Week 14 it was a surprise when Melifonwu started in place of Tracy Walker. Now, it now seems as though that change didn’t happen soon enough. Melifonwu has looked good in spurts, but his NFL career has been marred by injuries. As a result, there has never been an extended stretch where he could prove he deserved a bigger role. He was simply spectacular against the Broncos (nine total tackles, a sack, two pass breakups).
He has all the physical tools and natural talent to be successful. Saturday night showed that he’s also capable of putting it all together for a full game.
Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta were unbelievable against the Broncos, combining for five touchdowns. Gibbs had his second career 100-yard rushing game, and LaPorta grabbed another five receptions and scored a hat trick of touchdowns. Both of them are having incredible rookie seasons, and LaPorta especially is exceeding even the most optimistic expectations.
Jack Campbell wasn’t as noticeable as he has been in the last month. He got in on a few run stops, including stuffing a quarterback sneak on a third and short. Aside from that though he wasn’t very noticeable. Considering the up-and-down nature of his rookie season, maybe that’s a good thing.
Brian Branch got more work this week as a blitzer. There were multiple nickel blitzes where he was able to lay a big hit on Russell Wilson and disrupt a pass. He also made a few nice plays in coverage as fans have grown accustomed to by now. Add another solid game to the stack as Branch builds an impressive rookie campaign.
Needs improvement: Nothing
Detroit put together one of, if not their most complete performance of the season. Against a pretty good Denver team no less. They even played well in the third quarter. So for this week at least, nothing major needs to be improved.
Play of the game: Ifeatu Melifonwu’s strip-sack
It's difficult to pick a single play of the game because there were so many highlights. But Melifonwu's strip-sack of Wilson gets the nod.
After the game, Melifonwu said he was screaming at Isaiah Buggs to hand him the ball. If he had, then Melifonwu might have scored on the play. Alas, it was "merely a splash play for the defense, as they warded off the strong opening drive of the Broncosand rode that momentum to a first-half shutout.