Detroit Lions Week 17 Report Card: Lions fall just short of beating Cowboys

The Detroit Lions went toe-to-toe with the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night, but fell just short in a controversial finish.

Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys
Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys / Cooper Neill/GettyImages
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Defense: 4/5 stars

The Cowboys had averaged 39.9 points at home this season going into Saturday night. So it’s very difficult to complain about the defensive performance, outside of one play. But on the whole, the defense did what they wanted to do. They stopped the run and made a couple of plays in the passing game to hold the Cowboys to a modest 20 points.

Things got a little shaky briefly in the second half, as the Cowboys put together a big touchdown drive to take the lead late. Aside from that though, the Lions' defense did a very good job and showed progress heading toward the playoffs. 

Defensive player of the game: DE Aidan Hutchinson

It’s been a while since Hutchinson had a truly dominant game. A performance where he clearly stands out and truly changes the game. Against the Cowboys on Saturday, he turned in a big-time performance, with three sacks and five tackles for loss.

Hutchinson has been among the league leaders in pressures and quarterback hits this season. Against the Cowboys he was able to convert those pressures into sacks. With the hat trick on Saturday night, he has matched his rookie season sack total with 9.5. The third sack came in a crucial moment, to give the Lions offense a chance to go down and win the game (before Goff threw a brutal interception).

Rookie report:

A tough day for Jahmyr Gibbs, but through no fault of his own. He was routinely met in the backfield, and he had absolutely no chance several times. When Gibbs did get blocks at the line of scrimmage, he was electric as usual. He’s the type of back that when you give him an inch he takes a mile. If the blocking goes back to the standard the offensive line set for itself, Gibbs will be just fine.

Jack Campbell had a pretty good game both in the run game and as a blitzer. He got a couple of hits on Dak Prescott, and he seems to thrive a lot more as a delayed blitzer compared to lining up on the edge.

Sam LaPorta started off very quiet but roared to life near the end of the game. He had a few pivotal catches on the final drive, and his work as a receiver pushed him further into the Lions’ record books.

However, he also had a brutal day as a run blocker, resulting in huge tackles for loss. Certainly some room to improve in that department for the rookie.

Brian Branch was very effective in coverage against the Cowboys. There were a few times he got beat, but they were on basically perfect throws. For 95 percent of this game, Branch was money in coverage. 

Needs improvement: Third and shorts on offense

Briefly mentioned earlier, but the Lions had some severe issues with running the ball on third and short. Between poor designs and poor execution, the Lions had too many negative plays on third downs in short-yardage situations. 

Play of the game: Jameson Williams 63-yard reception

On a day when explosive plays were difficult to come by for the Lions' offense, they needed something to spark them in the fourth quarter. On a second and long, Jared Goff dialed up one of his best throws as a Lion to the electric sophomore receiver out of Alabama.

The unfortunate part of this play is Williams was injured and did not return.

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5 former Detroit Lions draft picks who will not be on the team in 2024. 5 former Detroit Lions draft picks who will not be on the team in 2024. dark. Next