After the carnival that was the Detroit Lions’ Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, they were in need of a more relaxed game. A game where they can get back to basics, play their style of football, and grind out a win.
On Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, that’s exactly what happened. The Lions rode a stellar defensive performance to a relatively stress-free 20-6 win. No matter what the Falcons tried, they could not sustain drives or generate much of anything.
The Lions have some things to work on, especially offensively. But this was about as good of a bounce back as you could have asked for.
Offense: 3/5 Stars
This was a bit of a weird game for the Lions' offense. On the one hand, they moved the ball with consistency, controlled the clock and delivered points when needed.
However, there were blocking issues, too many third-and-longs and drives that ended in field goals instead of touchdowns. Not to mention Jared Goff randomly missed some routine throws in the third quarter, resulting in a couple of punts and a brutal interception. There were numerous plays left on the field.
So at the end of the day, it was a fine game by the Lions’ standards. But it is nowhere near the level they can be at.
Offensive player of the game: TE Sam LaPorta
LaPorta has stepped in and immediately been a big contributor to this offense. He’s had at least five receptions in each of his first three games (which happens to be an NFL record), and against the Falcons he had the best game of his young career.
Eight receptions for 84 yards. Including his first career touchdown after he broke wide-open downfield.
The blocking aspect of his game has been more hit and miss, but his work as a receiver has been nice so far.
Defense: 5/5 Stars
What a difference a week makes. After last week's overtime loss to the Seahawks, a lot of people had questions about the defensive side of the ball. It sure seems like the Lions heard all the noise and used it as fuel this week.
The Falcons came into this game averaging 170 yards on the ground, and 24 points per game. Detroit’s defense held them to 44 rushing yards, 183 total net yards and just six points.
The Lions pass rush woes? It sure didn’t look like an issue on Sunday. Detroit amassed seven sacks, including two from Aidan Hutchinson to help close out the game. They converted pressure into sacks at an incredible rate. Any time you have more sacks than points allowed, it's been a good game.
Defensive player of the game: DB Brian Branch
Another big day from a Lions' rookie. Branch might already be the best defensive back on the roster in man coverage. He routinely was matched up against Kyle Pitts and Drake London, two players who have massive size advantages, and Branch made plays against both. He had a couple of very acrobatic pass breakups in man coverage.
He also was a force against the run, tallying multiple tackles for loss. Branch was all over the place in this game. This was not just a Defensive Rookie of the year type of game, this was a Pro Bowl-level type of game from the rookie out of Alabama.
Already talked about LaPorta and Branch earlier, but it was a really strong day for the rookies.
It was a very, VERY slow start for Jahmyr Gibbs. Throughout the entirety of the first three quarters, the run blocking was not helping him at all. He was being met at the line of scrimmage with regularity. In the fourth quarter though, Gibbs started to break through. He had a couple of big runs that boosted his final stat line, showcasing his burst and explosiveness. It wasn’t a dominant game, but the flashes were there from Gibbs. And he happened to outplay fellow rookie Bijan Robinson.
Jack Campbell didn’t have the most impactful game, but he continues to be deployed all over the defensive front. He’s still being eased in, which is made easier with the strong play of Derrick Barnes and Alex Anzalone, but Campbell is still getting meaningful snaps. As a bonus, Campbell managed to get his first career sack in this game, cleaning up after the pocket collapsed on Desmond Ridder on the final play of the first half.
Colby Sorsdal saw his first few offensive snaps in this game. Let’s just say there’s work to do. The Falcons immediately started targeting Sorsdal as soon as he entered the game, and it led to immediate success. Falcons edge rusher Bud Dupree especially had his way with Sorsdal. On one snap in particular, Dupree torched Sorsdal and laid a massive hit on Jared Goff. Here’s hoping Taylor Decker returns soon because Sorsdal needs some more time to develop before he’s ready for regular action.
Needs improvement: Run blocking
It was a weird bad game for the Lions' offensive line. The pass protection was really shaky at times, and the run blocking was downright awful at times. Grady Jarrett and Calais Campbell made life miserable for the Lions interior linemen, resulting in numerous runs being stopped at or near the line of scrimmage.
Hopefully, this is just a blip on the radar against a formidable defensive front. But it was very odd to see the Lions offensive line, the best position group on the roster, get outplayed most of the game.
Play of the game: Aidan Hutchinson’s strip-sack to seal the win
This game didn’t have a ton of splash plays. LaPorta had a big touchdown, but Hutchinson’s second sack of the day gets the nod. On the game's final drive, the Falcons were in desperation mode. Detroit just needed one last stop to clinch the game. Needing a big play, the Lions' best defender stepped up and delivered a game-winner.
It was nice to see Hutchinson convert on a few pressures this week. Especially considering he was tied for the league lead in pressures through two weeks, yet hadn’t registered a sack. Now he has two on the year and notched his first career strip sack.
It’ll be a quick turnaround for the Lions this week, as they gear up for a Thursday night showdown in Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. Both teams will enter Thursday night 2-1, the winner takes the lead in the NFC North. Buckle up folks, that’s going to be a fun one.