Another week, another convincing win for the Detroit Lions. That’s a weird statement to write but it’s been true lately. This marks three straight games in which the outcome never really felt in doubt.
This week’s victim was the Carolina Panthers, led by Bryce Young, the first overall pick in April's draft. The Panthers struggled to consistently move the ball offensively (and turned it over multiple times). On the other side of the ball, the Lions spread the ball around and had an effective ground game to make it hard for the Carolina defense.
Unlike last week, there was no third-quarter scare on Sunday. No threat of a comeback. Carolina racked up a couple of garbage time touchdowns to make the score more respectable, but don’t let that fool you. This game was not competitive.
Here's a look at the Week 5 report card for the Lions.
Detroit Lions Week 5 report card
Offense: 4/5 Stars
Without Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jahmyr Gibbs, there was a question of how the Lions' offense would operate effectively.
The run game was dominant, with both David Montgomery and Craig Reynolds finding plenty of room to run. Through the air, Jared Goff had a very impressive day and spread the ball around effectively to compensate for his top target being absent.
Jameson Williams also made his season debut this week. It wasn’t a game to remember for the second-year wideout out of Alabama, but the more snaps he gets early the quicker he can get up to speed. Expect his role to gradually increase.
Offensive player of the game: QB Jared Goff
As mentioned earlier, Goff had a very clean game. His poise and accuracy were excellent on Sunday as he led numerous scoring drives. He displayed some particularly impressive accuracy when throwing outside to Josh Reynolds. Goff had a couple of deep passes to Reynolds that stood out, including a picture-perfect back shoulder fade that Reynolds dropped. But that connection was clicking on Sunday.
Goff has been remarkable when playing in Ford Field. This week was another notch in that belt, as he led the Lions to yet another convincing win.
Defense: 4.5/5 stars
This was another strong game for the Lions’ defense. Not quite as strong as last week, but the defense has proven itself to be an all-around force.
One criticism, as seems to happen often, the Lions played in a soft zone too often in this game. Once the lead had been built up it was more understandable. But early in the game, the Panthers chewed up easy yards underneath because the flats were mostly uncovered.
That being said, the secondary has been very good over the last three games. There have been multiple instances a week of the secondary holding up long enough for the pass rush to get home. Even in this game in which the pass rush wasn’t as potent closing out sacks because of the Panthers' clear plan to get the ball out of Young's hands quickly.
Defensive player of the game: DE Aidan Hutchinson
Another week, another impressive game for the Lions’ star pass rusher. He notched another sack, and nearly had a second but he was held. That alone would be enough to make it a good game for Hutchinson.
Last season something that became a fun subplot was how Hutchinson could snag an interception (or three) because of his play recognition. The Panthers tried to run a screen at him on Sunday, and Hutchinson made an unbelievable play to generate an early takeaway.
This kid might be something special. That type of awareness and play recognition does not grow on trees.
Detroit didn’t have Jahmyr Gibbs or Brian Branch available in this game. As a result, the amount of rookies playing significant roles was limited.
Sam LaPorta continues to put together a really impressive start to his career. A couple more touchdowns this week stand out, but his work as a blocker continues to improve by the week.
Jack Campbell had a couple of rough moments on Sunday. Particularly in coverage, Campbell got burned a couple of times and drew a flag for illegal contact earlier in the game too. He’s been good against the run, but until he improves in coverage he won’t see regular snaps ahead of Derrick Barnes or Alex Anzalone.
Needs improvement: Dan Campbell’s coach challenges
Not something to write home about, but that marks two challenges in the last three weeks that have been very questionable. The one against the Falcons on a Tracy Walker dropped interception had no chance of being overturned. Against the Panthers, it seemed pretty obvious DJ Chark made the catch on a 3rd-and-15 play early in the game.
Not sure if Campbell is getting bad information from the video team upstairs. Perhaps he’s making emotionally charged decisions based on what he sees himself. Regardless, the challenge process needs improvement. One of these games losing a timeout to a bad challenge could be more consequential.
Play of the game: Sam LaPorta’s second touchdown reception
After making the score 21-7, and generating a third turnover against the Panthers’ offense, Detroit had a chance to put a choke hold on the game. What did Detroit do with this opportunity? Ben Johnson reached down into his bag of tricks.
This is such a fun play design. Not quite a flea flicker, it’s closer to a double reverse. Alas, it doesn’t matter what you want to call it, all that matters is the end result.
With the win the Lions are now 4-1, they have convincingly been the best team in the division so far. Even with injuries mounting, the Lions continue to put together impressive performances. Despite the good start though, the Lions need to keep their foot on the gas. Next week is a game against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that has been better than expected.