The Detroit Lions continued their stellar play with a big win over the 10-3 Minnesota Vikings. Despite the difference in records, the Detroit Lions were favored heading into the matchup and proved why with a 34-23 win. Once again, the offense looked dangerous, relying on numerous playmakers to score 30 again. The defense shut down the run game and got enough stops to limit the damage. Let's go position by position for the report card in the big win.
Detroit Lions Quarterback: A+
On Sunday morning, Ian Rappaport announced that the Detroit Lions view Jared Goff as a long-term starter. This week, Goff showed why many people in the organization believe in him. Despite a limited run game, Goff was masterful, carving up the defense and distributing the ball to his playmakers. Goff shined in the intermediate and deep passing game. He dropped an absolute dime to DJ Chark for a huge touchdown and made several other impressive throws on critical downs. A near-perfect game for Goff, as he has shown how good he can be. Report card grade A+.
The runningbacks failed to significantly impact the offensive show on Sunday. The biggest play of the day came from 3rd stringer Justin Jackson. Jackson made a great cut to the outside and used his speed to sneak into the endzone. Besides that, the run game was very quiet. D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams struggled as they picked up 3.5 and 2.3 yards per carry, respectively.
Jackson added a nice third-down conversion in the passing game, and Swift added a 15-yard grab, but they were quiet as receiving options. The running game was not a big part of the game plan, and it did not slow down the offense, but it would be nice to have better production out of this group. Report card grade C.
Wide Receiver: A+
With better health, the receiver group showed why it is one of the deepest groups in the league. Now that he is healthy, DJ Chark used his size and speed to be a deep threat and stretch the defense. Amon-Ra St Brown continued to do his thing as a reliable chain mover and threat with the ball in his hands. Josh Reynolds was open repeatedly in the intermediate area and added a great red zone touchdown.
They are a handful and can cover all parts of the field. That doesn't include first-rounder Jameson Williams, who burst onto the scene with a big touchdown. This group is already good, but they can be exceptional as Williams gets his feet under him. Report Card grade A+.
Tight Ends: B
Another quiet week for the tight ends on the receiving end for the Detroit Lions. Shane Zylstra was the only tight end on the box score with two catches for 18 yards, but that does not mean they did not have an impact. One of Zylstra's catches was a third-down conversion as the offense looked to work the clock away. James Mitchell drew two defenders freeing Williams for his long touchdown.
Brock Wright, the starter, had the biggest impact in the run game. Wright is a good blocker and showed it on Jackson's touchdown. Wright ended up pancaking three defenders, clearing the way for the run. With such a good receiver room, the tight ends don't need to do much in the passing game but must continue blocking well.
Offensive Line: A-
Penei Sewell is a national hero after he showed off his athleticism on a huge third-down conversion to ice the game. In addition to the great play, Sewell had another great game as he showed why he is already one of the best tackles in the league. He and Taylor Decker shut down pass-rushing duo Danielle Hunter and Za'Darius Smith to 0 sacks and essentially no impact.
The entire front did a great job protecting Goff, giving him plenty of time, and giving up no sacks. The Detroit Lions' struggled in the run game, and the offensive line deserves some blame, but the Vikings are much better against the run, so rightfully, the passing game was the focus. The offensive line did its job and continued to be the engine for the elite offense
Sewell running through everything in his wake on the Deuce block 🚌 pic.twitter.com/NpIWFsoQIc— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) December 12, 2022
Defensive Line: A-
This week was one of the better games for the defensive line on both ends. Isaiah Buggs and the defensive line were huge catalysts in stuffing Dalvin Cook to only 23 yards on 15 carries. Buggs was a monster eating up space in the run game and adding a game-changing forced fumble at the goal line. The rookies also chipped in for big plays. Aidan Hutchinson single-handedly ended a Vikings drive with a sack and then forced a throwaway.
He also added two tackles for loss as he shows his star potential week in and week out. Not to be outdone, James Houston made the most of his limited snaps with one sack and constant pressure on the quarterback. This is a good performance from this group, and they should keep improving as Romeo Okwara gets up to speed.
This Detroit Lions' group had a solid performance despite not having Derrick Barnes. Alex Anzalone and Malcolm Rodriguez were as solid as they come. Anzalone led the team with nine tackles and a pass deflection, while Rodriguez made five tackles and a great tackle for loss. Chris Board even stepped in with a nice pass deflection and solid play. Nothing spectacular out of this group, but they did their job.
This group did not have a fun Sunday. Justin Jefferson, arguably the best offensive player in the league, had a field day without Jeff Okudah for most of the game. Jefferson lit up the Lions for a career-high 223 yards on 11 catches as Cousins threw for 425 yards. It is not the desired result, but sometimes, you must tip your hat to a great player making great plays.
With Okudah, he could've limited the damage, but Mike Hughes and Amani Oruwariye were just overmatched. On the other side, Jerry Jacobs played pretty well, grabbing a sack and making a great play on a deep pass. Hopefully, Okudah will return to normal next week, and the secondary can bounce back.
Special Teams: A-
Once again, Michael Badgley fell victim to jinx as he missed a 47-yarder after the graphic showed he made twelve 40-yarders in a row. Outside of that, a great day for the special teams' units. Badgley hit his other two attempts, including a game-sealing 48-yarder. Jack Fox would not be outdone. After his week off, Fox crushed his punts with a 66-yarder that flipped field position. They weren't the only special teamers to make plays on the day.
Kalif Raymond showed value with two excellent punt returns, including a 35-yarder. His ability to consistently make the first guy miss and pick up an extra 10 yards is underrated and puts the offense in a great position. Finally, the game's biggest play was a 42-yard fake punt. The play was blocked to perfection, and CJ Moore used his speed to get the edge. It was a combination of a perfect play call and perfect execution for a huge play.
Ben Johnson continues to shoot up head coaching candidates as he called another great game for the Detroit Lions. With a struggling run game, Johnson schemed up several great plays to get receivers open. Johnson should receive a good chunk of the credit for Goff's success as he consistently puts him in a position to succeed. Aaron Glenn also deserves credit for the defensive turnaround.
The Detroit Lions' scheme shut down the run game and generated well-timed pressure with creative blitzes in the passing game. That allowed the Lions to limit the Vikings to only 23 points despite passing for 400+ yards. Dan Campbell also deserves some praise for his guts. Calling a fake punt at your own 27 is risky, no matter how confident you are in the play. Also, throwing to a tackle on 3rd down with the game on the line is as risky as it gets. Campbell's fearlessness carries over to the team and leads to the Detroit Lions' win.