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    Detroit Lions Week 15 Report Card: The Playoff train keeps on a rollin’

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    The “Brand New” Detroit Lions keep finding ways to win close games. Going up against a great defense, the Lions' offense struggled to finish drives and put up points. With the strength of their team neutralized, the Lions' found other ways to win. Kalif Raymond added a huge punt return touchdown and the defense held up enough allowing the Lions to escape with a 3-point victory.

    They needed some help with a missed field goal and some poor time management, but on the road, against a good team, escaping with a victory is enough. Let's go position by position to see how each position group fared.

    Detroit Lions

    Detroit Lions Offense:

    Quarterback:

    After a tremendous stretch of play, Jared Goff returned to Earth against the talented Jets' defense. The Jets' coverage was good all game, especially on the outside. It clearly frustrated Goff at times as he was forced to check it down for most of the game. Goff did have one chance to make a big play, but he underthrew Jameson Williams on what should have been an easy touchdown.

    Despite that, Goff did show some growth in the victory. In the past, he would have tried to do too much and had a back-breaking mistake costing the Lions the game. While this game won't make any highlight reels, Goff deserves credit for taking care of the ball and giving the Lions a chance to pull off the win.
    Report card grade: B-

    Runningback:

    The Lions' running game continues to struggle on the win streak. Jamaal Williams was largely ineffective all game as he only picked up 33 yards on his 13 carries. Williams is great in goal-line and short-yardage situations, but between the 20s, he doesn't have the explosiveness to make big plays. His partner, D'Andre Swift, actually looked pretty good running the ball. He picked up 52 yards on a nice 6.5 yards per carry. Swift ran decisively and had some nice runs.

    However, Swift's day was far from perfect. There were still a few times when he danced too much instead of getting upfield, and his hands weren't great in the passing game. Even with those nitpicks, 75 yards on 13 touches is a solid day, and hopefully a sign of future things to come.
    Report card grade: B

    Wide Receivers:

    Going up against DJ Reed and Sauce Gardner, the Lions' receivers were facing the tall task of going up against one of the best duos in the NFL. Gardner and Reed lived up to their billing. All game, they were great nearly eliminating Josh Reynolds and DJ Chark. The two of them were almost completely blanked as their only reception was one Chark 18-yard catch.

    With the outsides shut down, Goff relied on his slot receivers. Amon-Ra St. Brown was his reliable self, getting open underneath for a solid 76 yards. Kalif Raymond also stepped up with the game plan. Raymond provided another reliable chain mover picking up 53 yards and some big first downs. This defense greatly tested the depth of the receiver room, and St Brown and Raymond were able to respond and pick up the slack.
    Report card grade B-

    Tight Ends:

    With the tight ends, one play is all that anyone is going to remember. On a 4th and inches with 2 minutes left, Brock Wright ran a perfect block and release that left him wide open on the left side of the field. After securing that catch, Wright made some nice moves and finished the play with the game-winning touchdown.

    A perfectly drawn-up play, and great execution by Wright to fool the defense and score. Outside of that, the tight ends combined for only 16 yards and three catches. The Lions don't need huge receiving numbers from their tight ends but for the most part, they did their job in the run game and made the play with the game on the line.
    Report card grade B

    Brock Wright and the Lions' offense celebrating after his game-winning touchdown

    Offensive Line: B-

    Another really good day for the offensive line protecting Jared Goff. Dropping back 38 times, the Lions gave up zero sacks, and Goff often had all day to throw the ball. The Jets were without Quinnen Williams, but it is still impressive to blank a talented front four. The run game was not quite as successful. The Lions just have not been as consistent in churning out yards, and the offensive line deserves some of the blame for that.

    The biggest issue on Sunday was the holding penalties. The Lions had far too many holding penalties with several of them happening on pivotal plays. One of them returned a Jamaal Williams touchdown and another prevented a third-down conversion before the missed FG. If they reduce the penalties, the offensive line should continue to be a force and a catalyst for the passing game.
    Report card grade: B-
    OFFENSE OVERALL GRADE: B-

    Detroit Lions Defense: B+

    Defensive Line:

    Brad Holmes has made several investments in the defensive line, and it has been paying off. The defensive line controlled this game and set up the rest of the defense. Against the run, Aidan Hutchinson, Alim McNeill, and Isaiah Buggs shined, shutting down the Jets' rush attack. They completely shut down the rush attack only giving up 50 yards on 22 carries (2.3 YPC).

    Once the Jets were forced to pass, the defensive line did a good job generating pressure. They got to Zach Wilson four times and pressured him consistently. Romeo Okwara showed no ill effects from his Achilles injury as he was effective in just his second game back with two sacks. On top of that, rookie sensation, James Houston, continued his tear with his fifth sack in four games. The defensive line has been really good and if Okwara returns to form, it could become a great unit.
    Report card grade: A

    James Houston getting his fifth sack of the season in only four games

    Linebackers:

    The linebackers also deserve their share of credit for shutting down the run game. Alex Anzalone and Malcolm Rodriguez were clearly focused on shutting down the run, and it worked. On the day, the Jets' longest rush was only six yards. The linebackers were able to focus so heavily on the run as the Jets' tight ends aren't a huge part of their passing attack. That being said, the ‘backers did a good job against the run and weren't picked on in the passing game.
    Report card grade: A-

    Secondary:

    Sunday was not a very fun day for the Lions' secondary. Going against a bad quarterback, the DBs should've been licking their chops for a chance to boost their interception numbers. Outside of a Jerry Jacobs interception, this group struggled against a bad passing attack. By the end of the game, Wilson had 317 passing yards and two touchdowns on 35 attempts.

    They gave up too many plays on poorly thrown passes where they just failed to make plays on the ball. Jeff Okudah did not have his best game as he gave up a bomb to Jeff Smith and struggled against Garrett Wilson. Additionally, Kerby Joseph had some rookie struggles. He was a step late on both of CJ Uzomah's touchdowns. On the first, it was a great throw by Wilson, but Joseph needs to at least make the tackle to limit the damage. The secondary is still young and improving, but they need to be better against bad offenses.
    Report card grade: C

    Jerry Jacobs grabbing his first interception of the season off Zach Wilson

    Special Teams:

    Kalif Raymond has been one of the best punt returners in the league this season. He is currently third in the NFL in punt return average and on Sunday, he added a 47-yard touchdown to kick off the scoring. He doesn't deserve all the credit as it was blocked perfectly. Raymond should give love specifically to James Houston who had a great pancake allowing Raymond to walk in untouched.

    In the kicking game, it was just an okay day. Jack Fox was pretty solid all game, but he did have one touchback when the Lions had a chance to pin the Jets deep. Michael Badgley did have another miss as he came up just short on a 54-yarder. Badgley is incredibly reliable on short kicks, but he doesn't have the leg to consistently hit 50+ yarders. They don't get dinged too much as it was outside in the cold, but some room to improve kicking the ball.
    Report Card Grade: B+

    Kalif Raymond's punt return touchdown set up by James Houston's great block

    OVERALL DEFENSE & SPECIAL TEAMS GRADE: B+

    Coaching:

    This win was not pretty, but have to give the coaching staff credit for pulling out the tough victory. Ben Johnson was not at his best going up against Robert Salah's defense. It seemed he got too conservative and was not able to scheme receivers open in the 2nd and 3rd levels. But, Brock Wright's touchdown showed how good he is at setting up plays and using misdirection to create confusion and huge plays.

    Aaron Glenn and the defense continued their upward ascent. The defense has become a force stopping the run, and he did a great job knowing when to blitz. Going forward, he will likely need to give his secondary more help as they will struggle against better pass offenses.

    Dan Campell was the better game manager on the day, and it may have made the difference. The Lions went for it 3 times on fourth down, and all were definitely the right choice. Even at the goal line, which they did not get, worked out as the defense forced a three and out, and then, Raymond scored on the ensuing punt. The second one resulted in a much easier field goal, and the final one was the game-winning touchdown.

    The most debatable decision was kicking the 54-yard field goal on fourth and five. With the way the Jets' defense was playing, it makes sense to not go for it, but outdoors, it may have made more sense to try and pin them deep. But, even if they punted, it could have been a touchback, so there was really no perfect answer. In hindsight, I would have gone for it, but it is so close, it is hard to fault Campbell for his decision. On a day where Robert Salah's questionable time management may have cost his team over time, it is hard to fault any of Campbell's decisions.
    Overall Grade for Coaching: B+


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