Sunday’s glorious 41-10 triumph over the Chicago Bears was one of the best Detroit Lions performances in a very long time. The dominance on the scoreboard had quite a bit of statistical and analytical basis, too.
Already the highest-graded game of the year by Pro Football Focus, the Lions also thrived in some key metrics in NFL Next Gen Stats. The weekly newsletter from Zebra Technologies, the good people behind Next Gen Stats, revealed more layers to the Lions’ big afternoon in Week 17.
The running backs were great
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Both Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift had been in relative slumps entering Week 17. They busted out of those doldrums with huge individual performances against the Bears. The Lions ran for 265 yards, nearly matching the total from the prior three games combined.
Next Gen Stats broke it down a little more in-depth:
The Lions leaned on their rushing attack in their 41-10 victory over the Bears, setting season-highs in carries (39), yards (265) & RYOE (+98). Jamaal Williams led the backfield with a career-high and Week 17 leading 144 rushing yards. Williams’ +65 RYOE was good for 2nd most this week. D’Andre Swift operated in more of a complimentary role, taking 11 carries for 78 yards and finishing the game with +19 RYOE (9th most). Both RBs scored a TD.
One other tidbit from the Next Gen folks: Swift did not once run against a stacked box (eight or more defenders). Williams faced a stacked box four times and gained more yards than expected on three of those four carries.
Jared Goff's completions
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Goff had a strong game statistically, and he savvily avoided mistakes. That continues the trend of protecting the ball well, something Goff has done exceptionally well in the last eight weeks.
There was still room for even more, however. From Next Gen:
Jared Goff found things fairly simple against a struggling Bears defense, completing 21 of 29 attempts for 255 yards and 3 TDs en route to securing the highest passer rating of the week – 133.5. Surprisingly, Goff’s day could’ve been even better as he finished the day with a -3.7% completion percentage below expectation.
That makes the third week in a row where Goff has finished with a negative completion percentage below expectation (CPOE). Goff’s CPOE of -2.6 ranks 28th amongst 39 quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts.
Aidan Hutchinson's speed
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The rookie defensive end picked off Justin Fields just before halftime. It was a very strange defensive scheme, one that worked in part because of Hutchinon’s freakish athletic ability.
The Lions did not send a single pass rusher on Aidan Hutchinson’s interception to close out the 1st half against the Bears. Hutchinson closed the gap between him and targeted receiver Byron Pringle from 11.0 yards when the pass was released to 1.7 yards when it arrived.
For a pass that went 10 yards down the field, that’s some serious closing burst by a 270-pound defensive lineman playing in space.