That sound you may have heard around Detroit on Sunday afternoon was the sweet feeling of cathartic relief. Well, if you could hear that over the raucous Ford Field crowd cheering on the Lions to a resounding, 20-6 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Battling both the visiting Falcons and a virulent injury bug, the Lions showed real grit. It was a showing the team sorely needed after a discouraging loss a week earlier to the Seattle Seahawks. The fans needed it, too.
Here are some of the top takeaways from watching Detroit’s Week 3 win in real time.
The defense responded to the challenge
A week ago, the sky was falling on Aaron Glenn and his Lions defense. They were uncreative, unaggressive and ineffective in allowing over 400 yards and over 30 points in the overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Glenn’s defense was under fire to come up with a bigger, better game.
They delivered. The Lions held Atlanta to just 183 net yards and kept the Falcons out of the end zone. The results were outstanding, but the process behind the better results are the key.
Glenn diaaled up blitzes. He mixed up coverages and did a better job of disguising them pre-snap, knowing he could confuse young Falcons QB Desmond Ridder. The linemen appeared more empowered to run some games and take more chances in getting into the backfield, trusting that the LBs behind them would take care of the run.
Most importantly, the Lions dictated the adjustments to the Falcons offense, not vice versa. That harkens back to the defensive resurgence in the second half of 2022, when Glenn’s defense was (largely) proactive and effective. They don’t do read-and-react well and Glenn smartly changed it up. Just as Glenn deserves criticism for Week 2’s failings, give the DC credit for a great game plan in Week 3 that played to the strengths of his players.
Surviving the OL injuries
The rookies really stepped up
What a game for the rookie class!
The two second-round picks, TE Sam LaPorta and DB Brian Branch, were the primary catalysts on their respective sides of the ball. LaPorta caught eight passes for 84 yards and his first career touchdown. Branch led the Lions with 11 tackles and broke up three passes. But they weren’t alone in performing well as a rookie class.
Sorsdal survived his trial by fire in his first action. Not only was it his debut, but he’s also played guard almost exclusively since being drafted in the fifth round. I suspect his PFF score won’t be too high, but he battled and didn’t wilt in the moment.
Oh yeah, the first-round guys. Jahmyr Gibbs ran for 79 yards on 17 carries and broke several tackles along the way. He still hasn’t hit the home run, but he showed better vision and power through contact in his third game. Linebacker Jack Campbell racked up his first career sack amongst his five tackles.
–Amon-Ra St. Brown was questionable with a toe injury, but it didn’t look like it impacted him. St. Brown caught nine passes for 102 yards and also appeared to block very well. He did have a stunning drop. Don’t expect to see that again.
–Dan Campbell elected to punt instead of a risky potential 4th-down conversion early in the game. The prudent move was a smart decision even if it went against the typical grain for Campbell and his aggressive, analytically approved rolling of the dice on fourth downs.
–This will require film review, but it sure seemed like the secondary and LBs were a lot more coordinated in coverage. Didn’t really notice any blown coverages, not exploitable ones anyway.
–On that front, Tracy Walker looked very smooth in replacing Kerby Joseph. It was also Ifeatu Melifonwu’s best career game, on first blush.
–Tackling was much better overall than against Seattle. Still some cleaning up to do, but Branch, Alex Anzalone and Jerry Jacobs all did a better job.
–Loved the in-game adjustment by OC Ben Johnson to move Goff around more to help protect the walking-wounded OL.
–Goff’s TD run is one we saw in some practices over the summer, and the QB–not noted for his athleticism–frequently scored on it then, too.
–In general I thought Dan Campbell had a strong game as head coach, but his challenge of a potential INT by Walker was a brutal decision. In cases like that one, his players need to let him know not to throw the red flag. No harm, no foul, but next time it might hurt…
–The officiating wasn’t perfect (it never can be), but it didn’t seem like they had any unmerited impact on any of the outcomes. I don’t think Branch was guilty of his personal foul, but that was effectively garbage time and it’s understandable that an official would see a helmet flying off and react with a flag.