DOMINANT! Dominant is the eight letter word that can easily describe what the Detroit Lions offense did this past Sunday against the Washington Commanders. While I could just leave this article there and move on with my time, there is so much more than just a simple English word that can describe what went on at Ford Field this weekend.
Everything about this offensive unit was just right! All the moving variables and pieces were clicking and working at their finest. This was even despite the fact that there were elite athletes out due to varying injuries, including two excellent offensive lineman in center Frank Ragnow and guard Jonah Jackson. Alongside the two men in the trenches, elite running back D’Andre Swift was playing on an ankle injury, which limited his game action to only 31 game snaps (51% of total snaps) and seven touches.
However, these health conflicts did not deteriorate from any offensive success against the Commanders defense. Although, Swift believes his ankle issue did keep him from the endzone early in the game saying, “[I] wish I was 100 percent [because] I wouldn’t have been caught on the first one,” said Swift, in reference to his 50-yard rush in the first quarter. As mentioned earlier, Swift did only have seven touches, but was very efficient when called upon, totaling 87 scrimmage yards and adding a touchdown as well.
But how have Swift and even his backfield sidekick Jamaal Williams had success?
Well, it starts up front with the five men on the offensive line, as the Lions have really attacked the interior on the ground. Directly as the ball is snapped, the big bodies start blocking and smashing the opponent’s defensive front, creating those gaps for their backs. Swift and Williams have been especially good maneuvering their way through both the A and B gap. Besides the gaps, Swift and Williams also just have a nice combination of quickness, agility and power that allows them to get into space and create those big plays. When it comes to those big plays on the ground, the Lions currently rank first in 40-plus yard rushes with three so far in the first two games of the season. Pertaining to the team’s special opening performances, Swift stated, “it’s definitely different… you can feel that”.
How did the Lions have success through the air?
Once again, the offensive line could be mentioned for the time they gifted quarterback Jared Goff, but I believe offensive play caller Ben Johnson deserves a ton of credit. The fresh looks and creativity he has added to the play design has really rejuvenated this previously lackluster smashmouth style football team. From the reverse play to Amon-Ra St. Brown to the increased amounts of pre-snap motion and tight bunch sets, the Lions have displayed a new offensive game plan that has worked to perfection early on.
Along with the newly developed offensive system, the St. Brown show is real! This is a dude that is breaking records or at least putting his name in the books. This past weekend St. Brown led the team in both receiving yards (116) and rushing yards (68) and he looked like a lethal weapon! He was carving up the Washington secondary and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio could not do anything to counter him. The Lions schemed him up for success and he executed on it.
While St. Brown ties into Johnson’s creative masterplan, Goff also deserves a lot of credit. Goff finished with 256 passing yards, throwing for four touchdowns in a very productive and effective afternoon. The poise and presence in the pocket was nice, but given time in the pocket, Goff is a guy that can find the open man and command the huddle. Again, this is a guy that has been to the Super Bowl and has posted top ten fantasy numbers at the position! But besides that, Goff did a fantastic job at attacking the middle of the field, especially when it came in the form of a short or intermediate level pass (five to 20 yards). When passing in between the numbers, Goff was 16 for 22 with three touchdown passes in their win over the Commanders. Those numbers are beyond competent and add to the winning mantra that is starting to form in Detroit.
Obviously there are still concerns with this Lions offense, including tight end T.J. Hockenson’s lack of production so far, but based on Sunday’s dynamic, winning performance, there is a lot to be excited for in Detroit.