FIRST DOWN: HAND HANGING ON
Last week in the loss to Dallas, Lions defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand stripped quarterback Dak Prescott of the football late in the game, but wasn’t able to jump on the ball. Prescott picked it up, was able to throw it away, and eventually led the Cowboys down the field for a game-winning field goal.
Hand wasn’t going to let that happen two weeks in a row.
This week, when he stripped Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the ball in the second quarter, he was determined to jump on the football and hang on to it.
In fact, he was still hanging on to it in the locker room after the game.
“It’s glued to me,” Hand said.
It was the first fumble recovery of his professional career, and Hand was eager to go celebrate – ball tucked under his arm – with his father, mother and other family members, who were all in attendance.
The huge play by Hand led to a Marvin Jones Jr. touchdown and a 24-0 Lions lead in an eventual 31-23 victory.
Hand, who was ranked among the top interior defensive linemen in the NFL by Pro Football Focus coming into the game, has proven to be quite the playmaker and interior defender for the Lions early on in his rookie season.
SECOND DOWN: BLOUNT’S BIG DAY
Running back LeGarrette Blount was signed this offseason for a number of reasons. He’s a winner, he had familiarity with new head coach Matt Patricia, and the Lions wanted to add a power element to their run game.
Blount and the Lions showed off that power run game a few times Sunday. They converted a 3rd and 1 on their first offensive possession with Blount running behind fullback Nick Bellore and the Lions having an extra lineman in the game.
Blount capped off the drive with his first of two 1-yard touchdown runs from the same power formations.
In the fourth quarter, Blount converted a 3rd and 1 at the Green Bay 38-yard line that eventually led to a Lions touchdown.
“The short yardages are huge,” left tackle Taylor Decker said. “Given those situations, we have those plays dialed up during the week. It’s a running down. Execute. It’s been huge for us to convert those. It just extends the drive. It’s really huge. We got a couple of those midfield that flips field position, so hopefully we can continue to execute that.”
The Lions were last in the NFL converting those short 3rd & 1 and 4th & 1 runs last season. It’s an area that’s been much improved thanks to the additions upfront along the offensive line, along the edge at tight end and with Blount plowing his way forward.
“We want to play tough, downhill, hard-nosed football on this team in all three phases,” Blount said.
THIRD DOWN: GOLLADAY THE REAL DEAL
The Lions really liked wide receiver Kenny Golladay’s size, catch radius and playmaking ability when they drafted him in the third round out of Northern Illinois last year. Golladay showed flashes of brilliance last year, but he’s taken it to a whole new level in his second season.
He showed in one play Sunday his immense skill set.
Stafford threw up a 50-50 ball to Golladay, who out-jumped Green Bay cornerback Josh Jackson. Golladay was then able to keep his feet in-bounds and stiff-arm Pro Bowl safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix before finally being caught from behind at the 5-yard line for a 60-yard gain. The play led to a Blount touchdown.
Golladay finished with four receptions for 98 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown.
“He’s obviously a big kid, physical kid, can run, wants to be a really good player,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said of his second-year receiver. “Smart, has dialogue with me. All of our guys do, really, which is great. What they’re seeing out there, what they think we can do – so, I’m just happy for our team to get a win. Obviously happy for Kenny. He had a good one.”
For the year, Golladay has 27 catches for 428 yards and three touchdowns.
FOURTH DOWN: RED ZONE PERFECTION
In close games, the difference between field goals and touchdowns in the red zone is usually one of the deciding factors. The Lions scored as many touchdowns in the red zone Sunday vs. the Packers (four) as they had in their previous four games combined.
It’s been a struggle in the red zone for the Lions this season. They were just 4-of-12 scoring touchdowns in the red zone coming in, but were a perfect 4-for-4 against the Packers.
They got two rushing touchdowns from Blount, and two touchdown passes from Stafford to Golladay and Jones to cap off their red zone scoring drives.
Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said improving there was an emphasis this past week, so credit him and his players. He dialed up the right calls and the players executed.
“That’s the name of the game, right?” Patricia said after the game about the Lions being good in the red zone and in short-yardage situations Sunday. “We have to score points and we have to keep the drives going. It was great to see. Again, give credit to the guys on the field for the execution. Had some great scheme dialed up and they went out and communicated and executed.”