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The Lions Roar: What We Learned from Detroit’s Victory over Kansas City in the 2023 NFL Kickoff Game

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From the moment Dan Campbell called the fake punt inside their own 20-yard line, it was clear that the Lions were ready to go toe-to-toe with the defending champs. The gutsy move paid off with an eight minute, 14-play, 91-yard drive that resulted in a 7-0 lead and stunned Arrowhead Stadium into silence. The Lions now have an identity as a team that is not afraid to take risks, and that faith is rooted in their improved defense. Going for it on fourth down, even when it didn’t pan out, was a testament to the team’s newfound confidence. The defense came through in the end, stopping Patrick Mahomes late and giving Detroit their biggest win in recent memory. The Lions’ courage and resilience has made them must-see TV, and they’ll carry a chip on their shoulder for the rest of the season.

Without Travis Kelce (knee), Patrick Mahomes’ first seven passes were distributed to seven different receivers in an effort to make up for the void. However, Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore struggled to make an impact and each had a forgettable night. Moore had no catches on three targets, while Toney had one catch for one yard on five targets. Toney made a few costly mistakes, beginning with a drop that resulted in a game-changing Brian Branch pick-six and not turning around to tackle him. He also had a third-down drop and a loss on a run play, as well as a drop in the final two minutes of the game. This was not the start either receiver had hoped for in the season opener.

The Chiefs’ defense put in a valiant effort without their All-Pro defensive lineman, Chris Jones, who is holding out for a new contract. George Karlaftis, Michael Danna, and Felix Anudike-Uzomah managed to create pressure up front and the front seven did an excellent job of shutting down run lanes until late in the game. The coverage on the back end was solid as well, with Trent McDuffie having a great night, before Jared Goff connected on a few late pass plays. Despite the loss, Jones may have a better argument for being paid now due to the defense’s impressive performance, which limited the Lions offense to only 14 points.

If you were GM Brad Holmes, you’d likely be pleased with the draft class the Lions put together this year. Despite a few critics of the team’s approach to taking Jahmyr Gibbs and Jack Campbell with their first two picks (both lower-priority-position players), both contributed to the Lions’ 21-20 victory. Brian Branch, the team’s second-round pick, made the big play of the game with his 50-yard INT TD, which savvy Lions fans had seen coming since the preseason. Sam LaPorta also had five catches and threw a key block on David Montgomery’s game-winning TD run. Lastly, Gibbs had a few flashes during the game, including an 18-yard run late in the fourth quarter, breaking two Chiefs tackles. The Lions had four picks and four instant contributors – now that’s draft impact!

Aidan Hutchinson was a notable force in the Lions’ defense, which showed great toughness and intensity against the Chiefs. The Lions have made significant improvements to their defense during the offseason, and the early results are extremely promising. Despite a few mistakes, the Lions’ defense was able to keep up with the Chiefs, with Hutchinson leading the charge. He had a successful matchup with Chiefs right tackle Jawaan Taylor, and he also had success while facing right guard Trey Smith. Hutchinson caused Mahomes a lot of trouble throughout the game, and even though there were some issues in coverage, the Lions managed to tip five of Mahomes’ passes and force 18 incompletions. The Lions’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn did a fantastic job, as he opted for a zone-heavy scheme instead of his usual high-pressure style. The Lions’ defense excelled, aside from a brief flurry by the Chiefs before halftime, making them a formidable opponent.

The Lions’ Brian Branch reached a top speed of 20.74 mph on his game-tying 50-yard interception return in the third quarter. Only three NFL defenders reached faster speeds on defensive scoring plays in all of the 2022 season.

Brian Branch of the Lions achieved a remarkable 20.74 mph on his 50-yard interception return in the third quarter, tying the game. This was one of the fastest speeds reached by any NFL defender on a defensive scoring play throughout the entire 2022 season.

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