The Detroit Lions are really good. Head coach Dan Campbell has turned his team into a legitimate threat. One positive of the Lions that could be highlighted Sunday on the road as they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is that they take early leads.
Lions’ first-quarter dominance
Detroit leads the league in first-quarter points scored, while ranking third in first-half points scored. The Lions have outscored opponents 45-10 in first quarters and 89-37 in first halves this season. This includes games at Arrowhead and Lambeau. Why are the Lions so good early? Here are a few reasons why.
Quarterback Jared Goff is perhaps still not getting the recognition he deserves. He was one of the better quarterbacks last season, passing for over 4,400 yards with 29 touchdowns. He’s continued his strong play, ranking fourth in the league in yards per pass attempt and sixth in completion percentage. Goff may not be a flashy quarterback, but he is an efficient one.
To reduce Goff’s interception rate and increase his efficiency, he’s shortened his target depth, which has led to just three interceptions in his last 14 games and a 75% completion rate on short-to-medium passes.
Having a good quarterback certainly contributes to the Lions’ solid start in games. Running back David Montgomery is also a key cog in this offense, ranking ninth in yards after contact, and tight end Sam LaPorta, who has been hampered this week with a calf injury, is graded top 10 among tight ends by Pro Football Focus. A solid run game with Montgomery and elite offensive line play have opened up the passing game and created balance, eliminating pressure on Goff.
Having the key parts is important but depth adds another layer. The Lions were without star receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown last week and yet Goff still had a productive outing in Week 5 by utilizing Montgomery as a receiver and having Josh Reynolds steps in for Brown.
On the other side of the ball, defensive end Aidan Hutchinson leads the league in total pressures. He’s one of four players to have 10 sacks and four interceptions in his first two NFL seasons. He maintains the up-tempo pace through the top of the rush, meaning he has a high motor. Once he locks eyes on his target, Hutchinson is getting there.
All this helps the Lions get out to quick starts.
Can Tampa Bay’s offense keep pace?
The Bucs are fourth worst at putting up points in first quarters, generating zero touchdowns and just two field goals. In fact, the Bucs have been shut out in the first quarter in back-to-back weeks. Tampa is already starting at a deficit with no running game, and it is now facing a top-five rushing defense.
So then, the question becomes: Can Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield carry the offense and play from behind? I’m going with “no.” Against the Philadelphia Eagles at home, Mayfield had his fewest pass attempts (25), lowest completion percentage (60%), one interception and two sacks. The Bucs produced zero points in the first quarter in that game.
The Lions are the real deal and -130 to win the first quarter appears to be the right move.
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