FIRST DOWN: FINDING A WAY TO WIN
Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff joked after Sunday's 20-17 come-from-behind victory over the New York Jets on the road that he'd rather win ugly than lose pretty.
Sunday's win certainly wasn't pretty for the Lions, but all wins count the same in this league, and this one shows just how far this young Lions team has come. Offense, defense and special teams all had a hand in this win that propels them to 7-7 on the season after a 1-6 start and keeps their playoff hopes alive.
"We fully believe in each other," Goff said after throwing the 51-yard game-winning touchdown to tight end Brock Wright with 1:49 left in the game. "Just know someone is going to make a play and do something right and that's half the battle."
This team is extremely confident and believes in one another after their third straight win and sixth in their last seven.
The Lions hadn't scored an offensive touchdown all game until their final drive and got the biggest play of the game from Wright. It's another way the Lions have shown they can win a game, which is huge with three more to go, two of which are on the road.
"That's another win," head coach Dan Campbell said. "It's been a six-game season for us and that's three down. I would say it was not our cleanest game. There was a lot of little things we did not do right that we must clean up moving forward."
The Lions overcame critical penalties at inopportune times and being 0-for-3 in red zone offensively. They gave up explosive plays defensively and missed opportunities for takeaways. They missed a field goal late on special teams. But despite it all they found a way to win, and that's huge for this young football team down the stretch.
SECOND DOWN: OKWARA'S IMPACT
Veteran defensive lineman Romeo Okwara didn't have much impact in his season debut last week after rehabbing for more than a year since suffering a torn Achilles Week 4 of last season.
I chatted with Okwara at his locker this week about his debut against Minnesota, and he said he had to knock off a lot of rust in those 25 snaps after being out for more than a year. He said he would be much more impactful against the Jets.
Boy was he right.
Okwara had a key sack on the Jets' final possession of the game and finished with two sacks, two tackles for loss and five tackles in the contest.
"It means a lot to have Romeo back," Campbell said. "Just to have him in the fold with us. He's an unbelievable locker room guy, hard worker and then on top of that to have his length. He plays the run well and he can rush the passer. He was better than he was last week ... and I'd anticipate him even better next week."
Rookie linebacker James Houston had another sack Sunday, his fourth straight game with a sack. Now with Okwara, Houston, Aidan Hutchinson and John Cominsky all in the fold, the Lions have really nice talent and depth on the edge of the defensive line.
THIRD DOWN: TAKEAWAY STREAK
Second-year cornerback Jerry Jacobs recorded his first career interception off Jets quarterback Zach Wilson Sunday and returned it 38 yards down to the New York 15-yard line to set up a Michael Badgley field goal to give the Lions a 13-10 lead. It was the 13th straight contest in which the Lions have generated at least one takeaway, the longest active streak in the NFL. They won the turnover battle Sunday 1-0.
When the Lions were 1-6 at the beginning of the year they had a turnover differential of minus-four. During their current 6-1 mark they are a plus-eight.
Generating more takeaways coincides with the offense taking really good care of the football. They have given up just three turnovers in their last seven games and Goff is the only quarterback in the league to have started the last six games and have zero turnovers.
Generate turnovers and don't turn the ball over. The Lions are proving that's a recipe for success.
FOURTH DOWN: 4TH & 1 PLAY
Trailing by four points and facing 4th & 1 from their own 49-yard line with only two minutes remaining, Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson dialed up a pass that fooled the Jets' defense. The call got Wright wide open in the left flat, and the undrafted second-year tight end rumbled 51 yards for the game-winning score.
What made the play even more rewarding for Wright is that he dropped what would have been a pretty nice gain over the middle on the drive's first play.
"I was excited," Wright said after the game of seeing so much open field in front of him. "Josh (Reynolds) had a huge block there and just happy we were able to get in on that one.
"Just kept telling myself to reset and finish (after the drop). Didn't have my best game ... but was telling myself to finish and we were able to come out with the win and I think that's most important."
How great of a call was it by Johnson? And how bad did it fool the Jets? Wright had 10.7 yards of separation from the nearest defender when the pass arrived, per NextGen Stats. It was the longest touchdown reception by a Lions tight end since David Sloan had a 74-yard touchdown on Sept. 19, 1999.