FIRST DOWN: BIG PLAY JAMO
It was certainly fitting that rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams' first NFL reception was a 41-yard touchdown from quarterback Jared Goff Sunday to give the Lions a 7-0 lead over the Vikings in what would eventually be a 34-23 Lions win to improve their record to 6-7 on the year.
Williams was touted as a big-play threat after recording 15 touchdowns for Alabama last season – all from 30-plus yards (four from 70-plus).
It was also somewhat fitting his first touchdown came against the Vikings, who the Lions traded up with 20 spots in this year's NFL Draft to select Williams No. 12 overall.
Williams had 10.9 yards of separation on his touchdown grab, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, in what looked like a busted coverage by the Vikings. That's the most on any passing touchdown the Vikings have allowed this season and the second most on any Lions touchdown this season.
Williams was targeted just once with no receptions on eight snaps in his pro debut last week in the Lions' win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He finished Sunday with just the one catch (two targets), but it was a big catch that got things started for the Lions' offense and showed off his world-class speed.
It's also something the New York Jets – Detroit's opponent next week – will watch on tape and have to prepare for.
SECOND DOWN: DECEMBER IN THE D
There was one reason more than any other why Dan Campbell wanted to be the head football coach of the Lions when the team began their search after the 2020 season.
This team hasn't played meaningful football in December since 2017.
"It's one of the reasons why I wanted to be here," Campbell said. "I said that in my opening press conference. It was one of the reasons I wanted to be here because I knew this could be a special place. This is one of those areas where you get a winner here in Detroit, it'll be something special. It's not like that everywhere."
To get the franchise back on its feet and playing winning football in December with something on the line is certainly refreshing. Just hearing the 66,374 people that packed Ford Field Sunday and made it a true home-field advantage, it feels like the excitement is back around this football team.
"It's about as good as it's felt in my entire career here, about as confident as we've ever been," Lions left tackle Taylor Decker said. "We're just meeting challenges head-on, week-in week-out meeting challenges head-on. It just feels good. I've spoken about it before when we had a couple of wins, really early where it kind of just validates the work that we put in. Kind of reinforces the fact we're doing the right thing."
The Lions have won five of their last six and at 6-7 are very much in the playoff picture in the NFC.
THIRD DOWN: SEWELL'S CATCH
Every Friday afternoon the Lions begin practice throwing go routes to receivers, tight ends, running backs and offensive linemen. Yup, you read that right. We get to watch linemen catching footballs in space on Fridays. It's a highlight for sure.
Every week there's one offensive lineman who stands out among the group – second year tackle Penei Sewell. He's such a terrific athlete and he's really smooth in those drills. He'll catch the ball and do a juke move against air.
Sewell had his first catch of his career Sunday, and it was a crucial one in the final minutes on a 3rd and 7 play that was good for a nine-yard gain and a first down. It helped set up Michael Badgley's game-clinching 48-yard field goal with just 17 seconds left.
"We know what kind of athlete he is. He's a phenomenal athlete," Campbell said of Sewell. "Who knows what kind of tackle he's going to be. He's going to be a pretty damn good one, he already is, but he could be a Hall of Fame tight end in my opinion too if he lost a little bit of weight. He's got real good hands and real good feet."
Goff joked after Sunday's game that they haven't lost a game since they let the lineman catch balls on Fridays (not counting Buffalo game on short week).
"You see it. You see it," Sewell said after the game when asked if he had a little swag after the catch. "Everybody go check out the tape. Give a little swag at the end."
Fellow tackle Decker has two touchdown grabs in his career. After watching the athleticism Sewell showed on his catch Sunday, it might not be long until Sewell has one of his own.
FOURTH DOWN: EXPLOSIVE PLAYS
The Lions didn't punt a single time last week in their convincing 40-14 win over Jacksonville. They had eight scoring possessions that consisted of seven, seven, eight, nine, 11, 10, 12 and 12 plays.
Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was asked this week if there was something rewarding about scoring 40 points and not having to punt without a lot of explosive scoring plays.
"No, I love explosive plays," Johnson said. "It's like after every drive we've got one of our young coaches he'll say, 'Hey, that was a 15-play drive or 12-play drive.' And I'm like, 'You know what's better than that? A three-play drive, a two-play drive that ends up in the end zone.'
Johnson dialed up the explosive plays Sunday against the Vikings. Williams' 41-yard touchdown came on the second play of Detroit's second possession after they stopped the Vikings on a 4th and 1 at their own 46-yard line.
Detroit's second touchdown, a DJ Chark 48-yard reception, came on the first play of Detroit's fifth possession of the first half after Kalif Raymond returned a punt 35 yards to the Minnesota 48-yard line. Goff and Chark did the rest from there.
"It changes our offense entirely and our whole way of doing things and the whole thought process when you have two guys like that who are legit vertical home-run threats," Goff said. "We were able to show them both off today."
The Lions' offense came into Sunday ranked in the top 10 in total points (6th), total offense (7th), rushing (10th) and passing (8th). And now with Williams back and Chark healthy after missing six games earlier in the year with an ankle injury, they can attack defenses in a lot of different ways.
"I feel like with that (the big play element), we're pretty balanced," Campbell said. "We can kind of play any type of game we need to offensively and that's a good thing."