FIRST DOWN: GIBBS & LAPORTA
Running back Jahmyr Gibbs and tight end Sam LaPorta are the first pair of rookies to have at least eight touchdowns in a season since Reggie Bush and Marques Colston in 2006. Gibbs (8) and LaPorta (9) have 17 touchdowns combined with three games still remaining in their first season. The two combined for five touchdowns Saturday in Detroit's 42-17 win over Denver. It's just the second time since the NFL merger (Chargers in 1974) that a team has gotten five touchdowns in a game from their rookie class.
LaPorta caught five of his six targets Saturday for 56 yards and three touchdowns. His nine touchdown receptions not only set the team rookie record for the tight end position, but any position. He is the only rookie tight end in NFL history to produce at least 70 receptions, 700 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns in a season.
"Yeah, it was really cool," LaPorta said afterward of his three-touchdown performance. "I always say I can't do it without my teammates. I certainly can't, there's 10 other guys out there with me. So yeah, it was just a really good day, really good day for the team."
Gibbs rushed for 100 yards on just 11 carries (9.1-yard average) with a terrific 12-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. He also caught two passes for eight yards including a 9-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
"Both of those guys I was thinking about halfway through how those two guys were having such an impact as rookies," quarterback Jared Goff said. "They are two of the best rookies I've ever been around. For what they handle mentally and what they do every Sunday for us, the way they practice, the way they are pros, everything, they are as good as it gets."
Gibbs has surpassed 1,000 scrimmage yards (1,089) and has eight touchdowns on the season.
Lions head coach Dan Campbell said the way LaPorta practices and prepares reminds him of wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, which is a huge compliment. He also said Gibbs continues to get better and better every time he touches the field.
"Just going to bring you back to (GM) Brad Holmes, it's a hell of a job by him once again," Campbell said. "Took a lot of criticism for those two picks. But they look like they are OK. I'm glad we got them."
SECOND DOWN: ST. BROWN'S BOUNCEBACK
It was an uncharacteristic last couple weeks for St. Brown, catching just five passes for 70 yards in games against New Orleans and Chicago. You had to go back to Week 5 and 6 last year for back-to-back games where St. Brown didn't catch at least five passes in a game.
St. Brown was back in a big way Saturday, leading the Lions with 112 receiving yards on seven receptions with an acrobatic touchdown right before the half where he flipped over two defenders into the end zone.
St. Brown now has 94 receptions on the year for 1,175 yards and seven touchdowns. Just how good has St. Brown been to start his career? Only he, Odell Beckham Jr. and Michael Thomas have started each of their first three seasons in the NFL by catching at least 90 passes with 900 receiving yards.
THIRD DOWN: DEFENSIVE EFFORT
Detroit's defense has taken their fair share of criticism this season, but they played terrific Saturday. They held down the fort in the first quarter when the offense punted on their first three series of the game.
Denver was scoreless in the first half, lost a fumble on their first possession of the game on a strip sack forced by safety Ifeatu Melifonwu and recovered by defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs, and then punted on their next four possessions.
Detroit's defense allowed only 75 total yards in the first half and 287 for the game. They sacked Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson twice, hit him eight times and defended eight passes.
"I thought they did a good job of doing a lot of different things," Wilson said after the game of Detroit's defense. "I think that we've just got to play cleaner. I mean, that's just really – if we can play a little cleaner, play a little sharper – they played well tonight. They played really well, and we could've played better."
The front seven played terrific all game controlling the run game. In the back end, Melifonwu and cornerback Cam Sutton had terrific games. Melifonwu had eight tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, two quarterback hits and two passes defended. Sutton did a great job limiting Broncos big-play receiver Courtland Sutton all night.
"I thought the defense did a really good job today," Campbell said. "I though AG (defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn) called a heck of a game. We had a couple wrinkles in we felt would be good for us. It was the ultimate team win."
FOURTH DOWN: GOFF'S PERFORMANCE
After a bit of a slow start offensively with three punts on their first three possessions, Goff and the offense got things rolling to the tune of five straight touchdown drives and six in their last seven possessions.
Goff said offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was joking at one point in the second half that it didn't matter what he called because the way Goff and Detroit's offensive line were playing, he could call anything and it would work.
Goff finished completing 24 of his 34 passes for 278 yards with five touchdowns, no picks and a 134.6 passer rating. It was a season high for him in both touchdown passes and passer rating.
"Sometime in the middle of that second quarter and throughout the rest of the game it felt like Ben could have called anything. 'Call whatever you want?'" Goff said. "It sure felt that way It was just up and down the field. We were running the ball well and throwing the ball well."