All spring and throughout training camp we saw Detroit's 2023 rookie class impress, with a lot of players showing the potential to be key contributors for the Lions early on in their careers.
In Detroit's Week 1 win over Kansas City that certainly proved to be the case.
Defensive back Brian Branch, a second-round pick and starter at the nickel, had probably the biggest play of the game for Detroit. He returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to tie the game at 14-14. He also chipped in three tackles.
Rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs had a critical 18-yard run on a 1st and 15 play late in the game and averaged 6.0 yards per carry with 42 rushing yards on seven carries. He also caught two passes for 18 yards.
Linebacker Jack Campbell, a first-round pick along with Gibbs, had a key pass breakup late and notched a couple tackles.
Ttight end Sam LaPorta had some critical first-down grabs and finished catching all five of his targets for 39 yards. He also threw a key block on David Montgomery's 8-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that proved to be the game winner for Detroit.
"I did see (Sam) LaPorta's block. He did a hell of a job," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said after the win. "(Jahmyr) Gibbs had a couple of runs. He took four-to-five-yard gains and made more out of it just with his own effort, which is outstanding. I thought Jack (Campbell) showed up in some things and certainly (Brian) Branch. He had some big tackles.
"As you would think, they have a lot to clean up. This is only game one. They are only going to be better from this. This experience, these reps, they are going to be better in game two and game three. They helped us win."
NOT SAME LIONS
Veteran defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson knows what winning football looks like. He was on a Philadelphia team that won the NFC Championship last year. When Gardner-Johnson looks around the Lions locker room, he sees a team that can win.
"This win means this isn't the same Detroit," he said in the locker room after Thursday's win. "I keep reiterating that, bro. From the joint practices to all the other practices. Winners know what winners look like and this team is full of winners. And being on teams that has been successful, I'm just happy to be a part of guys that want to play ball and go out there and get a W not matter who's on the field or what's on the clock.
"These guys are going to fight. We all going to fight."
STRENGTH TO CLOSE IT
Campbell had to love watching his offense take the ball with two minutes left on the clock with the Chiefs having three timeouts, and knowing if they ran it down their throats and got a first down the game was over.
That's exactly what happened, and that's what having a stellar offensive line to run behind can provide late in a contest.
"It's a great feeling, actually," Pro Bowl right tackle Penei Sewell said. "I can't wait to see what we build upon that."
- Wide receiver Josh Reynolds recorded four receptions for 80 yards (20.0 avg.). It's his fourth game of 80-or-more yards since joining Detroit.
- Third-year wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown notched his 200th career catch in his 34th career game, which tied for the fourth fewest games needed to reach 200 career receptions in NFL history.