The debut of the 2022 model of the Detroit Lions' offensive line showed that projections that it can be an elite unit with all five starters healthy are on target.
That's what we learned in the Lions' 27-23 loss to the Falcons in the opening preseason game at Ford Field.
In what amounted to an extended cameo performance – a 10-play drive to a touchdown on the game's first possession – the offensive line blocked for the run and protected quarterback Jared Goff to control the line of scrimmage.
"That's the game of football," said left tackle Taylor Decker. "That's what it is – a physical sport."
Among the other things we learned include the following: Rookie defensive linemn Aidan Hutchinson made his presence felt in a short (11 snaps) but productive outing; the backup quarterback job was not settled between Tim Boyle and David Blough, but both committed costly turnovers.
We start with the offensive line:
The Lions weren't flawless against the Falcons on their first possession, but they were close enough to be dominant. Running back D’Andre Swift had four carries for 22 yards. He closed out the possession with a nine-yard run around let end for a TD. Running back Jamaal Williams had two carries for 12 yards.
Goff completed three of four passes for 47 yards. His one incompletion was a drop by Williams. There was even something good on that play. With the offensive line protecting, Goff had a good five seconds to go through his progressions before throwing to Williams.
For one brief outing, there was an expectation that this is what we will see from the offensive line for the full season.
"We knew we were going to play, and we were all excited to be out there in a game-time situation," Decker said. "The first time our projected starting five was out there in a game-time scenario.
"The coach said to be ready to play a quarter -- go out there and do what you need to do. You might come out. You might not.
"We were able to run the ball, get the passes going. I thought the energy was really, really good. I've been here for a while. There was a little swagger about us that was good."
Hutchinson: He made his presence felt on Atlanta's first possession by sweeping in to chop the legs out from under running back Qadree Ollison for a two-yard loss.
The Falcons recovered from that loss to continue a 12-play, 82-yard drive to a touchdown and a 7-7 tie. For the game, Hutchinson played 11 snaps and had two tackles.
The tackle for loss got a big fan reaction, which is understandable considering his local connections.
"Always, you want to have a tackle for loss," he said. "It was really cool. The fans' reaction was great. I had a lot of fun out there. I'm glad the plays came my way.
"I'm always grateful for that. It's my job to make them."
It was obvious by the way he talked that he was prepared for the next step in his career and not awed by it.
"I was just playing ball, doing what I've always done," he said. "I'm at a next step now, being in the NFL. At the end of the day, it's what I've been doing for a very long time.
"I'm comfortable, and I'm confident."
QB2: Except for turnovers – and they were costly -- head coach Dan Campbell wasn't upset with the overall way Blough and Boyle performed in the battle for the backup job. Mistakes were another matter.
An interception by Boyle late in the third quarter put the Falcons in position to make a field goal. A fumble by Blough late in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons the ball back in good position for their game-winning drive.
Winner of the day: Ford Field Fans. Right to the end, it sounded like a football crowd, which often isn't the case for a preseason game in August. They were into it.