Detroit Lions Prove They’re Legit With Gutsy Win Over The Kansas City Chiefs

The time has finally come where we can anoint the Detroit Lions as legit contenders.

Entering the 2023 season, the Lions had high expectations considering how they came within a tiebreaker of advancing to the playoffs and due to their 8-2 finish to the 2022 season.

For the first week, they’re definitely living up to the hype following their season-opening 21-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on the road.

While excuses will be given for the Chiefs’ loss — such as Travis Kelce and Chris Jones’ absences, for example — the Lions matched the defending Super Bowl champs toe-to-toe with Dan Campbell out-coaching two-time Super Bowl champion Andy Reid.

Campbell set the tone early on with a gusty call in the first quarter from their own 17-yard-line on a fake punt on a 4th-and-2. Not only did the Lions convert on fourth down, they drove 91 yards down the field to take a 7-0 lead.

Fast forward to later in the game in the fourth quarter on another fourth down attempt with 2:33 remaining. While the Lions didn’t convert on this play, it showed the type of aggressiveness that’s needed to beat Super Bowl contenders such as the Chiefs — especially one led by Patrick Mahomes.

All of that is due to the coaching and tone set by Campbell.

“We expected to win this game,” Campbell said. “We came in here, knew what we needed to do, knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and we did that. We won.”

The Lions didn’t dominate on offense, but they executed the proper strategy in beating the Chiefs — controlling the time of possession. Not only did Detroit take care of the football — zero turnovers — they won the time of possession battle, controlling the ball for nearly 33 minutes.

It was spearheaded by a rushing attack led by the new duo David Montgomery and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs, rushing 34 times for 118 yards. While the Lions averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, the amount of attempts and the threat of running benefited Jared Goff on play-action pass attempts. Goff averaged 12.6 yards on play-action attempts in comparison to his 5.4 yards per attempt without play action.

To top it all off, Detroit’s defense — which was heavily criticized for being a lackluster unit last season, ranking 28th in points allowed — came out to play, limiting Mahomes and holding the Chiefs to 0-for-7 on third-down conversions. For perspective, the Chiefs ranked second in the NFL last season in third-down conversion percentage with 48.9%. The Lions ranked 30th on defense in third-down conversion percentage at 45.1%.

Yes, it’s just one win. And yes, it is true that the Chiefs had a number of dropped passes, including one by Kadarius Toney that directly led to a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown by safety Brian Branch. In fact, Toney had three dropped passes alone in this game.

But the Lions proved that they’re a legit contender by playing sound, mistake-free football against the defending champs at Arrowhead. Furthermore, they displayed the ability to play shutdown defense, limiting Mahomes to a 32.2 passer rating in the second half — the lowest of his career (minimum 10 passing attempts).

And while Goff may not be seen as an elite quarterback, he sure has been playing like one since the end of last season. In fact, he’s now gone 359 consecutive passing attempts without an interception, the third-longest streak in NFL history.

It doesn’t hurt that Detroit also plays in one of the weakest divisions in the NFL. The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears are in rebuilding mode with young quarterbacks and the Minnesota Vikings appearing to be in a slight decline following the offseason departures of key veterans such as Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen.

When looking at the NFC as a whole, only the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers appear to be big threats. In other words, the NFC is there for the taking for the Lions — especially when considering they play in an inferior division compared to their NFC East and NFC West rivals.

It’s been a long time since we could call the Lions contenders. In fact, Detroit hasn’t won a playoff game since the 1991 Lions advanced to the NFC Championship Game.

That long history of suffering is a big reason why you’ll see the media hesitate on crowning the Lions as true contenders.

Don’t be fooled — this isn’t your daddy’s Lions. This current version of Detroit should win the NFC North and make no mistake about it, they’re a legit contender in a very weak NFC conference.

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