Lions’ first-half observations: Rookies, led by St. Brown, making noise in finale

Detroit News

Detroit News contributor Nolan Bianchi offers his observations after the first half of the Lions game against the Packers at Ford Field.

St. Brown doing it all for Lions offense

Amon-Ra St. Brown has been a revelation. Every week, you expect defenses to give him more attention and limit his production, but that just hasn’t happened since he began this tear against the Minnesota Vikings.

St. Brown broke the Lions’ rookie receiving record, previously owned by Roy Williams, with a 17-yard catch that gave him 820 receiving yards on the season.

And he wasn’t done.

St. Brown caught passes of 9, 16, and 21 yards before hauling in a 2-yard touchdown pass on the drive that put Detroit up 14-7 in the second quarter.

The rookie out of USC has 65 yards on five receptions at the half, and will surely be heavily involved with the Lions’ offense as they look to put this one away.

Jared Goff deserves a shoutout here, too. He’s done a great job of getting St. Brown the ball, and despite the game’s biggest play — a 75-yard trick play touchdown — not getting added to his stat line, he’s still a modest 14-for-17 for 131 passing yards and a touchdown.

Last impressions

Like St. Brown, there are some other Lions rookies looking to put their stamp on the season before it’s over.

Defensive tackle Alim McNeill has been effective on the line and cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu had a textbook pass breakup on a throw to Davante Adams down the sideline.

It’d be a win for the Lions if defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike or linebacker Derrick Barnes — who got beat on Allen Lazard’s second touchdown reception of the half — could step up and make a few plays before this one’s over.

Up-and-down pass rush

The Lions got Green Bay into a third-down situation three times on its opening drive, and all three times, Aaron Rodgers got the ball away quickly to one of his top receivers to move the chains.

Outside of those third downs, Rodgers had all day to throw on the Pack’s first series, and even though the big play only hurt Detroit one time in the first half, you get the sense that it’s only a matter of time before Rodgers starts turning those seven-second dropbacks into plays destined for the highlight reel.

The lack of pass rush was most noticeable during the third-and-goal at the 1 where Rodgers found Lazard for a touchdown pass after standing in the pocket for what felt like minutes, but since that play, the push has started to become more effective.

It still isn’t perfect — Rodgers looked like he was setting up a whole base camp on the 29-yard touchdown pass to Lazard in the second quarter — but they’ve proven that they can slow down the Packers’ offense by picking up tackles-for-loss and getting pressure on the quarterback.

Going for broke

Obligatory ‘How aggressive is Dan Campbell being today?’ checkup.

There are three main plays that stick out: First, the fake punt on Detroit’s opening drive from their own side of the field to start the game. That was a failure, but not because it was a poor call. The pass from Jack Fox just went through Godwin Igwebuike’s hands.

Second, the 75-yard touchdown pass to Kalif Raymond. If you didn’t watch the game, you might be wondering why Goff only has one touchdown pass. It’s because the throw came from wide receiver Tom Kennedy. A double reverse left a streaking Raymond wide open down the sideline, and his fellow wideout put it right on the numbers to unleash Raymond for the score.

Third, he had St. Brown take a direct snap before taking the 14-7 lead. That’s not so much aggressive as it is creative, but like multiple attempts at an offensive lineman touchdown last week, proves that he’s shaking every last crumb out of the playbook to get another win before the season’s over.

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.

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