Detroit Lions fans may feel a little like the titular character from the movie “Talladega Nights” after Ricky Bobby was called in to be a replacement driver at the last minute and surprised everyone with a podium finish.
“And, uh, I’m not sure what to do with my hands,” Will Ferrell’s character said in a post-race interview.
Lions fans likely aren’t sure what to do, either, with all the praise coming their way after a thorough 36-27 victory Sunday over Washington.
Anybody who’s followed the franchise long enough has seen the preseason hype train roll in — maybe not quite to the level of this offseason thanks to HBO’s “Hard Knocks” — before those hopes are dashed just weeks into the season.
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But the praise for Dan Campbell’s team came pouring in Monday from media outlets all over the country.
“Man (former Lions quarterback) Dan Orlovsky and I tried to tell folks about the Lions!” tweeted ESPN’s Marcus Spears. “You better bring your lunch (pal) when you play em.”
Jared Goff threw for 246 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions and the team ran 24 times for 191 yards (eight yards per attempt) despite the fact they were missing all three of their projected starting interior lineman with various injuries; Jonah Jackson (finger), Frank Ragnow (groin, foot) and Halapoulivati Vaitai (back), who were replaced by Dan Skipper, Evan Brown and Logan Stenberg.
Campbell singled out Skipper in the locker room — the entire team began chanting “Skip, Skip, Skip, Skip” — and brought him as the first man to the podium. NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” picked up on it and Peter Schrager gave Skipper the game ball for his performance.
“The Lions were without Pro Bowl guard Jonah Jackson yesterday, without Frank Ragnow yesterday, big Halapoulivaati Vaitai, he was out as well, no problem because Dan Skipper who has never started an NFL game, was cut in the summer on Hard Knocks and has been on practice squads for six years gets the call up,” Schrager said. “This guy has never started a game in his NFL career, never played guard in his NFL career… and (the Lions) have an amazing game.
“The Lions looked amazing yesterday, their offense scored a ton of points, they have scored as much as the Chiefs have through two weeks.”
The Lions have scored 35 points or more in three straight games, dating back to Week 18 of 2021, for the first time since 1952-53 when they repeated as champions. Goff has thrown two or more touchdowns in six straight home games, something no quarterback in franchise history (not even Matthew Stafford) has done.
Amon-Ra St. Brown has scored a touchdown in six straight games, which is a Lions record, and has caught eight or more passes in eight straight games, which has only been done twice before in league history. The second-year receiver had two more touchdowns Sunday.
As dominant as the passing game has been, the rushing attack was just as potent. Through two games, the Lions are averaging seven yards per rushing attempt, and NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger credited the Lions’ new play caller for the early success.
“Lions OC Ben Johnson is brilliant with what he is creating,” Baldinger tweeted. “Highly explosive plays out of the RUN GAME. They are averaging 7+ (yards per) rush. Doesn’t matter who is in the lineup.
“It’s a coaching clinic in Motown.”
While the offense has been the highlight through two weeks, the Lions put together a complete game in all three phases against the Commanders. The defense, led by Aidan Hutchinson who became the first rookie in franchise history to record three sacks in a single game, pitched a shutout in the first half and allowed just two first downs.
The defensive highlight of the game came from Charles Harris, who recorded a strip-sack of Carson Wentz, causing the ball to roll out of the end zone as a safety.
On the ensuing free-kick, Kalif Raymond ripped off a 52-yard return as part of the Lions’ well-rounded attack.
“It’s rare to have all three phases of a football team fail, concurrently, in one half of football, but everyone on the road team (Washington) stunk the joint out in the first two quarters,” wrote The Athletic’s David Aldridge. “The Lions dominated, leading 22-0 at halftime. Detroit’s offense carved up Washington’s defense; the Lions’ defense held the Commanders to two first downs and 56 total yards. The Lions’ defense forced a safety; Kalif Raymond returned a kickoff 52 yards, setting up a short field; Jared Goff went 12-of-22 for 153 yards and two touchdown passes, including a 13-yarder to Amon-Ra St. Brown in which Washington corner William Jackson III was there, but fell in the end zone.
“I would write more about the half, except Lions rookie Aidan Hutchinson, who had three sacks in the first 30 minutes, strip-sacked my laptop.”