Detroit Lions’ Jared Goff continues to show he may be the QB of the future

Detroit Free Press

There were times when the Detroit Lions‘ game against the Seahawks on Sunday looked like a trip back to 2021.

Due to injuries, Detroit’s wide receivers included Quintez Cephus, Kalif Raymond and Tom Kennedy — all of whom were primary options for Jared Goff at various points last season.

But unlike last year, when Detroit had one of the most anemic offenses in the league, this time around the Lions continued to look like one of the best.

Last year’s unit scored 134 points through its first eight games.

The Lions already have 140 through four games this year, 35 per contest and the most of any team in the NFL as of Sunday afternoon.

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Two main things changed during that time; Goff’s time in the system and a new play-caller in Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.

“I think a lot of things in the pass game have settled in for us and Ben’s doing a hell of a job getting us ready every week,” Goff said after the Lions’ 48-45 loss on Sunday. “And I know we had the receivers we had today. I felt really good with those guys — Q, T.K. and Kalif, I’ve had a lot of reps with them.

“So, it wasn’t — maybe from the outside it looked like we had a bunch of backups in there, but to me personally I had a lot of guys I had a lot of reps with. So, we were able to roll a little bit offensively.”

Goff didn’t have do-it-all running back D’Andre Swift to keep the defense honest.

He didn’t have slot receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who started the 2022 season by setting NFL records.

And he didn’t have big-play receiver DJ Chark.

Still, Goff completed 26 of 39 passes for 378 yards and four touchdowns, both of which were his best marks for the Lions.

How? Goff used what was at his disposal, starting with T.J. Hockenson. The tight end, who struggled through three weeks with just 10 catches for 82 yards and a score, had eight catches for 179 yards — a franchise record for tight ends — and two touchdowns, plus a two-point conversion.

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“I think you could see him kind of catch a rhythm,” Goff said. “He started breaking some tackles, started being extremely decisive on his routes, extremely separating well, and doing a lot of good things. And that’s just who he is, it’s just kind of — he’s a rhythm player, getting him in that rhythm is important for us.”

Hockenson was pleased to be such a big part of the attack and he heaped praise on the role Goff played.

“Jared, just having him in the huddle, having a guy that can play the game and put the ball in the right spot is big for an offense,” Hockenson said. “To score 45 points as a quarterback and — like, we’ve scored upwards of 30, 35 every game. To have him in that huddle, it just gives us a boost of confidence. Like I said, we’ve got a lot of weapons on this offense.”

Next, Goff went to Josh Reynolds, who had the best day of his season with seven catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.

“I trust him a lot and we’re on the same page and our communication is great and he’s playing as confident as I’ve ever seen him, strong, he’s physical,” Goff said. “He can win versus anybody right now and he’s a guy that we trust a lot.”

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Goff’s “backups” all chipped in too; Kennedy finished with three catches for 54 yards, Raymond had three for 38 yards and Cephus caught two balls for 15 yards.

Still, Goff was kicking himself after the game about his costly pick-six.

“Late, late bad decision,” Goff said of the first throw of the second half, which was intercepted and returned 40 yards for a touchdown. “Can’t do it. Dumb.”

Even with three interceptions this year — two which have been returned for touchdowns — he looks like a completely different Goff. He’s averaging 282 yards per game (compared to 232 a season ago). He has 11 touchdowns through four games after throwing for just 19 all of last season.

And he has a 99.9 passer rating, third-best in the NFL after Sunday afternoon’s games.

Last year, it was just 91.5, which ranked 20th among qualified passers.

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The Lions aren’t losing games because of their offense. In fact, the Lions are only the 30th team in the Super Bowl era to score 140 points or more through their first four games.

The previous 29 teams were a combined 109-7 (.940); the Lions are the only team of the bunch to have a losing record.

“We trust him,” left tackle Taylor Decker said of his quarterback. “Our offense is clicking, that starts with him and I still think we have untapped potential.”

Contact Tony Garcia at apgarcia@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @realtonygarcia.

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