CHICAGO — Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett breaks down the Detroit Lions‘ 31-30 win over the Chicago Bears and looks at players and coaches who helped and hurt their stock Sunday at Soldier Field:
WR Amon-Ra St. Brown: Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson made a concerted effort to get St. Brown the ball early Sunday and it paid off. After a quiet stretch of four games (and missing a fifth) that coincided with some injury woes, St. Brown caught 10 of 11 targets for 119 yards. He carried the ball once out of the backfield and took a shovel pass a second time on a trap out of the slot, reminding everyone he’s both versatile and dangerous. On a personal note, St. Brown got bragging rights over his brother, Bears receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, too.
LB Julian Okwara: Okwara has had an up-and-down three seasons with the Lions, but he played one of his best games Sunday. He had two sacks, including the game-clincher on Justin Fields on fourth-and-8 from the Bears’ 32-yard line, and was disciplined in his run defense after giving up a 28-yard run on an option keeper on the Bears’ first offensive snap. The Lions need more pass rush from their front seven, and Okwara looked Sunday like he might be able to help.
Mobile quarterbacks: Dan Campbell told the Free Press not long after he took the Lions job that his ideal quarterback would be a dual-threat who was dangerous with his legs and arm. Justin Fields isn’t there as a passer yet, but Fields has quickly become the most dangerous rushing quarterback in the NFL and he showed with his 147-yard rushing performance Sunday why Campbell wants some mobility in his next QB. The Lions probably don’t regret passing on Fields with the seventh pick of the 2021 NFL draft, not yet at least. But when they go looking for a quarterback next offseason they could be eyeing someone with some Fields-like traits.
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S Kerby Joseph: The reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week, Joseph had a rough game Sunday. He missed an open-field tackle on Fields’ 67-yard touchdown run, gave up one touchdown in pass coverage, when he bit on a Cole Kmet fake block, and appeared to be at fault on Fields’ long touchdown pass to Kmet when he and Mike Hughes followed the same underneath receiver in coverage. Joseph has played well as a rookie since taking over for Tracy Walker, but Sunday was not one of his better games.
CB Mike Hughes: The Lions defense struggled collectively against designed quarterback runs Sunday, but Hughes appeared to be at fault on Fields’ long touchdown run. when he followed a pulling Kmet across the line of scrimmage and gave Fields a huge cutback lane. Hughes has played well since moving from the slot to outside cornerback last month, but that mistake came at a crucial point in the game, after the Lions had rallied to tie the score at 24. As Jerry Jacobs continues to get stronger in his return from a torn ACL, he could cut into Hughes’ playing time.
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WR Trinity Benson: He only saw a handful of snaps Sunday before he suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury. The speedy receiver barely saw the field in his first season with the Lions last year, after he was acquired in an end-of-training-camp trade, and he was waived with an injury designation this summer. When he re-signed with the Lions off the Denver Broncos practice squad last week, it seemed like he might finally have a role on offense. Now, his season could be over and the Lions are looking for help for their passing game again.