Monday, September 13, 2021

Detroit Lions' Jamaal Williams, T.J. Hockenson two of few bright spots in loss


Dave Birkett

Detroit Free Press

Published 6:00 a.m. ET Sept. 13, 2021

Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett breaks down the Detroit Lions' 41-33 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, and looks at players who helped and hurt their stock Sunday at Ford Field:

Three up

RB Jamaal Williams: Williams made the most of what was a mildly surprising start Sunday, rushing for 54 yards and a touchdown on nine carries and catching eight passes for another 56 yards. Williams was the Lions’ tone-setter on offense, and along with D’Andre Swift, gave a glimmer of hope that the Lions will finally be able to run the football.

OLB Trey Flowers: Flowers has been the consummate team player since he came to Detroit, and his play Sunday embodied that. He finished with a modest four tackles and no sacks, but had the Lions’ key defensive play, coming from the far side of the field to knock loose a Deebo Samuel fumble late in the fourth quarter on what almost was a third-and-13 conversion that would have iced the game. The Lions need more pass rush out of Flowers and their entire defensive front, but his forced fumble was the hustle play of the game.

 T.J. Hockenson:  Hockenson is going to have a big year — make that a huge year — if he stays healthy. Hockenson was the Lions’ only downfield receiving threat Sunday. He finished with eight catches for 97 yards and scored the Lions’ first touchdown on a 6-yard pass from Jared Goff, when he ran a beautiful route in the red zone. At this rate, and given how little the Lions have at receiver, Hockenson seems like a fair bet to be the team’s first 100-catch receiver since Calvin Johnson in 2012.

Three down

CB Jeff Okudah: We don’t know how serious Okudah’s lower-leg injury is yet, but, while this may sound dramatic, the reality is a worst-case scenario Achilles injury could doom his career. Apart from the injury, Okudah had another rough showing on the field Sunday. He got beat for a long touchdown when he couldn’t locate the ball, and he gave up a key third-down conversion on the 49ers’ first touchdown drive. After a promising training camp, Okudah looked too much like the same player he was a rookie.

S Will Harris: It wasn’t just Okudah who struggled in the secondary. Harris and cornerback Amani Oruwariye, both of whom drew mention from general manager Brad Holmes for their strong preseasons, also had rough days. Oruwariye gave up the 49ers’ first touchdown to Trent Sherfield, and Harris had a facemask penalty and a handful of missed tackles, including one on Elijah Mitchell’s long touchdown run.

 OT Matt Nelson: The Lions shuffled their offensive line after Taylor Decker suffered a finger injury in the middle week, moving right tackle Penei Sewell to left tackle and inserting Nelson in Sewell’s place. Sewell had a couple slip-ups but fared mostly well in his NFL debut. Nelson had a bit of a rougher day, allowing a sack to Dee Ford, multiple other pressures and drawing a holding penalty that was declined. In his defense, the converted defensive tackle was asked to pass block an unsustainable 57 times.

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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