Vic Fangio would’ve shown up to a Wednesday news conference wearing a Speedo thong before he’d call a fake punt on fourth down from his own 17.
Nathaniel Hackett? Not on your stinking life.
So the Grading The Week crew would like to finish the week by tipping a collective cap — er, caps — to Lions coach Dan Campbell and his staff. We salute the Columbia Blue today for a.) having no fear, on the road, against the defending Super Bowl and AFC West champs; and b.) showing the rest of the division, especially the part of the rest of division with offices in Dove Valley, how to beat the Chiefs.
Jared Goff 2, Patrick Mahomes 0 — A
Now we know what you’re saying, Broncos Country. Why the heck can’t we ever get the stars to align like that at Arrowhead?
No Travis Kelce. No Chris Jones. About 36 KC drops. Almost everything that could go wrong for the reigning world champs in their home opener did, and yet they almost still squeaked one out in Week 1.
Chiefs wideout Kedarius Toney was wide open when he let a ball ricochet off his hands with 2:25 left and the hosts trailing by one. Early in the third quarter, Toney had a Patrick Mahomes pass bounce off his shoulder — he was open, then, too — and carom all the way into the hands of a waiting Brian Branch, whose 50-yard pick-6 pulled Detroit to within 14-13.
Yet the tone of the Lions’ 21-20 victory was set in the opening drive, and set by Campbell and his cadre. On fourth-and-2 from its own 17, Campbell sent out the punt team and snapped the ball directly to linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who toughed out 3 yards up the gut for a first down. Ten plays later, Detroit was in the end zone, drawing first blood with a 7-0 lead.
The Broncos haven’t held a 7-0 lead at Arrowhead since October 2018, when Phillip Lindsay found paydirt from a yard out. (Denver found a way to muff that one, too, eventually falling, 30-23.)
Yes, the Lions had help, and Toney’s butterfingers proved to be contagious. But they also followed the script to a ‘T.’ Be aggressive. Score touchdowns in the red zone (three trips, two conversions). Run the ball and shorten the game (34 carries, 118 yards as a team). It would be wonderful of Russell Wilson could be as efficient in Kansas City as Jared Goff — now 2-0 vs. Mahomes lifetime — was on Thursday night. But if this revamped Broncos offensive line proves to be 70% as good as the one the Lions have built, Big Russ might not have to be.
Mines being Mines, Pokes being Pokes — A
Don’t ever change, Blaster. While the nation was busy fawning over Coach Prime and the CU Buffs’ stunning 45-42 win at TCU last weekend, we almost glossed over two other impressive scorelines from the first full week of college football.
Shout-out to Mines and senior quarterback John Matocha who, with a new coach and a new offensive coordinator, threw for 327 yards and two scores in a 31-28 win over Grand Valley (Mich.) State, another NCAA Division II national-title contender.
Wyoming carried the flag for the Mountain West in Laramie, too, rallying from a 17-0 deficit at Memorial Stadium against Texas Tech with 20 straight points in regulation. The Cowboys cinched the win in double overtime on a fourth-down touchdown throw and a gutsy 2-point conversion run by Sam Scott.
The Cowboys won 35-33 against a Red Raiders team that just missed cracking the AP Top 25 heading into Labor Day Weekend. The next time Big 12 commish Brett Yormark starts chirping about expansion again, maybe he’ll give the Pokes a longer look.