A statistical review of Thursday Night Football: Chiefs passing game struggles, Lions dominate on the ground

2RRE06W Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown runs with the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

The Detroit Lions emerged victorious in the opening game of the 2023 NFL season, beating the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 21-20.

Here is an initial statistical review of the game. For more statistics, snap counts and PFF grades from Thursday Night Football, check out PFF Premium Stats.

Game Summary

According to our new noise-canceled score metric, both teams played roughly on the same level. The Chiefs suffered a more costly (and much flukier) turnover than the Lions, but the Lions moved the ball a bit better and had to live with less contribution from special teams.

It’s noteworthy that both offenses didn't play well and contributed negative expected points added (EPA), even after excluding the respective turnovers.

 Passing summary

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes did all he could. He didn't take a single sack and was an efficient scrambler when his receivers weren’t open.

The problem was that when his receivers were open, they dropped crucial passes, leading to a mere 0.08 EPA per targeted pass — and that's an uncharacteristically low number for the Chiefs.

Receiving summary

Noah Gray got Travis Kelce’s volume in terms of routes run, but he couldn’t capitalize on that, earning only five targets on 37 routes. Other than Rashee Rice on a small sample, almost all of the Chiefs pass-catchers disappointed.

Amon-Ra St. Brown was picked up right where he left off in 2022. He played all the snaps, led the Lions in targets and averaged a solid 2.0 yards per route run.

Josh Reynolds had a very efficient game, and Sam LaPorta enjoyed a solid debut. Jahmyr Gibbs, however, wasn’t really used as promised, as he ran only nine routes and was targeted behind the line of scrimmage on both of his targets. That sounds more like a classic running back than the hybrid we were promised. It remains to be seen whether this changes.

Rushing summary

The Chiefs couldn’t get anything going on the ground. The Lions, however, had a solid ground game going and were particularly efficient in the red zone.


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