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Detroit Lions’ James Houston looks like steal of 2022 NFL draft

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Free Press sports author Evan Petzold looks at Detroit Lions players and coaches who helped their stock or hurt it after Sunday’s 41-10 win over the Chicago Bears at Ford Field:

Six up

LB James Houston: A pass-rushing specialist, Houston continues to construct on an excellent rookie campaign (despite not playing until Nov. 12). Against the Bears, the 24-year-old tallied three tackles, three sacks, three quarterback hits and one forced fumble. He sacked Fields twice within the second quarter and once within the fourth quarter. Houston, the No. 217 overall pick within the 2022 draft, has eight sacks in six games, plus one fumble recovery and one forced fumble. Those eight sacks set an NFL record for many sacks through six profession games, and there is still one game within the regular season. His accomplishments are unbelievable, and he looks just like the steal of the draft and a possible franchise-changing player.

Lions linebacker James Houston (59) laughs while talking to a teammate on the bench during pregame warmups before their game  Jan. 1, 2023 against the Bears at Ford Field.

THE GAME:Detroit Lions run all through Chicago Bears in 41-10 win to maintain playoff hopes alive

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DE Aidan Hutchinson: OK, Hutchinson’s stock is already pretty high, but what about his stock for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Yr? It is a three-player race: Hutchinson, Recent York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tariq Woolen, with Gardner the favourite. But Hutchinson — the No. 2 overall pick in April out of Michigan — has three interceptions this season, tied for many amongst all NFL linebackers and defensive linemen (and another than Gardner). He also ranks second amongst rookies with 7½ sacks, trailing only Houston. On Sunday, the 22-year-old became the primary rookie in NFL history with 7½ sacks, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. The one other defensive lineman to perform those numbers: Hall of Famer Richard Dent in 1990 — his eighth NFL season. Hutchinson registered his third interception to finish the primary half against the Bears.

DE Josh Paschal: The No. 46 overall pick within the 2022 draft stepped up alongside Houston and Hutchinson. Paschal, 23, recorded the primary sack of his NFL profession when he dropped Fields for 12 yards with 11:14 remaining within the second quarter. He sacked Fields again, this time for a lack of 10 yards, with 6:57 remaining within the fourth quarter. On his first sack, Paschal powered through Bears offensive lineman Braxton Jones, a fifth-round pick in 2022, before wrapping up Fields. He logged 4 tackles, two sacks and two quarterback hits. The Lions have 4 rookies with no less than one sack this season.

LIONS GRADES:A’s for everyone after blowout win over Bears

Lions running back D'Andre Swift (right) is hugged by offensive tackle Taylor Decker after rushing for a 21-yard touchdown during the second half against the Bears on Jan. 1, 2023, in Detroit.

RBs D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams: Of their past eight games, entering Sunday, the Lions averaged 3.7 yards per carry, after averaging 5.2 yards per carry through the primary seven games of the season. The dearth of efficiency within the running game developed right into a trend and reached a low point in a 37-23 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Christmas Eve, because the Lions ran the ball 17 times for 46 yards (a season-worst 2.6 yards per carry). On Sunday, the mixture of Swift and Williams flipped the script to assist the Lions produce 265 rushing yards and average 6.8 yards per carry. Williams posted 22 carries for 144 yards and one touchdown, while Swift chipped in 11 carries for 78 yards and one touchdown.

PLAYOFF PICTURE:Lions NFL playoff scenarios: Here’s what they need in final week

Lions head coach Dan Campbell smiles on the sideline during the second half against the Bears on Jan. 1, 2023, in Detroit.

Dan Campbell: The second-year head coach spent the past week talking about his expectations for improvements running the ball and defending the run. His defensive coordinator, Aaron Glenn, shared the identical message about his group ahead of its second matchup against Fields. Seems, each coaches were spot on. The Lions played one in all their best all-around games in front of a sellout crowd at Ford Field. After the win, Campbell revealed something recent concerning the Lions’ long-term plan under general manager Brad Holmes: “We must be competing for a division championship next yr (in 2023),” Campbell said. “I mean, that’s the goal. That’s what Brad and I got down to do.” There is not any doubt Campbell has locked himself in as a key piece of the long run.

One big down

Playoff possibilities: The Lions did all the pieces right Sunday by beating the Bears, and the Washington Commanders lost to the Cleveland Browns, leaving the Lions, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks firmly in the combo for a spot within the postseason. The Packers beat the Minnesota Vikings, and the Seahawks topped the Recent York Jets. For the Lions to achieve the playoffs, they need a win over the Packers at Lambeau Field, and so they need the Seahawks to lose to the Baker Mayfield-led Los Angeles Rams. (If each the Lions and Seahawks win, Seattle has the tiebreaker due to its Week 4 win in Detroit.) There’s one other scenario to bear in mind, however it involves several ties and is unlikely to occur.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter@EvanPetzold.

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