The Lions sit atop the NFL, officially tied for first place with the Chiefs, Dolphins, Eagles, and 49ers after Detroit's 20-6 choke-out of the Buccaneers in Tampa Sunday afternoon.

They're up 2.5 games in the NFC North, with a tiebreaker in hand over the Packers. Frankly, it looks as though the division is already sewn-up.

But maybe even more impressively, the Lions' record over their last 16 games dating back to Week 9 of 2022 is 13-3. That's this franchise's best 16-game run in over 50 years.

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And yet despite the historic tear this team has been on, a large portion of its fanbase can't stop complaining. Specifically, about Jameson Williams.

Being drafted 12th overall comes with high expectations, and there's nothing wrong with that. What even further compounds Lions fans' issues with Williams is that Detroit traded high second- and third-round draft picks to move up and select him back in 2022. The Lions have invested a lot in Williams, and naturally fans expect that to return some big-payoff results and soon.

The problem with this fanbase's impatience here, though, is that it doesn't take into account the reality of Williams' circumstances. The guy is basically still a rookie.

Williams didn't debut until Week 13 of his first season. Lions GM Brad Holmes knew that would be the case when he drafted him since he was rehabilitating from a torn ACL. That kind of injury requires massive reconstructive surgery and physical therapy to begin with. Factor in the timing — Williams tore the ACL in the SEC title game in December 2021 — and it's even more problematic, with the recovery time bleeding over into the NFL schedule.

Again, these are all considerations Lions brass were aware of before they let go of precious draft capital to move up and select Williams. It's not his fault that his rookie season was just six games long. And not only was he limited to practically a third of the schedule that year, his usage in those games was minimal given the delicate nature of the injury he was coming back from.

This past offseason, Williams invited criticism when he violated NFL policy by placing a bet on a college football game while on team premises. The rule he broke was a nebulous one; Williams made the wager from his room at the team hotel, which counted as team premises for some reason. Regardless, Williams' admitted oversight cost him the first four games this season. The league had initially suspended him for six but later commuted the ban down to four as part of an overhaul to its policies governing sports betting by players.

And on top of all that, Williams suffered a hamstring injury early in training camp, which essentially cost him the second half of August leading up to the season. Don't forget either that the terms of his suspension, which seem unbelievably punitive and bad for business, mandated that he could not practice with the team or receive any medical treatment from the Lions.

Williams finally played for the first time this season in Week 5 versus Carolina, and his lackluster two-catch, 2-yard performance, which included a bad drop, sent Lions fans into a frenzy. Sports radio and Twitter hit critical mass with Lions fans declaring Williams a bust. This after just his seventh pro game, mind you. Some were even calling for Detroit to trade him, and that was rich. Because the actual NFL operates just like the Madden video game, where receivers with single-digit career receptions fetch awesome returns on the trade market.

But then Sunday in Tampa happened.

It was one of just two catches, but it went for 45 yards and a touchdown. It was so much more than that, too. It was a brief sampling of Williams' enormous potential.

His game-breaking speed was on full display as he ran right past Tampa's defensive backfield. That's the reason Detroit gave up so many high-value draft picks to get him. The vertical speed he was known for in college, where he regularly torched NFL-bound DBs to the tune of SEC-leading receiving yardage, is essentially the only element missing from the Lions' already-pretty-damn-balanced-and-complete offense. If Williams can be counted on to routinely take the top off of defenses, no unit in the NFL will be able to account for the Lions' assortment of weapons.

But something else happened on Williams' 45-yard touchdown on third and 10 at that critical juncture in the third quarter. Jared Goff, in a moment of exceedingly rare inaccuracy, under-threw Williams, whose blazing straight-line speed gave him a significant few yards of separation from the defense. Goff didn't put the ball right on the money, but it didn't matter. Williams adjusted then readjusted, smoothly and seamlessly, while in stride, allowing him to haul in the bomb. It was a beautiful thing to behold. But it's not easy to do. Adjusting to under-thrown passes is one of the most difficult tasks for NFL receivers. Williams, though, made it look effortless.

The catch broke the game open. But probably more importantly, it was an incredibly encouraging sign that Williams is coming along and developing into the lethal deep-ball threat the Lions drafted him to be.

This guy has just five career catches in the NFL, and two of them are 40-plus-yard touchdowns. Translation: Williams' future is bright and well worth the wait.

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Gallery Credit: Jacob Harrison

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