It was another imbalanced performance for the Detroit Lions on Sunday. The offense was spectacular against a formidable Los Angeles Rams defense, while the Lions defense was atrocious against a bottom tier Rams offense. As a result, half of the Lions players will be able to redeem their report card for a few free tokens at Chuck E. Cheese, while the other half will have to forge their parents’ signature before getting back to work.
The Detroit Lions defense left Matthew Stafford with no margin for error in his game on Sunday. Stafford responded by having a near-perfect game. Though he finished with eight incomplete passes in 31 attempts, five of those were drops. Stafford’s 139.8 passer rating was the second highest in his entire career.
He led the Lions on both a game-tying drive and a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. He now has 23 fourth quarter game-winning drives. He’s a franchise quarterback.
Running backs: B-
Considering how shorthanded the Lions were at running back, Detroit held in there admirably. Zach Zenner, at times, showed flashes of why he has stuck around the team for two seasons. Zenner was also absolutely crucial in the Lions’ game-winning drive, picking up 17 of his total 58 rushing yards on three carries that drive. On the game-tying drive, Zenner also had a big 19-yard game that got the Lions out of a huge first-and-20 hole.
However, outside of that portion of the game, the Lions’ running game was mostly ineffective. The offensive line deserves some blame for that, but the backs didn’t do much to help them out, either. Also, with Zenner nor Justin Forsett very active in the passing game, it took another dimension out of Jim Bob Cooter’s offense.
Wide Receivers: B
It was the Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin show in the passing game. Of the 31 total targets from Matthew Stafford, 19 of them went to that duo. Tate and Boldin combined for 225 yards on 16 catches and two of them for touchdowns. Both were extremely reliable and extremely critical in Detroit’s win over the Rams.
That being said, there were too many drops in this game. Five times, Lions receivers dropped passes from Stafford on Sunday, and they were the kind of drops that were indisputably on the receivers. Plus, Marvin Jones had just two catches for 10 yards? WHAT’S WRONG WITH MARVIN JONES? DOES HE NOT CARE ANYMORE? DOES HE NOT FEEL THE NEED TO BE THE NO. 1 RECEIVER????? SHOULD THE LIONS TRADE HIM???????
Tight ends: D+
The tight ends weren’t extremely bad against Los Angeles. However, it is very clear that the Lions are missing their top three tight ends, both in the passing and blocking game. Through the past two weeks, tight ends have been responsible for just one target. Eric Ebron alone is averaging over six targets per game.
And while the Lions have been using Corey Robinson as a sixth offensive lineman to help compensate for the lack of a good blocking tight end, Detroit has still struggled blocking with their tight ends when they are in the game.
Offensive line: B-
The offensive line actually gave Stafford a good amount of time in the pocket this week. The Rams were without their best pass rusher in Robert Quinn, but the Lions still deserve a lot of credit considering they had Laken Tomlinson at a new position at right guard and a rookie starting his first ever game at left guard.
But we don’t grade on a curve here, so we can’t ignore the continued issues at run blocking. The Lions held several leads in this game, but during the middle of the game, the running game disappeared largely because backs were getting hit in the backfield. Because of that, Stafford had to dig the Lions out of 2nd and 3rd-and-longs. Luckily for them, he almost always did.
Defensive line: D-
The return of Ezekiel Ansah did little to bolster the Lions’ pass rush. Case Keenum was sacked just once on the day, while, at times, it looked like Todd Gurley was going to take over this game. As we mentioned in the game ball post, Kerry Hyder was again the lone bright spot, but the Lions need more than that. Even with consistent blitzing from the linebackers, the Lions were not able to generate any push with their line. The only reason the Lions didn’t get an F here is because of the fourth down stop to end the first half.
I didn’t think the linebackers could play any worse, but they possibly had their worst game yet on Sunday. Again, there were missed tackles. Again, there were blown coverages. Again, there was Thurston Armbrister looking completely lost. Right now, even Tahir Whitehead is playing poorly. We’re six games into the season now, and there doesn’t appear to be any hope on the horizon for this crew. Detroit’s number one priority right now needs to be getting Jon Bostic off of injured reserve and getting DeAndre Levy back in the game, because this unit is terrible right now.
It may not be entirely the secondary’s fault, but Case Keenum went 27 for 32 for 321 yards and three touchdowns. At one point, Keenum had 19 consecutive completions against this Lions defense. Absolutely no one was making plays, including Darius Slay, who probably had one of the worst games of his career.
Of course, just when you give up on an entire set of players, they come out and make a huge play. For the second week in a row, a member of the Lions secondary made a game-clinching play. This time it was Rafael Bush who closed it out with a game-winning interception.
Yes. Jim freaking Caldwell just earned himself an A in coaching. Much to my—and the fourth down bot’s—delight, Caldwell got aggressive in this game, going for it on fourth down twice in this game, both ultimately resulting in touchdowns. The Lions are now six-for-six on fourth down, and while I would have liked to see Caldwell go for it once more on the Lions’ final drive to put the game out of hand for good, I admit that it would have been an extremely ballsy call.
While Teryl Austin deserves all of the criticism coming to him, Jim Bob Cooter continues to do more with less. Every week, the Lions offense is losing a key weapon, yet every week, the Lions offense continues to march ahead. While Stafford probably deserves the most credit for that, Cooterball definitely gets an honorable mention.