No need to preface this report card with a reminder of how bad the Detroit Lions were on Sunday. They were bad, now they’re going to receiving the grades they deserve:
Matthew Stafford wasn’t the biggest of the Lions’ problems against the Bears, but he was still on the wrong side of helpfulness. He looked indecisive, he was inaccurate and he didn’t lead the team on a single touchdown drive against one of the worst defenses in the league. Stafford certainly wasn’t helped out by his teammates—more on this later—but Stafford had a below average day.
Running backs: C
I didn’t find anything the backs did particularly objectionable. At times, even, it looked like the Lions were building an acceptable running game. In total, the Lions rushed for 66 yards at 3.7 a carry. However, you take away Staffords two rushes and suddenly you’re down to 49 yards at 3.1 a carry.
Theo Riddick continues to be more valuable as a receiver than a runner, but even Dwayne Washington looked subpar in his two carries before suffering an injury.
Because the backs added 49 receiving yards and a lot of their rushing problems were rooted in offensive line play, I’ll give them an average grade.
Wide Receivers: D-
You wide receivers better thank Marvin Jones for preventing me from sending you all home with a big, fat F. Again there were drops from the receivers, again there was Matthew Stafford standing for seconds on end trying to find someone open. Again one of the biggest perceived strengths of this team came out flat against a soft defense.
Golden Tate takes the brunt of this blame, as he no longer looks like a threat to anyone. I don’t know if he’s being phased out by this offense, whether he and Stafford are beefing or if Tate is just declining in skill, but the Lions need one of their biggest weapons back.
Boldin played okay, too.
Tight ends: D+
No player gives and takes more than Eric Ebron. Ebron had a handful of huge catches and deserves credit for fighting through injuries, something he has done since the very beginning of the season. But on this day, the lows were lower than the highs were high. Ebron had a critical third down drop and had two costly penalties later in the game.
Ebron is still very important to this offense—something that was made painfully obvious when his replacement Cole Wick ran a deep, uninspiring route when he was sidelined—but it was just a bad day for him.
Offensive line: D-
Again, not everyone on the offensive line deserves poor marks, but this is a unit, and when the Lions needed this unit to stand tall, they failed miserably. They let several defenders into the backfield in goal line formations. They had Stafford on the move from the pocket all day. They had Lions running backs averaging 3.1 yards per carry against a bad Bears defense. Throw in a few penalties and there’s just not much to be positive about the offensive line’s performance against the Bears.
Defensive line: F
No question about it, this unit remains the biggest disappointment of the entire team. You can say all you want about Kerry Hyder’s five sacks on the season, but he, nor anyone else on this defensive front, is providing consistent pressure on the quarterback. The Lions seem to be blitzing more and more trying to get the opposing quarterback on the move, but nothing is working.
Oh, and a rookie running back ran for 111 yards and 4.8 a carry.
Missed tackles, broken coverages, but maybe most importantly, no big defensive plays. The Lions have played four games now and have forced a turnover once. No strip sacks, no fumbles, no tipped interceptions. Just one beautiful play from Glover Quin.
The closest thing anyone in the linebacking crew got to making a play was the single tackle for loss from the entire unit made by Tahir Whitehead. Not good enough.
Darius Slay gets an A on Sunday, but his good performance can’t counter everyone else’s horrible performance. Quandre Diggs had a particularly poor game, while Rafael Bush seemed to confirm what we already knew: he’s a better backup than he is a starter. These guys aren’t getting any help from a pass rush, but they still aren’t playing well.
Special teams: A
There’s a reason why three special teamers made this week’s Game Ball nominations. Matt Prater was perfect on the day, Sam Martin was his usual, consistent self and Andre Roberts did a good! You three are excused from laps this week.
Coaching is always a bit of a crapshoot, because you can’t typically point to exact things the staff did wrong. You can choose to believe the players who consistently claim the coaches had them prepared, they just failed to execute. Or who can simply blame every single dropped ball, blown coverage and miscommunication blindly on the coaches.
The truth, as always, lies somewhere in the middle. The Lions came out flat for the second straight game and whatever game plan they came out with didn’t work all game. Rarely do you see such poor performance from both sides of the ball under this coaching staff, so Jim Bob Cooter isn’t bailing anyone out of a failing grade this week.
As for game management stuff, I was actually pleased with the way Jim Caldwell used timeouts at the end of the first half. That promptly gave the Lions a prime opportunity to score points, which they quickly blew after Stafford’s first interception. That being said, I would have liked to see Caldwell go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Bears’ 32-yard line rather than try a long field goal. The New York Times bot agrees with me, but I admit it was a close call.
There’s also a bit of controversy surrounding the benching of Golden Tate. Caldwell refused to call it a benching after the game and said that bringing Roberts into the game was always part of the plan. If that’s the truth, either Tate must be really bad right now or Caldwell is out of his mind. I tend to believe this is simply Caldwell protecting his player and taking the blame. Never trust a coach at his word, so that is a non-factor in grading him this week.