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Lions-Texans report card: Coaching fails, offense can’t live up to the hype

No one is absolved from blame for the Lions’ loss to the Texans.

Detroit Lions v Houston Texans Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

Sunday was an ugly day for the Detroit Lions. The offense sputtered all game, going without a touchdown for the first three quarters of the game. The defense mostly let Brock Osweiler do whatever he pleased, and although they defended the run well, they collapsed at the end of the game when the Lions needed a stop.

This was the definition of a team loss and as such, the team is all going to go home with a bad report card. Here’s how I graded each unit on their Week 8 performance.

Quarterback: C

Matthew Stafford wasn’t his best on Sunday. He didn’t get any help from his wide receivers or his offensive line, but Stafford just couldn’t find a rhythm all game. He may not have made any big mistakes in this game, but he also didn’t make any big plays that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing him make. He wasn’t that accurate, but we also didn’t see him miss any wide open receivers. If you’re looking for a reason the Lions lost on Sunday, you won’t find one here.

Running back: B

This grade is completely based on the play of Theo Riddick, who was responsible for 46 percent of the Lions yards against the Texans and 100 percent of their touchdowns. Riddick hauled in a team-high eight catches and turned those passes into 77 receiving yards. He was also efficient as a runner, pulling in 5.1 yards per carry on 11 rushes.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said about Zach Zenner, who ran the ball three times and only managed just two yards.

Tight ends: B-

Eric Ebron looked pretty good in his return to the lineup. Though he did have one bad drop, he led the team with 79 receiving yards and was a favorite target of Stafford’s. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, Ebron gave the Lions offense the blocking weapon at tight end they’ve been so desperately missing since his foot and ankle injury.

Thus ends the ‘good’ grade portion of this report card.

Offensive line: D

Though Stafford was sacked just one time all afternoon, the offensive line does not get credit for doing their job well on Sunday. Jadeveon Clowney was making Riley Reiff’s life a living hell, and when Reiff had to leave the game due to the illness he had been dealing with all week, Clowney embarrassed Cornelius Lucas for the only sack of the game.

Pro Football Focus actually graded out Travis Swanson and Taylor Decker pretty favorably, but according to the site, Reiff and Graham Glasgow combined for nine quarterback pressures allowed. That’s the main culprit for Detroit’s failing on offense.

Wide receivers: F

This receiving group has been defined by making huge plays at the right time. That did not happen once in this game. No wide receiver had a catch over 13 yards and drops were a problem again. The Texans have a very good secondary, and it speaks to why no Lions receiver ever had any separation from their defenders, but this is a group of players we’ve come to expect more from. They did not step up to the challenge on Sunday.

Defensive line: D

This is tough because I want to give this group of players credit for holding the Texans to less than 2.0 yards per carry through three quarters of the game. However, in the fourth quarter alone, Houston rushed for 79 yards—not including kneel downs—for 7.2 yards per carry.

Additionally, the Lions’ pass rush was once again nonexistent. Ezekiel Ansah has been a mirage since returning from his ankle injury and no one can convince me that Devin Taylor has actually played a single down for this team in 2016.

Linebackers: D

The Lions traded away Kyle Van Noy last week and put Josh Bynes in his place. While the move may have grabbed headlines and turned heads, it did little to impact the product on the field. Bynes looked quite rusty in his 2016 debut, and as a result, Texans tight ends ran wild against the Detroit defense. Three Houston tight ends combined for 10 catches, 94 yards and a touchdown. Antwione Williams looked a little better this week, though.

Secondary: D+

Credit to Johnson Bademosi, who tallied his first career interception along with two passes defended, and Tavon Wilson, who led the team with nine total tackles. But everyone else looked bad against Brock Osweiler. The Texans quarterback completed a season-high 69.0 percent of his passes against a depleted Lions secondary.

To their credit, the secondary didn’t allow the duo of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller to run rampant, but when Osweiler is completing well over two-thirds of his passes, you’re still doing it wrong.

Special Teams: D

Andre Roberts’ semi-competent kickoff returns were the only thing saving this group from an F. Matt Prater missed a field goal. Sam Martin had his second-worst statistical game of the year, averaging just 44.6 yards per punt—well below his season-long average of 50.3. The Lions punt coverage team was uncharacteristically bad, allowing 7.0 yards per return. And as good as Roberts was at kickoff returns, he was equally bad on punt returns. His three punt returns went for a total of five yards, and that includes an eight-yard return. You do the math.

Coaching: F

I didn’t even have a problem with Jim Caldwell’s decision to go for the onside kick with just under three minutes left, and this coaching staff still earned an F for the game.

Caldwell’s biggest error came in declining to challenge a catch and fumble that was ruled incomplete on the field. Though replays were somewhat inconclusive, the Lions absolutely should have taken the chance at picking up a huge play. Caldwell said after the game that his team in the booth told him not to challenge, so the blame doesn’t fall exclusively on Caldwell, but this section is for overall coaching and some of the coaching staff gave Caldwell poor advice.

Putting Caldwell aside for a moment, I thought this was Jim Bob Cooter’s worst game as offensive coordinator for the Lions. His most egregious error came on a fourth quarter possession with the Lions down just one score. Two screen plays had resulted in negative yardage and a penalty, pushing the Lions into a tough second-and-21 situation. The next play absolutely needed to take a big chunk out of that yardage, but Cooter dialed up an uninspiring draw play that netted three yards. At third-and-18, the Lions had no choice but to essentially give up on the possession. The next time the Lions got the ball back, they were down two scores with just four minutes left.

And, of course, we can’t forget Cooter’s counterpart, Teryl Austin. I know he’s been dealt a crappy, injury-plagued hand, but it has been eight weeks now. If you can’t develop a game plan to stop a tight end—any tight end—from gouging the middle of this defense, you probably don’t deserve to hold the title of NFL defensive coordinator. If there is anyone who should be on the hot seat right now, it’s Teryl Austin.

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