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Detroit Lions stock report: Still kings of the North

The Detroit Lions came into Thanksgiving with a game lead in their division, but leave the day with two games up on their next closest rival.

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions have rarely had a comfortable lead in their division. Or a lead. Or comfort. Yet here we are, post-Thanksgiving, bellies full, heads swimming, basking in a victory that put the team ahead of the Minnesota Vikings after a late game interception and clutch kick sealed the deal. Excited as we are, there is still a need for reflection and critical review of how the team performed. To that end, we’re going to once again dive into who has seen their stock rise after today’s game, and who saw theirs take a hit.

Stock Up: Tahir Whitehead, LB

The Lions linebackers have taken a lot of deserved flak this season for their play, particularly in coverage but also just in general. Tahir Whitehead, the only presently playing linebacker who has remained healthy all season, has seen his fair share of bad days. Thanksgiving was not one such day, and he played well in every aspect throughout. There was only one big blown coverage (more on that later), but it wasn’t due to Whitehead losing his assignment, and he did a good job keeping to his assignments and playing the whole of the field. He once again led the team in tackles, and while that isn’t always a good indication of strong play it certainly was in this case.

Stock Down: Glover Quin, FS

Glover Quin was a pro bowler in 2014 and has played at a high level his entire tenure in Detroit. This was probably a game he will look back upon as a learning experience going forward. Sam Bradford was too Sam Bradfordy to challenge Quin much downfield, but the above play in particular is an example of just how far off his game Quin was. While on first viewing it looks like it was Tahir Whitehead that blew his assignment on Jerick McKinnon, it was actually Glover Quin who followed the crossing tight end and, rather than hand him off to both Whitehead and Josh Bynes, he kept following him. This vacated the entire half of the field to triple cover a tight end (The coverage wasn’t even all that good, making it even worse) rather than keeping on the running back all by his lonesome. It was a brutal mistake by the normally stoic Quin and it resulted in one of the biggest plays of the game.

Stock Up: Darius Slay, CB

So, the whole game-winning interception thing happened. I’m not going to go into great detail with that play, you all watched it or can do so by watching the video above. What I will mention is that Vikings receivers combined for 15 catches and only 80 yards between the three of them that caught passes. Adam Thielen did the most damage to the Lions, but most of it wasn’t against Slay. Even if it was, he managed only 53 yards on 8 catches. That 6.6 YPC, again not on Slay, would lead the Vikings receivers as Charles Johnson had only six yards per catch and Cordarrelle Patterson had only three. Slay’s clutch pick to finish the Minnesota Vikings off in regulation put his team in charge of the division, but his play over the course of the game is what made that pick meaningful.

Stock Down: Tyrunn Walker, DT

Welcome back, Mr. Walker. A starter coming into the season, Walker saw himself as a game day inactive last week, but was back in the starting lineup against the Vikings. It didn’t end well for the former Saints pass rusher as he struggled to make any positive impact and was at times a bigger detriment than any other player on defense. The Vikings quick passing game made it difficult for any pass rusher to have an impact, but Walker’s damage in the run game was mostly against his own team. Walker was out of position and manhandled in the run game against the Vikings, and it’s one of those rare moments I’m hopeful there’s some kind of minor injury or something to explain just why he was that bad when I was watching him. It’s not a lack of talent, it’s not a lack of experience, so I can’t explain it otherwise.

Stock Up: Miles Killebrew, SS

It wasn’t the full-time entertainment his play against the Jacksonville Jaguars was, but Miles Killebrew was once again active and flying all over the field. I can’t stress enough just how incredible it is that he is playing at this high of a level this early in his career. I was a very vocal fan of his prior to the draft, but even I would have expected this kind of play in year two at best. The huge safety or tiny linebacker, was as raw as it comes when he was drafted out of Southern Utah and didn’t look ready to work anywhere but special teams in training camp. The team has been moving him along slowly, or so I thought, but his increased workload and the trust that Teryl Austin is putting on him is more promising than any other single aspect of this defense in terms of future potential. His play on special teams was better this week than last, where it was also good.

Stock Down: Larry Warford, OG

Prior to the season, I had spoken a bit about how Larry Warford wasn’t likely to be a free agent priority of Bob Quinn. Then it had more to do with the type of offensive linemen the Patriots had kept on their roster over his tenure there, which seemed to be validated with how his draft class went. Now I think it’s pretty safe to say that it is going to be an on-field concern as well. Warford has played decent at times, but days like today had him looking like a liability in pass protection. He’s still alright, but if I’m an offensive coordinator, I’m not going to pound the table to keep him. He’ll likely command more on the market than he has earned here in Detroit.

Quick Hits

Stock Up

Thurston Armbrister, LB: He didn’t do anything notable, but the team has made several personnel moves and none of them were cutting him. Kudos for good luck.
Johnson Bademosi, CB: His partner in crime—Don Care—stole the show last week, but it was Bademosi who looked great on teams in this one.
Johnthan Banks, CB: Banks didn’t do too badly in this one after coming in for Nevin Lawson. He didn’t get much work, but was good in what he was asked to do.
Adairius Barnes, CB: Barnes has mostly worked on special teams, and looked a lot better this week than he did against the Jaguars.
Anquan Boldin, WR: Boldin got plenty of work while Ebron was bracketed. His footspeed is still laughable, but the dude can work a field and overpower folks.
Josh Bynes, LB: Josh Bynes chased down a running back in coverage. That by itself is notable, but he played well in all phases against Minnesota.

Taylor Decker, OT: Decker was back to his usual self against the Vikings, bouncing back from a subpar showing last week.
Clay Harbor, TE: Harbor found some work as a lead blocker, a step up from just playing on teams.
Marvin Jones, WR: He didn’t break the box score, but Jones seemed to be a lot more into the offense than previous weeks.
Matthew Mulligan, TE: Mulligan saw some work as a blocker in heavy sets and wasn’t awful. Wasn’t great, but he’s getting more work than I remember previously.
Haloti Ngata, DT: Ngata got a hand on one pass and recovered the fumble that wasn’t. A lone bright spot on a poor defensive line.
Matt Prater, K: Prater is on pace to do something even Jason Hanson never got a chance to do: Kick meaningful field goals in the postseason.

Riley Reiff, OT: I expected Reiff to struggle in this one, as he has in the past against Minnesota, but he far exceeded expectations.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT: The whole line struggling to beat the Vikes passing game overshadowed Robinson’s weak pass rush, but he got his hand on a pass and that’s good.
Matthew Stafford, QB: I don’t think any QB in the NFL has had to run these game-on-the-line situations more often than Stafford. Nor delivered as often.
Travis Swanson, OC: He needed to bounce back and did so. Good showing.
Golden Tate, WR: Another player that needed a good game and came up big.
Laken Tomlinson, OG: Tomlinson saw some game time for the benched Graham Glasgow. Is more time in the lineup upcoming?

Stock Down

Ezekiel Ansah, DE: He very nearly got his first sack of the season on a strip, but fate intervened. Quick passing negated his rush, but his run defense wasn’t great either.
Michael Burton, FB: Burton saw little action, and in fact it was Clay Harbor and Matthew Mulligan who lead blocked for Zach Zenner, who ran a FB dive.
Quandre Diggs, CB: Diggs played worse than any other DB. It wasn’t a terrible game, but not a good one either.
Eric Ebron, TE: After three consecutive weeks of tearing up the field, the Vikings did a great job of shutting Ebron down. Targeted once and caught none.
Graham Glasgow, OG: I thought Glasgow played alright for much of the game, certainly better than last week, but he was benched at one point and that’s never a good sign.

Kerry Hyder, DE: Hyder, as with all the DL, struggled with the Vikes quick passing game. On top of that, he got little push in the run game either.
Devin Taylor, DE: Taylor is one of the lowest rated DEs in football right now. He will continue to be after people grade the Vikings game.
Khyri Thornton, DT: Remember those games where Thornton was virtually unblockable? Seems so long ago now.
Zach Zenner, RB: Finally got back into game action, failed to convert a 4th and short.

Unchanged

Rafael Bush, SS: Bush didn’t do a whole lot of noticeable work in this one. He had one good special teams play that I saw, but didn’t impact much otherwise.
Don Carey, SS: Carey didn’t play, which sucks. Thankfully, his absence didn’t hurt as bad as I expected it would.
Brandon Copeland, DE: If he played, I didn’t notice.
Nevin Lawson, CB: He was a bit up and down. As high a level as he played, I should probably put his stock down, but I’ll wait to see if it’s a trend.
Sam Martin, P: Still a boss. Possibly a historic one, as he’s on pace to break the record for net punting average.
Theo Riddick, RB: After showing up big against Jacksonville, Riddick was just okay against Minnesota. And that’s alright.
Andre Roberts, WR: Another inconsistent showing, Roberts completely botched a deep pass where his corner had tripped, but managed a couple catches to stay employed.
Dwayne Washington, RB: Did little to move the needle. After a poor showing last week, that might be a good thing.
Antwione Williams, LB: I had to look at the box score to see if he even played. Had a few tackles, but I didn’t notice him during the game at all.
Tavon Wilson, SS: Wilson had a few moments, but others where I thought he was out of place. This is one I’ll likely change my mind on after rewatching.
Anthony Zettel, DE: Continues to struggle in run support, but not any more so than he has in the past.

Coaches

Jim Caldwell, HC, Unchanged

A lack of second half adjustments was again a problem. Caldwell won his first challenge of the game and made the right choice to make his second, which failed. But he also went for a Hail Mary to end the half rather than giving Matt Prater, the of the biggest leg in the NFL, a chance to beat his own record and try a 67-yard field goal. It’s a matter of choosing a low probability play over a low, but significantly more realistic one. Prater has hit from the 70s in pregame warmups and was not only ready, but calling for that chance. The Lions offense once again struggled to move the ball with regularity and while the defense was hot in the first half, several miscues including another 12 men on the field penalty happened in the second. Mike Zimmer is a good coach, and Caldwell out-coached him narrowly, but the mistakes continue to happen regularly.

Jim Bob Cooter, OC, Stock Down

The Detroit Lions managed 13 points on offense and played yet another game of uninspired football. The level of conservativeness that this offense runs with is deafening sometimes. It’s the world’s loudest sigh. Despite playmakers on offense, Cooter has had to rely on other phases making big plays at timely moments to put points on the board.

Teryl Austin, DC, Stock Up

The Minnesota Vikings are missing their starting quarterback, running back, and No. 1 receiver. They also lost several offensive lineman both before this game and during. The second half was ugly at times for Teryl Austin, but in several instances, such as Quin blowing coverage on McKinnon, it was a problem with execution not design. It’s very possible that Teryl Austin has turned a corner.

Joe Marciano, ST, Unchanged

Marciano has been having a good year and this was a good game. It wasn’t a flashy one, but considering the high level his units have been playing at I don’t think he really moved up from the past weeks. A good phase that has continued to be good.

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