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Detroit Lions stock report: Half a game out

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The Detroit Lions gained a stunning victory over the NFC North leading Minnesota Vikings in overtime and they now find themselves a half game out of the lead for the NFC North. Let’s take stock of the team heading into the bye week.

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Wow, what a game! The Detroit Lions once again came up strong in the clutch, with Matthew Stafford putting together a 23-second drive with no timeouts to get the team into field goal range. From there, Matt Prater hit a 58 yarder to force overtime, and then the team marched 87 yards down the field for a touchdown in overtime to beat the NFC North leading Minnesota Vikings. Stock down? Our collective heart strength as the team had us at the ends of our seats once again. Stock up? The win column.

Stock Up: Golden Tate, WR

So let’s talk about that touchdown for a second, and then I’ll let it go. Golden Tate made a pretty routine catch, but once again it was what he did after that catch that I’m going to address. Stopping on a dime, inbounds, while sending one Vikings defender to the burn unit before stiff-arming Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith to the ground and executing a flip into the end zone—he may have been just trying to put his backside in the other dude’s face just to rub it in—to seal the victory was incredible. He would finish the day with 11 catches for 79 yards, and while most of his catches were of the short or no gain variety, I think we can all see why the goal is to get the ball into his hands and let him work.

Stock Down: A’Shawn Robinson, DT

Rookies make rookie mistakes. Robinson has had his own struggles rushing the passer this year, as he did once again against Minnesota, and a late batted pass took a bit of the sting off his huge mistake. Robinson entered the neutral zone for a penalty on third down, with the Vikings in the red zone and about a minute left in the fourth quarter. They would go on to score on that drive, putting the Lions down three. The Lions would ultimately win the game by some late-game heroics from Prater and Stafford, but the game was nearly lost in that moment by Robinson. You could see it on his face on the sidelines. He’ll learn from it, but he isn’t making the kind of impact as a defender to excuse mistakes like that.

Stock Up: Ezekiel Ansah, DE

Ansah has been struggling with injuries in 2016 and while he has played some the past few weeks, he is clearly not himself. The Vikings game was one where he didn’t flash on the box score, but was routinely affecting plays. On Kerry Hyder’s sack, it was Ziggy who forced Bradford up in the pocket, an excellent play design and execution where Ziggy bent the edge—something he’s struggled with due to his ankle. Later, a play was given up on a short pass and a tackle was missed, Ziggy came out of nowhere to salvage the play for a shorter gain. He’s starting to fly all over the field again, and it’s only a matter of time before he’s giving QBs those hugs he likes.

Stock Down: Anquan Boldin, WR

Boldin, the wily veteran, was brought in for surehandedness. He’s dropped five passes on the season after dropping two against the Vikings, pulling in his other two targets for only 10 yards. He still has a role in the offense, but with Eric Ebron and Theo Riddick making defenses have nightmares, his role has been severely diminished. Drops like the two he had today aren’t going to make a convincing case that he should get more targets later, either. One of his catches was for a touchdown, on a play the Lions have had a lot of success on in the red zone, so he’ll be secure as long as he can still do that. The rest of the field? Maybe time to start looking at better options.

Stock Up: Eric Ebron, TE

While I’m sure the drop he had early in the game is going to be talked about by many a hater—only his third official drop of the season—I’m going to look at the other seven targets he had and take a whole picture approach. All seven of those other targets were caught for a personal best 92 yards, the best of which was a 23-yard reception with some nifty after the catch action. It looks like Ebron has been hanging out with Golden Tate and Theo Riddick lately, adding some moves to his repertoire once he has the ball in his hands. He and Riddick paired for some of the best work in the game and both deserve to be focal points in this offense moving forward.

Stock down: Johnson Bademosi, CB

Bademosi started for the injured Darius Slay and boy did it show that he was a career special teamer. His worst series of the game came when he missed a routine tackle, allowing the receiver to get an extra 6 yards, and then had a penalty on the following play. It didn’t end there: he was routinely abused by Sam Bradford. It looks like his strong play the previous week was truly due to facing Brock Osweiler, as Bradford isn’t a whole lot better. But Bradford managed to expose Bademosi all game. Gladly, Darius Slay is expected back after the bye.

Quick Hits

Stock Up

Josh Bynes, LB: Just missing an extended write up, Bynes had a very good bounce back game against Minnesota. His speed continues to be an issue, but his great instincts and tackling ability are important strengths.
Don Carey, SS: It probably won’t get much attention, but Carey made one of the best special teams plays of the season on his tackle of Marcus Sherels.
Taylor Decker, OT: Continues to be a good rookie left tackle, an achievement I don’t think many understand the importance of.
Graham Glasgow, OG: The rookie had his share of struggles last week, but had an overall solid game on a tough draw.
Kerry Hyder, DE: One was a gimme from Ansah, but Hyder walked away with two sacks putting him at seven on the season. He’s made a lot of money.
Nevin Lawson, CB: I almost put him down since he was injured and it might be serious. It should be recognized how well he played against Minnesota, though, as he saved numerous plays that others messed up in addition to covering well.
Haloti Ngata, DT: Ngata was needed back and he made his presence felt for much of the game. The Vikings couldn’t rush the ball and Bradford’s pocket was muddy.
Matt Prater, K: Prater was amazing. More than just making his field goals, he came up clutch to send the game into overtime like a boss. Another player who bounced back from a rough week prior.
Glover Quin, FS: Quin had an excellent return on the blocked kick, but more importantly he was good playing deep safety and keeping people in position.
Theo Riddick, RB: After rushing for less than 3 YPC his entire career, Riddick now has three weeks in a row where he rushed for 4.5 or more per carry.
Andre Roberts, WR: I nearly put him in unchanged, as his return work was very poor—especially his last, a 10 yard KR in OT—but Roberts caught his sole target, putting the Lions in position to tie the game. Big play deserving of recognition.
Corey Robinson, OT: I talked up Robinson a bit in training camp, but an injury and solid play in front of him meant no opportunities. His first start went pretty well against some athletic pass rushers. A good showing for the 7th rounder.
Matthew Stafford, QB: It’s kind of nice to not be hearing all the “Stafford should be traded” chatter. Stafford’s game-winning drive was spectacular, but more impressive to me was organizing the short drive that put them in position to kick a field goal with almost no time.
Travis Swanson, OC: Swanson has been having an excellent year, and his best play thus far may be pushing a stopped Dwayne Washington ahead for an extra 6 or so yards.
Devin Taylor, DE: Taylor has been very poor this season, so it’s worth noting when he wasn’t awful. Which he wasn’t. Not good, but not terrible.
Tyrunn Walker, DT: Walker had his best game of the season, batting down a pass and blocking a field goal that was returned for big yards.
Larry Warford, OG: Warford has had ups and downs, but this one was certainly an up. Blocked hard often and gave holes for Theo Riddick to run through.
Tahir Whitehead, LB: A good example when looking at why the Lions brought Whitehead back: his athleticism was on display as he flew all over the field.

Stock Down

Adairius Barnes, CB: Barnes looked good on a few snaps last week, then got hurt. Got hurt again this week. His tiny frame appears to be limiting his ability to stay healthy.
Rafael Bush, SS: Bush didn’t get a lot of work, but his only notable moment was a terribly soft, poor form tackle where he allowed extra yardage.
Brandon Copeland, DE: The only time I notice Copeland was when he gave up contain on the edge. A pass rushing specialist who can’t rush the passer or set an edge.
Quandre Diggs, CB: Diggs has been mostly quietly, and is having a poor year. That continued as he was eaten alive at times in the slot, though he was saved a few times by others.
Justin Forsett, RB: From starting to inactive. Dwayne Washington’s activation meant the Lions had no need for Forsett.
Marvin Jones, WR: Jones wasn’t good against Minnesota and couldn’t shake Trae Waynes at all on deep routes. He needs a bounce back game.
Khyri Thornton, DT: I may change this one later, but the only times I noticed Thornton was being blown off the line on run plays. Kind of a partial grade, this one.
Dwayne Washington, RB: This was the big opportunity after Riddick left for a minor injury, but Washington managed only 26 yards on 10 carries. Same blocking, Riddick had 5.0 YPC, nearly twice Washington. No fumbles, but he also carried the ball very loosely.
Zach Zenner, RB: No rushes for Zenner as the team’s third back.

Unchanged

Thurston Armbrister, LB: Did he play? I don’t know. Didn’t affect the game one way or the other.
Michael Burton, FB: Burton was used sparingly in this one as they once again went to an offense that worked horizontally. JBC tried some gimmick stuff, but it was bad.
Stefan Charles, DT: Charles had a great week against Houston, but I didn’t see much one way or the other against Minnesota.
Joe Dahl, OG: Nothing to change my mind.
Clay Harbor, TE: Getting special teams play is important if you want to keep your job, but Harbor did little of note.
Miles Killebrew, SS: I keep seeing him and he’s not doing anything bad or notably good. Just kinda working, which is where he needs to be right now.
Cornelius Lucas, OT: Corey Robinson playing well means we weren’t subjected to much Cornelius Lucas. Stock up Lions fans!
Sam Martin, P: Martin looked good as always, and he needed some stability after a rare poor game last week. He has time to rest whatever minor injury he incurred.
Antwione Williams, LB: Not much to say, he didn’t look great or terrible.
Tavon Wilson, SS: This one is another I may change. He played all game, and I only noticed a couple that weren’t good. Mostly quiet, though.

Coaches

Jim Caldwell, HC: Stock Up

I’ve been harsh on Jim Caldwell since I believe he isn’t a very good coach—even after a win, this still holds true for me. Still, I can recognize when someone is doing some fine work as a coach and Caldwell pulled one out. There was a stupid 12 men on the field penalty to illustrate some of the little things he still struggles with, but how quickly the Lions lined up in a legal formation to spike the ball in field goal range with only seconds to work was masterful. That’s what a well coached team looks like in a bubble and I’d love to see more of that for 60 minutes of football.

Jim Bob Cooter, OC: Stock Down

If I went solely by the first half, this would be the other way around. The 9:45 minute drive to end the half with a touchdown was beautiful play design and execution. The second half was mostly poor both from a play design and calling perspective, especially on third downs. He managed to put it all together to end the game strongly, but this isn’t the first time we’ve seen poor second half adjustments from a Lions coordinator.

Teryl Austin, DC: Stock Up

Teryl Austin has had a few bad weeks this season. By few I mean nearly all, and this game certainly had moments I could ding him for. However, this was easily his best called game and the players were executing accordingly. There were several moments in the game where we held our breaths in anticipation of a huge broken play only to see nothing of the sort. There were solid performances in all three levels of the defense, which is notable because even when he has had decent games this season there was always one level that was completely off—usually the LBs. Against Minnesota, the defensive line was stout, the linebackers were solid, and the secondary, with a few exceptions, were lights out. They still made Sam Bradford look good on the stat sheet, but they helped put a loss on the Vikings.

Joe Marciano, ST: Stock Down

I didn’t want to cop this one out and have it unchanged. The kicking unit was spectacular in this one: Don Muhlbach snapped well, Sam Martin held perfectly and Matt Prater’s kicks were all exactly where they needed to go. The rest of the units weren’t great, and were at some points very bad. The final kick return of the game in overtime was fielded at about the 3 and Andre Roberts could only get it to the 13. That’s some poor blocking and poor return ability—10 yards isn’t very far to run. The special teams units didn’t lose the game for the Lions, but they did make both offense and defense work harder than they needed to.