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Lions-Vikings report card: The defense is for real

The performance of the Lions’ defense through 4 weeks has been phenomenal.

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

Here’s our report card for Week 4’s game between the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings.

Quarterbacks: C+

It wasn’t Matthew Stafford’s best game by a long shot. He nearly had two passes picked off, and he failed to throw for a touchdown for the first time since Week 14 of last year (not including the playoffs).

He also occasionally held the ball a little too long and took too many sacks (6). But, most importantly, he didn’t make any drastic mistakes. Against a good defense like the Vikings, sometimes that’s all that really matters.

Running back: A-

When taking into account the difficult of opponent, this was Ameer Abdullah’s best NFL game of his career. In fact, statistically it was his best rushing game in the big leagues. He had a career high 94 rushing yards, as well as just his third ever rushing touchdown of his career. And, man, was it an impressive run:

The rest of the running back crew didn’t really contribute anything, but Abdullah’s performance was good enough to carry the entire group.

Tight ends: A

Darren Fells came up with a few important plays in the first half. Eric Ebron had one really impressive catch and run and another reception later in the game. Together, the two combined for six catches (on nine targets) for 67 yards. Considering the receivers weren’t carrying their load in the passing game, the tight ends were extremely important in this game.

Even Michael Roberts threw in a catch for 15 yards.

Offensive line: D+

Obviously six sacks looks really bad, but a few of those were coverage sacks, as Stafford was forced to hold onto the ball a little too long.

This was a swarming Vikings defensive line and the Lions held up alright, all things considered. Still, it was disappointing to see Rick Wagner, who had been Detroit’s best offensive lineman through three games, struggle mightily on the right side.

Still counting down the days until Taylor Decker is eligible to return to practice (14).

Wide receivers: D-

The Lions weren’t getting open at all on Sunday. Xavier Rhodes was blanketing Marvin Jones all game. Golden Tate had a season-low three catches. TJ Jones may have had the best performance among all receivers, and he just pulled in three catches for 33 yards.

Stafford was forced to look to his second and third reads on nearly every play, and much of the time that resulted in a sack. The receivers need to be better, even if the Vikings secondary is for real.

Defensive line: D+

Anthony Zettel: A
Everyone else: F

Zettel made play after play from the left side of the defensive line, but everyone else ghosted on Sunday.

Ezekiel Ansah continued to be a non-factor, while it was hard to come by a single play from a defensive tackle. The defense has been phenomenal this season, but the defensive front has very little to do with it.

Linebackers: C

All things considered, the linebackers didn’t royally screw up against the Vikings and that’s a big win considering they were without Jarrad Davis and quickly lost Paul Worrilow for the game, too.

The ragtag team of Tahir Whitehead, Nick Bellore and Steve Longa managed to hold the ship together long enough to hold Minnesota to just seven points all game.

They didn’t play great, or even well, but they did just enough.

Secondary: A

There were one or two plays where coverage broke down, but otherwise the Lions’ defensive backs were stellar once again.

Maybe the best part of this unit is that a different player seems to step up every game. This week, it was Miles Killebrew and Nevin Lawson, who were both getting their hands on Case Keenum passes all day.

Keenum ended up only competing 53.3 percent of his passes against the Lions, his lowest efficiency in all three starts.

Coaching: B

There should be a fair amount of crticism thrown Jim Bob Cooter’s way for the way Detroit’s final two possessions went down. Without Ameer Abdullah in the lineup, Detroit insisted on still trying to run the ball and simply bleed the Vikings’ timeouts, rather than taking a real shot at getting a first down and ending the game.

However, the defensive gameplan was solid throughout and Detroit didn’t lose a step when the injury bug hit them.

As for game management things, I thought Jim Caldwell used his timeout masterfully at the end of the first half to get one more possession and a real close shot at points. Additionally, his challenge of Abdullah’s touchdown was a good move, even if it was a no-brainer.

Vikings fans: A

I was at the game on Sunday and have now been to eight different away game venues. I have never experienced an away game like I did in Minnesota.

First off, that place got LOUD. I’m talking near Seattle-level loud. Also, I have to admit the Skol clap thing is pretty infection. Much more so than the horn noise.

But more importantly, Vikings fans were incredibly cool the entire game—pre, mid and post-game. I never really bought into the Minnesota Kindness stereotype, but it’s absolutely true. NFL fans can be so abrasive and aggressive after a tough loss, but I chatted with some many friendly people in town, it gave me hope in NFL fans again.