The Detroit Lions lost to the Carolina Panthers by three points, but those watching the game know that the score doesn’t tell the whole story. The Lions were out-coached and out-played for more than 50 minutes of football and they never adjusted or started executing better until it was too late. Fans were quick to point the blame to an Eric Ebron drop in the end zone, but a career-bad game by Darius Slay and Ziggy Ansah contributed far more to the loss than one pass play did. The team needs to improve at every level to remain competitive in the NFC, but that doesn’t mean nobody shined in the loss.
Stock Up: Jarrad Davis, LB
Jarrad Davis said he felt like a "starved dog" after missing the last two weeks to a neck injury.— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) October 8, 2017
The leader of the Lions defense has been missing the past couple of weeks and it has been a huge problem for the unit. Teryl Austin has kept the squad moving despite his absence, but it obviously meant a ton to have him back. Davis would be one of the lone bright spots on the team as they were dismantled by the Panthers in every other way. Davis has a monstrous motor that never stops and brings fire every time the ball is snapped.
Stock Down: Matthew Stafford, QB
Oh boy, things go from bad to worse for Detroit. Stafford loses a fumble on 1st play after CAR TD. Carolina ball at Lions 23. #CARvsDET— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) October 8, 2017
This was arguably Stafford’s worst outing for most of the game. He didn’t throw a pick, but he did fumble multiple times and misfired throws to wide open receivers on several third downs. His timing was off and he didn’t do well with the ridiculous pressure he was being dealt by the Panthers defense. Stafford has to be able to marshal the team when the chips are down, but he was unable to do so. He missed reads, missed receivers and clearly misses his left tackle. With the game on the line, he was able to champion a couple of touchdown drives, but relying on late game heroics isn’t a winning formula.
Stock Up: Tavon Wilson, SS
Tavon Wilson and Jarrad Davis have combined for 5 TFLs today.— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) October 8, 2017
Davis just added a PBU. #SilverLinings
The emergence of Miles Killebrew has been a revelation for the defense, but part of why he has had as many opportunities as he has is due to the health and poor play of Tavon Wilson. Wilson was inconsistent in 2016, but had more good stretches than bad and was expected to be an integral part of the defense even if he wasn’t starting. He played particularly well against the run for the Lions and seemed to be in the backfield every other play. The Lions heavily feature multiple safety sets, so a bounce back from Wilson is a very good sign.
Stock Down: Ezekiel Ansah, DE
Ansah had a couple of really nice snaps early in the first half and it looked like he might be setting up for a return to form. It was short lived, and from then on it was pretty ugly. The Lions defensive line couldn’t get anything going in terms of pressure or run stopping. Worse than his technique or just being hampered by injury, Ansah appeared to be barely trying on many plays, just kind of leaning into his blocker and taking the play off. We talked a lot about the Lions looking at pass rushers in the 2018 draft to play across from Ansah, but it’s possible they’ll be looking for a replacement instead.
Stock Up: Akeem Spence, DT
Newton with forever-and-a-day, again, but another Akeem Spence sighting as he gets the sack. Lions take their second timeout.— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) October 8, 2017
The defensive ends were struggling against the Panthers, but the defensive interior seemed to have a lot more success. A big part of that was Akeem Spence, who made several big plays in the backfield. He ended the day with a sack and another TFL, but was a lot more disruptive than even that stat line would suggest. Haloti Ngata left with injury, and if that ends up being anything notable it is going to be important to have someone reliable next to A’Shawn Robinson.
Stock Down: Eric Ebron, TE
Ebron has been a decent blocker this season and aside from the Falcons game, he was at least passable as a pass catching option. The team continues to go to him on third downs, but this game should go a long way to changing that. Ebron only dropped one pass, but it was a huge one in the end zone, taking four points off the board. Stafford overthrew him later, to boos from the crowd who likely thought it was another drop. Later, there was another pass that drew boos from Ford Field, this one well defended, but Ebron is so far out of the fans’ good graces that any incompletion may as well be a drop. Darren Fells hauled in two touchdowns to bring the game within one score, and we may have seen the last of Ebron as a starter in Detroit.
Jared Abbrederis, WR - Abbrederis has done little to see the field, but was a reliable receiver late in this one when the team needed it.
Nick Bellore, FB - The reserve linebacker acted as a fullback on several plays and was competent in them. Unfortunately, it’s a bit predictable, as the fourth down attempt fail showed.
Darren Fells, TE - Fells was competent as a receiver for much of the game, but it was late in the contest when he was instrumental in the near comeback, netting two TDs.
D.J. Hayden, CB - Hayden has been pretty bad most of the season, but this was a pretty strong outing. The other corners struggled; he did not.
George Johnson, DE - Johnson may be playing for his roster spot as the team makes a decision on Armonty Bryant. He didn’t do much, but had a nice TFL by the goal line.
Theo Riddick, RB - Riddick has been having a bit of an off year, but we got to see one of those old vintage Riddick moments where he tossed All Pro LB Luke Kuechly to the turf.
Jermiah Valoaga, DE - The UDFA had a single tackle, but it was for a loss and worthy of praise.
Zach Zenner, RB - Zenner only played a small amount of snaps but was good in nearly all of them. One of his best plays was a perfectly executed screen that was wiped out by penalty.
Ameer Abdullah, RB - Scheme didn’t do him any favors, nor did falling behind so quickly, but Abdullah was not very dynamic after his first big run.
Jamal Agnew, KR - Agnew has struggled to track the ball on some punts and nearly put one on the dirt in this one. Needs to clean that up.
Marvin Jones, WR - Statistically, this was a good game for Jones. He started out the game right, too. Later, he couldn’t get separation at all, a big cause of Stafford’s pressure.
TJ Jones, WR - Like Marv, TJ struggled to gain separation when he was on the field. Aside from a few nice moments, the Lions could have used an upgrade.
Miles Killebrew, SS - It’s been a great year for the sophomore, but Killebrew had to have a back to earth game sometime. Missed opportunities and sloppy tackling a chief cause.
T.J. Lang, OG - Recovery from injury may be a cause, but this wasn’t Lang’s best outing as a blocker. Kept clean on penalties, though.
Nevin Lawson, CB - A captain for the game, Lawson and Slay allowed nearly everything thrown their way to be completed.
Jeff Locke, P - After a great revenge game, Locke came crashing down to earth with a 29-yard mini-punt to set the Panthers up with great field position.
Haloti Ngata, DT - He notched a sack and had a few moments of brilliance, but the vet was getting moved around more than you’d like and later left with an elbow injury.
Glover Quin, FS - Quin has been on a DPOY pace, but this was not his best game. Like others, tackling ability and missed opportunities were an issue.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT - In a game where your nose tackle is taking on a reserve center, you expect dominance. Lions barely got relevance.
Greg Robinson, OT - We’ve entered the point of the season where it’s a worthwhile question if Robinson could be replaced and if anyone could possibly be worse.
Darius Slay, CB - Worthy of a write up all his own, Slay played his worst game of the past several seasons in what should have been his easiest match up.
Travis Swanson, OC - It’s a tough draw to get Star Lotuleilei and Kawann Short, but Swanson barely put up a fight at times.
Golden Tate, WR - Late game heroics aside, Tate was a ghost in the first half and most of the second.
Rick Wagner, OT - Wagner struggled mightily last week and while it was better in this one I can’t say it was by much.
Tahir Whitehead, LB - Whitehead was the worst player in coverage on a day where nearly everybody sucked in coverage.
Anthony Zettel, DE - Dominant as a pass rusher through four games, Zettel completely disappeared in this one for long stretches.
Jim Caldwell, Head Coach: Stock Down
The team was largely disciplined against an undisciplined Panthers team, but that’s pretty much where the praise ends for Caldwell. His first couple of drives on both sides of the ball ran like a script, but it ended early and almost the entire game went completely wrong and seemed to snowball. The wheels seemed to completely fall off, but the team made a late rally that was simply too late.
Jim Bob Cooter, Offensive Coordinator: Stock Down
This was a terrible game from Cooter. Awful. Bad. Unimaginative. I could fill this entire paragraph with negative epithets to describe the playcalling on offense against a vulnerable Panthers defense. As one of the youngest and least experienced coordinators in the NFL, the Lions knew there would be some growing pains with Jim Bob Cooter, but eventually there needs to start being some serious, noteworthy improvements on that side of the ball. No team can rely on late game theatrics to win consistently, as this very loss shows.
Teryl Austin, Defensive Coordinator: Stock Down
Austin has been able to make something from nothing with his defense in the past, but he couldn’t get anything going against the Panthers. Despite a wounded offensive line, Austin couldn’t get anything resembling pressure for much of the game and his coverage was the worst it has been all season. This wasn’t even a throwback to 2016 where the team went bend don’t break, there were simply straight up coaching errors on his part and a complete outcoaching from the Panthers offensive staff. When Austin sold out for the run, the Panthers saw it coming and went to the air. When Tahir Whitehead was getting abused, Austin did nothing to help him in coverage. There were little to no adjustments in any phase at any time on defense.
Joe Marciano, Special Teams Coordinator: Stock Down
Marciano can’t be blamed for a poor punt by Locke, but the coverage units were not at their best either. Jamal Agnew wasn’t able to get anything going on punt returns and while much of that can be attributed to simply good play by the Panthers it doesn’t absolve Marciano for any of the blame. Matt Prater didn’t get much work outside of a chip shot, but when the Lions sold out on a Panthers punt and ended up running into the kicker it just further shone a light on how poor the game went in every phase of play.