The Detroit Lions were favored by their largest margin all season, but were tied or behind against the Browns for far too much of this contest. The Browns were a winless team coming into this game and should have been rolled over easily, but the run defense of Teryl Austin was putrid for nearly the entire game and the offense struggled at times to move the ball or keep to what was working. There are plenty of players to talk about for better or worse, so let’s jump into it.
Stock Up: Taylor Decker, OT
First time since 1st drive we've heard from Myles Garrett tbh. Lions have done a solid job on him today #CLEvsDET— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) November 12, 2017
We’ve been talking all season about how much the Lions were going to miss Taylor Decker when he was out injured, and it was very clear that was the case over the Lions first half of games. He made his triumphant return against the Browns and was an immediate impact player in both the run and passing game. So confident were the Lions in Decker’s ability to play that they cut his temporary replacement in Greg Robinson prior to activating the second-year starter for the first time this year. Myles Garrett is only a rookie, but he has been a whirlwind and was so whenever he didn’t have Decker lined up across from him (Brian Mihalik played alternating drives with Decker at LT).
Stock Down: Nevin Lawson, CB
Nevin Lawson giveth, Nevin Lawson taketh away— KNEW (@knewwm) November 12, 2017
We all had a great laugh when Lawson had back-to-back great plays, nearly getting a sack and forcing a quick pass and then forcing a fumble that he returned for a touchdown. Weighing the whole game, however, it doesn’t look pretty for Lawson. Lawson was burnt for a long pass leading to the Browns first points in the game, then gave up the Browns first touchdown with an atrocious tackle attempt on Kenny Britt. Lawson would later give up what seems like his millionth special teams penalty on the season and was benched at times for DJ Hayden outside. It was rough sledding against the Packers for Lawson and he followed it up with another poor contest this week.
Stock Up: Kenny Golladay, WR
Kenny Golladay amazes me every game he plays lol luv it— Andre (@TroutAndre1) November 12, 2017
Golladay didn’t light up the stat sheet in the way that Golden Tate did, but his return from injury was noticeable. His first catch was a short one, but his second catch was a long bomb from Stafford showcasing that vertical ability he was drafted for. With as well as Jones, Tate and the other Jones have been playing, this receiving corps could be one of the most dangerous in the league when they’re firing on all cylinders.
Stock Down: Marvin Jones, WR
Marvin Jones' last 5 games: 8, 14, 11, 11, 2 targets. Lions make no sense.— Jake Liscow (@Jake_NFL) November 12, 2017
It’s been fairly feast or famine with Marvin Jones. After posting his best game of the season, he came out flat against the Browns coverage excluding a nice YAC run straight out of the Golden Tate playbook. Jones simply wasn’t getting open and allowed his first target of the game to be jarred loose easily (it likely goes down as a drop for many because of this). Jones is still having a good year, but when he draws top-tier corners, he disappears.
Stock Up: Jamal Agnew, PR
Jamal Agnew is a pro bowl returner as a rookie. Who has been better?— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) November 12, 2017
The answer is no one. Not one veteran, not one rookie. He's the best this year. https://t.co/W9Ti15PRCz
When talking about the Lions and the Pro Bowl, you can talk about their Pro Bowl quarterback in Matthew Stafford, their Pro Bowl receiver in Golden Tate, or even their Pro Bowl long snapper in Don Muhlbach. In 2017, you absolutely have to add Jamal Agnew to that conversation as he has been the best punt returner in the NFL through nine games and may be trending upward. In fact, the entire Lions special teams units may be headed to the Pro Bowl this year, as Matt Prater and Sam Martin have both been excellent.
Stock Down: Tahir Whitehead, LB
Tahir Whitehead has been having a very good year for the Lions after a career worst 2016. He notched a team lead in tackles against the Browns, but this game isn’t one he’s going to look back upon fondly. He started out well, but as the game wore on he took some bad angles in pursuit and his coverage was not good at all. One long pass to Seth DeValve had Whitehead in zone coverage against no one and rather than locate the tight end slipping up field he just covered empty space. I understand keeping to your assignments, but part of playing in coverage is actually covering something.
Jared Abbrederis, ST - Abbrederis still isn’t doing much on offense, but he has been very good on Joe Marciano’s special teams units and it showed again this week.
Ameer Abdullah, RB - When the game called for it, Abdullah was stellar rushing the football. It’s clear the Lions haven’t lost faith in him in the red zone despite fumbles last week.
Quandre Diggs, CB - Diggs had a monster hit on DeShone Kizer that knocked him out of the game for a bit. That break of momentum was a turning point in the game.
Eric Ebron, TE - Notching a nice, long touchdown as a team captain had to be nice. Ebron was booed coming onto the field, but fans went wild when he beat underrated safety Derrick Kindred for a long score.
Graham Glasgow, OG - Glasgow has been slowly improving as the season wears on and when I was tuned into the OL I noticed some good things. A good sign for the future.
Sam Martin, P - After a shank in his return and no yards last week, Martin seems to have knocked the rust off, putting his coverage units in the best position to get downfield to prevent plays.
Theo Riddick, RB - Theo Riddick had his best game rushing the football, but he also had the easiest touchdown of his life when the Browns simply chose not to cover him. Had to enjoy it.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT - The only DT I saw that wasn’t giving up whether doubled or manned up, Robinson seems to be fighting a losing battle to close holes for other players.
Corey Robinson, OG - His first week back from injury and Corey Robinson starts at right guard. I expected it to be an issue, but instead the Lions dominated the run game early and I never noticed Lang was gone.
Darius Slay, CB - Slay caught a beautiful fade by DeShone Kizer late in the game, but that was his fourth finger wag of the day. Pro bowl type year.
Golden Tate, WR - Tate was money in all the right ways against the Browns. His vision with the football in his hands is legendary, and he’s on pace to catch more than 100 footballs.
Charles Washington, FS - Washington made a stellar play on special teams along with Abbrederis. I’m not sure how expendable Don Carey is at the moment.
Cornelius Washington, DE - The Lions biggest FA acquisition at pass rusher has been very disappointing and even inactive at times. This was a game that shows why they wanted him in the first place.
Dwayne Washington, RB - The Lions gave up trying to rush with him, but he gets credit for a nice catch and run for a first down that had some level of difficulty. Baby steps.
Tavon Wilson, SS - Wilson had some ups and downs, but his work as a blitzer was nice and the only times I noticed him, so credit for that.
Anthony Zettel, DE - Zettel didn’t have many breakdowns, if any in this one. Multiple sacks should always be rewarded.
Nick Bellore, LB - I didn’t catch much of Bellore, but the little bit I caught wasn’t very positive.
Don Carey, ST - Don Carey has been injured and missing time. What lands him here is the stellar play of multiple players in his role on special teams in his absence.
Jarrad Davis, LB - Davis took some lumps in this one. While he had a brutal tackle that got fans happy, he spent too much of the day tied up on blockers and watching rushers go right by him.
Darren Fells, TE - It seems like a decade ago people were calling for Fells to start. I’ll have to wait for snap counts, but I feel like he played almost every snap but had no legitimate impact on the passing game.
TJ Jones, WR - Nothing in this game but a drop for TJ Jones.
Jeremiah Ledbetter, DT - The only DT I saw when I was watching the DL that looked good in any way was A’Shawn Robinson. Ledbetter, like the others, struggled.
Brian Mihalik, OT - Some fans had a bit of a shine to Mihalik after the past couple weeks, but it was very obvious when he was on the field and Decker wasn’t this week.
Jacquies Smith, DE - One of the few ends I felt wasn’t doing his job containing any aspect of the game, Smith seemed a bit messy.
Akeem Spence, DT- Aside from one nice play late in the game, every snap I saw of Spence was him getting washed by some OL or another.
Rick Wagner, OT - One I’m going to pay closer attention to on rewatch, the few times I caught Wagner it was on plays he was eaten alive by Emmanuel Ogbah.
Paul Worrilow, LB - Paul Worrilow isn’t good and games like this show why. Coverage isn’t his thing and neither is taking angles in the run game. Or tackling.
Jim Caldwell, Head Coach: Stock Down
The head coach isn’t always going to get default praise in a win, and games like this are a good example of why that criticism can be warranted even if the outcome is a good one. Caldwell’s choice to challenge a spot early in the game wasn’t a good one, but allowing his team to not only keep it close but to fall behind against the worst team in football is inexcusable. Credit due for not letting the team fall apart, as they have in the past, but the team shouldn’t have been in many of the positions they were in for this game.
Jim Bob Cooter, Offensive Coordinator: Stock Up
It’s taken half a season, but Jim Bob Cooter has dialed up some seriously creative play calling in each of the past two games. Some of his plays were still the old, predictable ones we’ve gotten used to, but seeing run plays actually work as designed and not being as predictable in their set up was a nice departure. Running against a team that has easily defended the run is pretty good, though you’d like to see more efficient passing before you’re forced into it by the score.
Teryl Austin, Defensive Coordinator: Stock Down
Against one of the worst offenses in the NFL, Teryl Austin’s run defense was straight up embarrassed for 60 minutes. Poor play design and inefficient coverage looks allowed the Browns to run all over the Lions and a rookie known for slow decision making in DeShone Kizer to carve the team up. If it wasn’t for a brief period of time with Cody Kessler on the field, this game may have had a different outcome and it would be the shoulders of Teryl Austin it would fall upon.
Joe Marciano, Special Teams Coordinator: Stock Up
Joe Marciano has been nothing short of brilliant this season and it can’t be talked about enough. Almost every player on his units are playing at Pro Bowl levels, with an elite kicker, punter, long snapper, returner, and a pair of gunners that have seemed to find success no matter who is playing that position, there needs to be some well deserved credit placed on the man putting it all together.