After a slow start, Matthew Stafford was masterful against a good Browns secondary. Stafford’s passes had touch and accuracy, and, for the most part, he was making the right reads.
His final stat line of 249 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception was modest, but Stafford was constantly facing blitzes, and considering he only threw the ball 26 times, that’s actually a pretty impressive output.
Running backs: A-
Lions backs carried the ball just 15 times, but Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick combined for 87 yards (5.8 YPC) and a touchdown. Of those 15 carries, four went for 10 yards or more, and although there were still too many negative plays in the running game, this was still a fantastic performance against the best run defense in the league.
Considering Detroit was without one of their best offensive linemen in T.J. Lang, this was an extremely difficult assignment for the Lions’ running backs, and they rose to the occasion. If Detroit had the ball more often in this game (they only ran 49 offensive plays), this very well could have been the game where they finally had a 100-yard rusher.
Wide receivers: B-
Golden Tate continued his phenomenal season with a six catches on seven targets for 97 yards and a touchdown. Kenny Golladay made a huge catch early in the game. But Marvin Jones Jr. showed, once again, that he struggles when matched up against some of the better cornerbacks in this league. TJ Jones was also a non-factor, dropping a tough pass that would’ve extended a drive early in the game.
Tight ends: B
Eric Ebron wasn’t a huge part of the game plan on Sunday, seeing just three targets all game. However, he absolutely made the most of both of his catches. He beat his defender by two steps on his impressive 29-yard touchdown catch that essentially put the game away. He also added a 10-yard reception to help get the Lions into a third-and-manageable earlier in the game.
Neither Ebron nor Darren Fells stuck out in a good or bad way as blockers, so this was an above-average performance from the unit.
Offensive line: C+
This was a really tough game to grade for the offensive line. Taylor Decker made his triumphant return and looked like the upgrade we expected of him, even if he was on and off the field. He wasn’t perfect, but you can already see how much better this unit can be with him in the lineup.
As mentioned before, the Lions running game was surprisingly explosive in this game, and most of those long runs were extremely well-blocked. However, when the Browns loaded the box, this unit was overwhelmed and allowed way too many negative plays, including four sacks on the day. The Corey Robinson-at-guard experiment was mostly a bummer, but Detroit was a little desperate without T.J. Lang. Hopefully he makes a speedy recovery this week.
Defensive line: D
It seems unfair to give the Lions defensive line a D grade after they finished with three sacks—including Cornelius Washington’s first and second sacks of the season... finally! But for the majority of this game, the Lions defensive line failed to contain DeShone Kizer and were just manhandled in the running game. Any time you give up over 200 yards on the ground at more than 6.0 per carry, something went drastically wrong on the defensive front.
Still, they deserve a little credit for dominating when Cody Kessler came back into the game. Those three sacks on seven plays when Kessler came in the game were game-changing.
If running backs have a clear lane through the line, it’s up for the linebackers to clean up the mess, and Detroit completely failed to do that on Sunday. You know it’s a bad day when Tavon Wilson, Quandre Diggs, Darius Slay and Glover Quin all had more tackles than Jarrad Davis.
Things were only worse when Tahir Whitehead or Davis were targeted in the passing game. Davis continues to look a bit lost out there in pass coverage, although he did get his hand on one ball on Sunday.
Overall, this defense looked a lot like it did in 2016, which was defined by horrible linebacker play. This was a step in the wrong direction for this unit.
DeShone Kizer targeted Darius Slay's coverage today 11 times. He yielded a passer rating of just 25.6 on those throws. Slay's game grade of 86.8 is the second highest for a CB so far this week.— Brett Whitefield (@PFF_Brett) November 13, 2017
Tavon Wilson had seven tackles, including a sack for the second straight game. Quandre Diggs was also a tackling machine, coming up with a season-high six on the day.
Even Nevin Lawson, who struggled most of the game, came up with one of the most important plays on the day. After missing a tackle, Lawson reached out, stripped the ball, and had the wherewithal to get up and run for the scoop-and-score.
Special Teams: A
As always, the Lions’ kick and punt coverage teams were essentially perfect, allowing a total of just 46 return yards on a combined four punts and kicks.
But the big performance here was by Jamal Agnew, who gave the Lions that final push they needed in the fourth quarter with two big punt returns.
Jamal Agnew is currently averaging 18.3 yards per punt return.— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) November 13, 2017
No one else in the NFL is averaging over 14.
I’d give Detroit an A+ here, but a costly block in the back penalty on Nevin Lawson erased a huge play from Agnew.
Obviously, Jim Caldwell’s early challenge of a fourth-down conversion was awful (though not as bad as the John Fox’s challenge this week), and Caldwell admitted as much after the game. Thankfully, it didn’t turn out to be costly in any way. However, losing a challenge in the first quarter like that could have definitely hurt the team had they needed to challenge two more plays in the game.
Defensively, whatever the gameplan was going into the game needs to be burned immediately. It seemed very clear that the way to beat this Browns offense was to stack the box and force DeShone Kizer to beat you. However, the Lions didn’t seem to have any interest in stopping the Browns’ running game and didn’t make any adjustments all game.
But for the second straight game, the heat is completely off Jim Bob Cooter. The Lions offense was not only efficient for the majority of the game, but they actually converted in the red zone this week. Detroit made two trips to the red zone against the Browns and converted both of them for touchdowns.