With the playoffs on the line, the Detroit Lions needed some help to get in. They got some of that help today and all they had to do was seal the game against one of the worst teams in the NFL to move into a prime playoff position. Rather than do that, the team put together one of the worst coached and worst executed games I’ve seen all season. And I’ve watched some Browns games. Despite valiant efforts from a few key players, the team as a whole seems to have not only called the season a loss but given up on their coaches. There was a lot more bad than good in this one, but there’s enough good to have a silver lining in 2018, so let’s jump in to how everyone did.
Stock Up: Eric Ebron, TE
Eric Ebron gets a TD. Great speed at the position is always dangerous. pic.twitter.com/wpRNTPheSM— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) December 24, 2017
Eric Ebron has been coming into his own for weeks now and he continued to do so in this one. I was a bit worried early on when he took a hard tackle from Vontaze Burfict and then dropped a pass on his next target while trying to duck a tackle. Always worried things are getting into his head, he made me look silly by roasting a linebacker in coverage while split wide for a long touchdown. He would catch 5 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown on his big day and has shown himself to be, somewhat defying expectations, Matthew Stafford’s most consistent target.
Stock Down: Don Barclay, OG
I mean, you have one job on that play. Don Barclay with a cuttable offense. https://t.co/87I3KelOND— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) December 24, 2017
With three offensive lineman out injured, former Packers swing guard Don Barclay got the start and he was ten shades of god awful. I could go into all of the times he blew his assignments, or all of the blocks he missed, but let’s go down to two series’ in particular. On fourth-and-short the Lions were trying to draw the Bengals offsides. An offensive lineman’s job is to do literally nothing. What Barclay did was false start, the only thing you could do to screw that up. On another series, down two late in the fourth quarter, Barclay posted back to back false start penalties resulting in the Lions facing third and a mile instead of third and manageable.
Stock Up: Tion Green, RB
Tion Green keeping the playoff hopes alive pic.twitter.com/TGBSaHJXd4— Detroit Videos (@DetroitVideos) December 24, 2017
It has been a bit odd for me to hear fan’s reactions to Tion Green. After his first 33 yard carry, he’s been running for less than 3 yards per carry, the same level of production the Lions were getting from Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington. The Bengals game looked like more of that until the fourth quarter when Green converted a third-and-1, then a nice fourth-and=1 where he broke a tackle, a rarity in his play.
It was refreshing to see a back hitting the holes that were open and going forward and he capped it off with a deserved touchdown. It was the first rushing touchdown for the Lions in the fourth quarter in a couple years, so it’s noteworthy.
If you’re thinking Green is some answer to the Lions rushing woes, I have a bridge to sell you, but it was a nice cap off to the game to see someone finally take advantage of the league’s worst run defense.
Stock Down: Cornelius Washington
Cornelius Washington sucks— Matt Yurcak (@mattyurcak) December 24, 2017
I tried to pay special attention to the Lions defensive line in this game and my biggest takeaway was just how terrible Cornelius Washington was in the first half. He settled down a bit after the half, but man it was tough to watch. Getting eaten up by a tight end blocking, let alone any lineman who got their mitts on him should be embarrassing. The Lions got a career-high in sacks from Washington by giving him a contract this off-season, but that career high is 2.5 and I’m frankly surprised we’ve seen that much.
Stock Up: Ezekiel Ansah, DE
Ziggy Ansah has 3 sax...now fifth all x in Lions history in career sacks with 41— Matt Shepard (@ShepMatt) December 24, 2017
Suddenly, Ziggy Ansah is a single sack away from what must be the quietest double digit sack season in memory. Coming into the game, Ansah was sitting at 6.0 sacks, just a half sack behind current Lions leader Anthony Zettel, but he would leave the game with three more sacks while playing against the Bengals’ backups. Yes, it’s backup tackles, but you expect your stars to win when playing against bad players, so he did his job and did it well.
Stock Down: Tahir Whitehead, LB
Tahir Whitehead has had am awful day when it comes to tackling— Resident Homie (@WkndAtBennies) December 24, 2017
Whitehead has had some ups and downs this season but has largely been an unheralded strength on a defense that doesn’t have many of those. The Bengals game is likely going to be remembered as his worst outing of 2017, and it’s a game that you can look back on and legitimately question why you would want to re-sign him. I lost count of how many tackles he missed once I started counting how many bad angles he took and, an extreme rarity, plays he simply stopped on.
Joe Dahl, OG - I may be wrong once I watch again, but I thought Dahl did fairly well considering the very tough draw. Geno Atkins blanked on the stat sheet.
Jarrad Davis, LB - I didn’t watch much of Davis, but the few plays I saw of him were getting off of tackles. I feel like I’ll be downgrading him on rewatch, but for now he’s here.
Quandre Diggs, SS - Diggs with his third interception in four weeks after having none in his career is something special.
Dwight Freeney, DE - We’ve been waiting to see some vintage Freeney and we got a little bit of it. He didn’t get home, but we got to see him abuse some backups a bit.
Graham Glasgow, OG - Glasgow has been making his 2018 role very clear and I think we can write it in sharpie now. Starting center, 2018.
Marvin Jones, WR - Jones eclipsed 1,000 yards on a deep pass against his former team.
Andy Jones, WR - Jones got a tackle on teams in his first game as a Lion.
Theo Riddick, RB - Rushing and receiving were poor and good respectively, but watching Riddick clowning defenders twice his size as a blocker was fun.
Dwayne Washington, RB - It struck me this week that Washington would have been cut already if the team didn’t expect him back in camp next year. Good sign he’s probably getting another shot in 2018.
Ameer Abdullah, RB - Abdullah didn’t do much to regain the team’s confidence in this one and is still firmly in the doghouse.
Jamal Agnew, CB - Agnew hasn’t done much since coming back from injury, but despite seeing some time on defense finally there wasn’t much to see here.
Don Barclay, OG - You know, I forgot earlier to mention that on that short yardage false start he also managed to get other players to false start. Contagious stupidity.
Taylor Decker, OT - Stafford wasn’t running for his life on every play until late in the game, but he wasn’t getting consistent or reliable protection from anywhere on the edges.
Darren Fells, TE - It’s been a long ride for Darren Fells, who has went from possible starter, to actual starter, to afterthought, to possible walk after the year.
Kenny Golladay, WR - Golladay wasn’t able to separate in the end zone on a play Stafford should have thrown elsewhere, but he also dropped a late pass and needs to clean up those issues.
Miles Killebrew, SS - Killebrew has went from capable role player to possible starter to somehow poor role player in a matter of 15 games. Not sure what’s going on.
T.J. Lang, OG - Lang has missed another game with injury, an issue that has always plagued his career and continues to do so at the worst possible time.
Nevin Lawson, CB - Unfortunate injury aside, Lawson was playing pretty badly in this one. May be his final game as a Lion next week.
Sam Martin, P - Martin has struggled since returning from injury and has yet to regain his previous seasons’ form.
Glover Quin, FS - It wasn’t a bad game, but standards are high for Quin and he gave up a touchdown on a play action pass in the red zone.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin - JRM is still a beast on special teams, so he’ll always have a role, but this wasn’t one to look back on positively on defense for the rookie.
Christian Ringo, DT - Ringo seemed to get a lot of work and I couldn’t find any positive plays to go with his negative ones.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT - If there’s any player I could look to and actively think they’ve given up on the season, it’s A’Shawn Robinson. Lackluster play with playoffs on the line.
Corey Robinson, OT - Robinson was battling with Don Barclay to see who could play worse against the Bengals.
Matthew Stafford, QB - Stafford didn’t deal with the pressure he was getting from having three linemen down, and it started to bleed into plays that were actually blocked well.
Teez Tabor, CB - I didn’t watch anyone closer than Teez Tabor and while there were some positives they were outweighed by many negative plays. He finished strong, though the game was lost by then.
Golden Tate, WR - Three catches for fourteen yards, and I couldn’t remember any of them as having mattered.
Anthony Zettel, DE - Zettel has now fully reverted to his 2016 form where he couldn’t set an edge to save his life.
Jim Caldwell, Head Coach: Stock Down
Let’s put aside the should-have-been-challenge that Jim Caldwell didn’t make on a deep Golden Tate catch. That’s a mistake, but not an unforgivable one. Coming in flat against a Bengals team that has been absolutely awful all year, however, is fireable and there’s very little in this game to look at and praise Caldwell for.
It was a poorly called effort on offense and his team looked to have given up on more than one occasion despite being the type of game you see everyone fired up for. The lack of leadership for a floundering team that needed to beat a 5-9 team to keep their playoff hopes alive was astounding.
Jim Bob Cooter, Offensive Coordinator: Stock Down
Jim Bob Cooter has called a lot of bad games this season and you would have thought he couldn’t do worse than what we’ve already seen. Never let it be said that it can’t get any worse, as Cooter showed that yes, it surely can. This may be his worst game of his career, and it’s now even more laughable to think of him as a head coach candidate. It’s laughable enough to think of him having a job as an offensive coordinator in 2018.
Teryl Austin, Defensive Coordinator: Stock Down
With everything going wrong on offense, the defensive play calling was actually pretty good. Considering how poorly several of the defensive players were on the line and in the linebacker group, Austin managed to eliminate every offensive player that wasn’t named Giovani Bernard all game, with only a couple plays allowed to Pro Bowler A.J. Green. The run defense still isn’t up to snuff, but it wasn’t a play calling issue in this one, aside from yet another play action touchdown in the red zone, which is why he still ends up down. It’s insane that this issue hasn’t even looked like it’s been talked about in 15 weeks.
Joe Marciano, Special Teams Coordinator: Stock Down
There isn’t much to talk about today on teams, but if your returners are lackluster and both your punter and kicker struggle, you can’t be talked up.