There’s no preface needed. This one is going to get ugly.
Matthew Stafford had a rough start. He threw the ball well for all four quarters, but two poor plays in the first half held this back from being an A. First, a botched snap put the Lions out of field goal range early, causing Detroit to start slowly yet again. Two drives later, Stafford was clobbered by an untouched defender from his blindside, fumbling the ball away as they were crossing into Ravens territory. It’s hard to blame him for the fumble, but Golden Tate was open. It would’ve take a ton of awareness to make that play, but great quarterbacks do.
Aside from that, Stafford was stellar. Against one of the best pass defenses in the league, Stafford completed 82.8 percent of his passes for a whopping 10.1 yards per attempt and a 105.7 passer rating. At one point he completed 20 passes in a row, crushing his own franchise record of 12. The last interception was bad, but the Lions were down 10 and in desperation mode. He tried to make a play and it didn’t work out.
This grade does not include the play of Jake Rudock, which was obviously really bad.
Running backs: C+
It was great to see Tion Green out there succeeding... on two of his 11 carries. I don’t care how good the blocking was, a 33-yard carry on your first NFL touch is impressive. Additionally, the play of Green and Theo Riddick was responsible for Detroit’s two goal-to-go touchdowns in this game. For a team that has struggled in the past in the red zone, their play was key to getting touchdowns, not field goals.
That being said, Riddick’s streak of a high yards per carry took a nosedive this week. After averaging 4.5 YPC over the past five games, Riddick’s average dropped to just 2.3 against the Ravens. This suggests, perhaps, the problems aren’t all on Ameer Abdullah.
Tight ends: B
It’s time to admit it, Eric Ebron has been playing very well since the bye week. He still isn’t a complete game changer capable of pulling in 100 yards or anything, but his hands have been reliable, and he seems to come through in some clutch situations. In the past five games, he has been targeted 22 times and caught the ball 17 times for 195 yards and a score.
Darren Fells added two catches on Sunday, including a clutch third down conversion.
The tight ends weren’t spectacular, but they did their job well, especially in the receiving game.
Wide receivers: C
Marvin Jones Jr. continues to be one of the best deep ball threats in the league, but the rest of the receiving corps wasn’t all that active in this game. Golden Tate had a bad drop early, as did Kenny Golladay.
Additionally, there were several times in this game in which Stafford had to go to his second and third reads, presumably because no one was getting open. This was a good Ravens secondary, but the Lions wide receivers didn’t do enough to win this matchup.
Offensive line: D-
I’m getting pretty damn sick of having to worry about Matthew Stafford’s health after every other game. I know the offensive line was depleted by injuries at the end of this game, but that doesn’t excuse their play earlier in the game. Outside of a few outside designed runs, there were (again) no running lanes. Matthew Stafford was on the run for pretty much all four quarters, and this time, there were a handful of completely unblocked rushers.
Of all the coaches that deserve the axe this year, offensive line coach Ron Prince is at the top of that list.
Defensive line: F
Zero sacks, one tackle for loss, and, according to Pro Football Focus, just seven total hurries on the day:
The Lions entire defense produced 7 QB pressures today on 37 Flacco pass attempts. Seems like another good year to completely ignore the DL in FA and the draft.— Brett Whitefield (@PFF_Brett) December 4, 2017
The Lions edge unit combined for just 4 total QB pressures on a combined 83 pass rush snaps. Almost zero production. https://t.co/zrnvHQboxe— Brett Whitefield (@PFF_Brett) December 4, 2017
They weren’t much better in the running game as Baltimore had hole after hole open up, and Alex Collins seemed to always make the first guy—typically a lineman—miss. Dwight Freeney, in his much-anticipated Lions debut, was kept off the box score completely.
I will never go as far to call a rookie a “bust,” but it’s hard to imagine Jarrad Davis having a much worst first year. He’s displaying the same problems he has dealt with all year: Poor tackling, poor pursuit angles and just awful play recognition.
Between him, Tahir Whitehead, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Paul Worrilow, I have never seen a set of linebacker more prone to biting on play action. The Lions fell victim to those plays all day, and it particularly killed them in the red zone, where Joe Flacco had two extremely easy touchdown passes to wide open receivers.
All of sudden, this defense has transformed into the 2016 version of the Lions, and that’s a big reason why they’re struggling so bad as a team right now.
Remember back in the day when the Lions were not just getting their hands on a ton of passes, but intercepting a few? Those days appear to be gone. The Lions only had two passes defended on the day, and they’ve only intercepted two passes since the bye. Prior to the bye, they had nine.
Special teams: D
While there weren’t any disastrous plays like an opponent’s kick return touchdown or a blocked field goal return, the Lions special teams unit robbed the team of a chance at a late comeback. Matt Prater missed both a 43-yard field goal and an extra point. With those four additional points the Lions would have found themselves within three in the fourth quarter, and who knows what would have happened from there?
Every other performance on special teams was not particularly noteworthy, other than a really stupid penalty on Paul Worrilow for an obvious late hit.
This is the kind of coaching performance that should shake even the most staunch Jim Caldwell performers. First, consider this fact.
The Lions had nine days to prepare for this game. The Ravens had five. Which team looked more ready to go out of the gate?
Put aside the fact that the Lions offense continues to struggle in the first half of the games. Forget about the fact that, in the past four weeks, the Lions defense has now made three of the worst offenses in the league look like three of the best.
The Lions had nine guys on the field for a crucial third-and-7 play... in the fourth quarter... down just seven points. That sort of thing is completely unacceptable if it happens even once in the entire season. But it comes just a week after the Lions sported 10 guys on defense against the Vikings, resulting in an easy touchdown for Minnesota.
The Lions aren’t just working with an outmatched coaching staff that can’t seem to correct the same mistakes that have plagued them for a couple seasons, but they’re now dealing with straight incompetence.
I’m not the kind of person that wants to see an immediate firing in the middle of the season, but at this point, Bob Quinn should seriously be thinking about a coaching change. He should treat the final four games of the season as a re-audition for everyone on the coaching staff.