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Lions-Giants report card: Detroit wins with defense and special teams

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Take the day off, Stafford. The rest of the team has got you.

Detroit Lions v New York Giants Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions pulled off an impressive 24-10 road victory over the New York Giants on Monday night. Here’s a look at our positional grades from the game:

Quarterbacks: A-

Matthew Stafford did just about everything that was asked of him. He completed 71.4 percent of his passes, he threw for two touchdowns while avoiding an interception.

However, the biggest plays Stafford made on Monday were with his feet. He was sacked three times, but that number could have been doubled had it not been for Stafford’s savvy pocket presence.

The only reason Stafford doesn’t get an A is simply because the Lions didn’t need him to play like an A. He threw the ball just six times in the second half. I’ve got nothing against Stafford’s performance, he just didn’t need to drag the team with him for once.

Running backs: C-

If you were to just look at the statsheet, you’d think I was crazy giving the running backs such a low grade. However, the Lions running game was anemic yet again on Monday. Take away Ameer Abdullah’s 34 and 24 yard runs and you’re left with 15 carries for 28 yards. I know it’s not fair to take away a running back’s biggest runs, but we’re talking about less than 2.0 yards per carry for those 15 rushes. That’s just not good enough.

But two rushes of 20+ yards against this Giants defense is enough for some praise. So the Abdullah and the rest of the Lions backfield get a C-.

Tight ends: B+

Eric Ebron caught all five passes thrown his way, earning 42 yards and a touchdown along the way. On a day in which everyone knew Ebron was a mismatch against this defense, Ebron actually followed through with an impressive performance. He, like the entire Lions passing game, disappeared in the second half, but the damage was already done.

Wide receivers: C

The receivers didn’t do anything objectionable, nor did they make any real plays in this game. Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay combined for just six catches, 60 yards and a touchdown.

Lions receivers weren’t getting a lot of separation against a good Giants defense. However, they didn’t have any poor drops and mostly made plays when the ball was in their hands.

Offensive line: D-

I don’t grade on a curve here, so even though the Lions offensive line had a tough matchup against one of the best defensive lines in the league, I don’t excuse their performance.

Greg Robinson was an unmitigated disaster and penalty machine against Olivier Vernon, but it wasn’t just Robinson failing. Just about everyone on the offensive line was called for a penalty on Monday, and although some of those were ticky-tack penalties (or flat-out wrong), some were deserved. This continues to be one of the Lions’ biggest issues on the team right now.

Defensive line: B+

Five sacks, 62 rushing yards allowed and just 3.4 yards per carry? Yeah, that’s a pretty dominant performance from the Lions’ defensive line.

Led by Ezekiel Ansah’s three sacks, Eli Manning was under duress for most of the game, and it forced New York into several tough third-and-long situations. The Giants were just 4 of 12 on third down, mostly because of good defensive line play.

Linebackers: B

Jarrad Davis was easily having the best game in his career (including preseason) before a concussion knocked him out of the game. Tahir Whitehead picked up his first interception since 2015 and added eight tackles, to boot.

However, Paul Worrilow looked very uncomfortable out there and was responsible for the Giants’ biggest play of the game: a 38-yard pass to tight end Jerell Adams down the right sideline.

Secondary: A-

Once again, the Lions defensive backs were able to get their hands on a lot of balls on Monday. This week, they had five passes defended, including two from Darius Slay.

But their best play may have come from their safeties (excluding Tavon Wilson). Glover Quin was able to breakup an Eli Manning pass that was later picked off by Whitehead. Miles Killebrew had a phenomenal game when Wilson left with a shoulder injury.

Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall combined for just five catches and 53 yards. Advantage: Lions.

Special teams: A+

You couldn’t realistically expect a better game out of the Lions’ special teams, especially after last week’s debacle.

Matt Prater was perfect, and booted another field goal from over 55 yards away. Jamal Agnew had the play of the game with his 88-yard, game-winning punt return. Even Jeff Locke was more than adequate, averaging 41.8 yards per punt and tallying an impressive 40.0 net yards per punt average.

Coaching: B+

I’ve heard a lot of rumblings and discontent that the Lions took their foot off the gas on offense in the second half. I get it. We saw Matthew Stafford dominate in the first half, and we wanted to see more in the second half. But I think the Lions actually made the right decision running heavily in the final two quarters.

Consider how poorly the Lions offensive line was playing. Assuming they continued to struggle, the Lions would have been facing an unnecessary risk dropping back Stafford to pass early and often. Stafford could have been sacked, fumbled or thrown an interception if the Lions put him out there against that impressive Giants front.

Instead, Jim Caldwell and his coordinators “gambled” that as long as the offense was bleeding some clock, the defense and special teams would hold the lead for them against a poor Giants defense. And that’s exactly what they did. The proof is in the pudding.