The Detroit Lions put together one of their better overall performances on Sunday on their way to a 32-21 victory over the Miami Dolphins. The Lions set some franchise marks and picked up their first road victory of the season. As a result, their Week 7 report card is looking awfully nice. Let’s break it down.
This was the game I’ve been waiting for from Matthew Stafford. He was damn near perfect in Miami, completing over 85 percent of his passes. Of the four incompletions he threw, two were batted down and one was dropped.
Not only was Stafford deadly accurate, but he was a master of the pocket. On one of the rare occasions that pass protection broke down, Stafford knew exactly when to step up into the pocket or escape to his right or left.
This was no shabby Dolphins secondary—remember, they led the league with 11 interceptions—and Stafford torched ‘em.
Running backs: A
Kerryon Johnson obviously set a personal mark with 16 carries for 153 yards, but he also set some marks for Lions running backs.
Johnson is so good at finding the hole and slipping threw them, even if a defender gets an arm on him. The running game was so effective all game that even LeGarrette Blount had an efficient game.
The Lions haven’t seen a running game like this in almost 30 years… more on that later in the day.
Wide receivers: B
It was a pretty quiet day from the receivers, but to no fault of their own. We’d be talking about another prime day from Kenny Golladay had a penalty not taken away yet another one of his touchdowns.
It was an up-and-down day for Golden Tate. He had some of his patented YAC that got him to 36 receiving yards, but he had a drop and a really, really scary fumble that could’ve changed the entire outcome had he not somehow gotten the ball back.
Also, shoutout to TJ Jones, who had a really key 26-yard catch early in the game that quickly negated a chop-block personal foul penalty.
Tight ends: A
Michael Roberts finally exorcised the ghost of Eric Ebron on Sunday. Roberts led all Lions receivers on Sunday with 48 yards on three catches, but most important, Roberts showed he could be the red zone threat Lions fans had been hoping for. His two touchdowns on the day were arguably the difference between a win and a loss. Eric Ebron didn’t even score a single touchdown this week. What a bum (kidding).
Offensive line: A+
Even a costly penalty or two couldn’t stop me from giving this unit an A+. Stafford often had a ton of time to throw the ball, and the rushing lanes were so wide open that even LeGarrette Blount could find them without hesitation in the backfield.
The only time it seemed like Matthew Stafford even got a hand laid on him was at the two-minute warning when there was clearly some miscommunication as to whether Detroit was going to run a play before the stoppage of clock or not.
We’ve all waited for this Lions offensive line to come together, wondering what the offense could look like with it firing on all cylinders. Well, the Lions punted just once and scored points on every other possession. Sounds pretty good to me.
Defensive line: B
The interior of the Lions defensive line was weirdly dominant against an average Dolphins offensive line. A’Shawn Robinson (three tackles) and Ricky Jean Francois (2.0 sacks) were causing havoc the entire game.
However, the defensive ends were not very good at creating pressure nor holding the edges in the running game.
It was still definitely a step in the right direction, but there’s no other way to put this: The Lions need Ezekiel Ansah.
Detroit gave up one huge running play, as they seem to do every game. However, for the rest of the day, the Lions run defense was dominant. 18 rushes, 53 yards for an average of just 2.9 yards per carry. The linebacker were a huge part of that, led by Jarrad Davis’ 6 tackles (and 1.0 sacks).
The linebacking crew still had some lapses in coverage, but Christian Jones nearly had himself an interception, and, for the most part, they didn’t allow any big plays from Brock Osweiler.
This is a tough one to grade, because the Lions got a fair share of coverage sacks yet again from good play in the back end. Also, I thought the Lions were on the bad end of some questionable calls from the refs, with Quandre Diggs getting a rough pass interference call on a third-and-long pass well short of the sticks, and Nevin Lawson nearly gave up a touchdown after an offensive pass interference call was missed.
But the Lions had some issues, too. Crossing patterns seemed to really give the Lions corners some problems, and it resulted in Brock Osweiler completing 71 percent of his passes. Granted, Osweiler had some impressive throws on the day—that touchdown pass to Danny Amendola was shockingly perfect—but I still expect more from this unit, especially after Albert Wilson went down early in the game.
Special teams: A
I came into this game completely terrified of Jakeem Grant, who is arguably the best kick and punt returner in the league. However, the Lions’ kick coverage units were superb on Sunday, and although they did give up a 19-yard punt return, that was the result of Sam Martin outkicking the coverage (61 yards through the air!!!).
It’s been a while since Matt Prater has had to make a clutch field goal, but his 50-yarder with two minutes left sealed the game. Miami would go on to miss a 46-yarder, so don’t take Prater for granted, yall.
It’s always good sign of coaching when the team comes out of the bye looking better than ever. What was most impressive about this win was that their previous weaknesses almost looked like strengths on Sunday. Their run defense was very good against a solid set of backs. They somehow got the tight ends involved in the offense, and their red zone efficiency looked better because of it. And the aforementioned coverage issues were completely gone against the Dolphins.
AND THEY GAVE KERRYON JOHNSON THE FOOTBALL. His 19 carries against the Dolphins were a career high and feels exactly like the right amount of the rookie running back, especially on a day so hot and humid as that sunny Miami afternoon.
I had a couple in-game decisions that I wasn’t a huge fan of, like passing on third-and-2 and declining a holding penalty that would’ve created second-and-17 instead of third-and-7, but these were minor flaws in an otherwise impressive week of preparation and gameday performance.