Through three quarters, I was actually prepared to give Matthew Stafford a spot in our Game Ball candidates this week. Though he was off to a pretty slow start, his magical play on the first drive—somehow escaping two potential sackers, then heaving it perfectly over the safety to Marvin Jones Jr.—was good enough to warrant some post-game recognition.
However, his fourth quarter was a straight disaster. The Lions were unlikely to make a comeback against Seattle on Sunday, but Stafford ensured it would never happen with two terrible turnovers in Seahawks territory.
It was a very un-Stafford-like performance considering his reputation for phenomenal fourth-quarter comebacks, and it cost us an opportunity to witness a potentially exciting finish.
Running backs: C+
The Lions had to abandon the run pretty quickly in this game, both because it was ineffective and because Detroit found themselves down two scores for mostly the entire game.
Kerryon Johnson wasn’t really responsible for how poorly the run game was, and he showed on Sunday he’s capable of being a third-down back in Theo Riddick’s absence. However, he nor LeGarrette Blount provided much of any spark other than a decent screen pass or two.
Wide receivers: C-
I’ll have to look at the tape to see whether a guy like Kenny Golladay was just not getting open or if Stafford wasn’t finding him, but this was supposed to be a pretty big mismatch against a weak set of cornerbacks in Seattle. Golladay was a complete non-factor, while Golden Tate had a couple frustrating drops.
Marvin Jones Jr. did enough to pull this position group out of the D-range, but this is supposed to be one of the best receiving trios in the league, and they absolutely did not play like it on Sunday.
Tight ends: D
Levine Toilolo continues to disappoint as a blocker. Luke Willson had his best game of the season—a mere three catches for 21 yards and a drop. Michael Roberts couldn’t continue to be the red zone threat he had been in his two previous games.
Detroit is still looking for playmaker in their tight end group, and they’re still not finding one.
Offensive line: D+
Despite Stafford’s three sacks, I thought the Lions front four did a decent job protecting him. Stafford was holding onto the ball for quite some time, and the offensive line shouldn’t really be expected to hold the pocket that long.
However, Detroit was absolutely dominated along the trenches in the running game. The Lions didn’t have a run over seven yards on the day and averaged just 2.6 yards on the ground.
Defensive line: D
Speaking of being dominated in the trenches, the Seahawks were able to run the ball efficiently all game against the Lions. Damon Harrison Sr. provided a little reprieve when he was in—especially late in the game, giving the Lions a small opportunity for a comeback—but it wasn’t enough. Additionally, the Lions’ pass rush remains non-existent, whether by design or otherwise.
Misdirection plays and cutback lanes absolutely killed the Lions on Sunday, and that usually means linebackers were biting or overcommitting. Jarrad Davis didn’t have an especially bad day, and he even made a few early plays. However, it was clear when the Seahawks offenses started rolling in the second quarter that Seattle found a weakness at Detroit’s second level and the Lions had no answer.
On a day in which the opposing quarterback has as many passing touchdowns (3) as incompletions, the secondary has to take a good, long look in the mirror. Quandre Diggs, Nevin Lawson and Teez Tabor were all responsible for allowing touchdowns on plays they could have made a play on the ball.
For as much credit as we’ve given the Lions’ defensive backs—consistently calling them the strength of the defense—it’s time to reevaluate this group. Being in position to make a play is only half the battle. In reality, this team only has two interceptions on the season and have allowed six of seven opposing quarterbacks to hit a 100+ passer rating. They were absolutely awful on Sunday, and it’s been like this for longer than fans may want to admit.
Special teams: F
I was prepared to give this unit an F even before Seahawks punter Michael Dickson embarrassed Detroit with an impromptu fake punt that sealed the game. Let’s count the miscues by the Lions special teams unit:
- Fumble by Ameer Abdullah on kickoff
- 3 penalties on returns, all resulting in field position inside the Lions’ 15-yard line
- 2 punt returns from Brandon Powell resulting in a total of eight yards. He also fielded a punt on his own 5-yard line, but that play was negated by a Seattle penalty
- 1 punt touchback, resulting in a net punt of 29 yards for Sam Martin
Hey, but Detroit’s coverage teams look better!
As far as in-game management, I don’t have many complaints. Detroit’s use of challenges, though admittedly looked odd, made logical sense. I would’ve liked to see Matt Patricia use timeouts at the end of the first half to give Detroit a chance at a field goal late, but considering how the defense played, it was far from guaranteed the Lions would end up getting the ball back anyways.
However, the overall gameplan was clearly ineffective. Everyone knew the Seahawks offense goes through their running game, and Detroit looked ill-prepared to stop them.
Ricky Jean Francois said after the game that the players just didn’t seem focused, and Matt Patricia took the blame for it.
“We have to stay focused for the entire game and play 60 minutes,” Patricia said after the game. “So, as the head coach, that’s my job.”
I’m not sure I really buy “lack of focus” as the Lions’ main problem this game. That excuse seems a little overly simplistic and convenient. But ultimately, the coaches are responsible for the team’s performance, and Detroit’s play on Sunday was completely unacceptable.