I know statistically this wasn’t one of Matthew Stafford’s best games, but aside from one overthrow to Golden Tate deep and a couple of errant throws on screen plays that were likely to fail anyways, I thought he was extremely good on Sunday.
Stafford was victimized by two penalties that erased huge plays. He also had a couple completions to Marvin Jones Jr. deleted due to offensive pass interference.
But Stafford was extremely patient all game. He took what the Packers defense gave him, he recognized when plays were broken and took smart sacks instead of forcing bad passes. And, most importantly, he made big plays when he needed to. Two red zone touchdowns on three passes and an absolute dime on third-and-11 to Golden Tate, sealing the game for Detroit.
Quarterbacks are paid to make big plays in big moments, and Stafford lived up to his big contract on Sunday.
Running backs: A-
Kerryon Johnson continued to be Kerryon Johnson, averaging 5.8 yards per carry on 12 rushes, and adding a couple catches, as well.
LeGarrette Blount proved his short-yardage value with a couple of scores and a key third-down conversion.
Theo Riddick continues to be the Lions’ best pass blocker—a fact that goes largely unnoticed by many. The only reason I didn’t give this unit a straight A is because Theo and Stafford are still struggling to find each other in the passing game.
Wide receivers: B
Kenny Golladay is going to be a star, if he isn’t already. This guy is making highlight-reel catches on a weekly basis, but it’s his consistent route running and strong hands that are going to eventually find this guy in a Pro Bowl or two.
Golden Tate had a quietly efficient game, too, picking up 42 yards on five catches, and his YAC abilities earned Detroit an extra 15 yards when he picked up a facemask penalty too.
Marvin Jones Jr., however, had a rough outing. He only had one catch on the day, and the aforementioned pass interference penalties put the Lions in a rough spot.
Tight ends: C
Not much to see here. Luke Willson is still invisible. Levine Toilolo had a bad drop. It would sure be nice to have a third-down option from this group, but it’s beyond clear that’s not going to happen this season.
Offensive line: B+
Stafford took three sacks on the day, but he often had a ton of time to throw the ball against the Packers. This unit seems to have finally settled in, even without veteran guard T.J. Lang.
We give LeGarrette Blount a lot of credit for those short-yardage plays, but if it weren’t for the men up front, he never reaches the end zone in the first place. Also, Frank Ragnow’s spike is right there up with Gronk’s:
I asked Frank Ragnow to grade the form on his spike after LeGarrette Blount's second TD.— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) October 8, 2018
"Oh, A-plus. I was pretty fired up." pic.twitter.com/55jSMMWMqk
Defensive line: C+
This is a tough grade to give out because Da’Shawn Hand and Romeo Okwara forced two turnovers that quite possibly won the game for the Lions. However, for the rest of the game, the defensive line wasn’t creating much push or clogging running lanes. Aaron Rodgers had all day to throw at times, and Green Bay still averaged 5.6 yards per carry from their top two running backs.
You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have: the Lions defensive line.
I don’t want to jump to conclusions here, but this was a solid day from the entire linebacking unit. Jarrad Davis shook off an early missed tackle or two, and was solid in pass coverage for the second game in a row. He had two passes defended and a quarterback hit.
Christian Jones had a somewhat quiet game, but he did notch a tackle for loss. Devon Kennard had yet another sack. Jalen Reeves-Maybin was really the only guy I saw consistently struggle out there.
There’s still a lot of room for this unit to improve, but they’re continuing to take steps in the right direction.
This was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the secondary was responsible for Aaron Rodgers holding onto the ball for forever and eventually either getting sacked or throwing the ball away. They deserve a ton of credit for holding Green Bay to those early field goal attempts.
However, the second half was a disaster. Davante Adams had Darius Slay’s number all game. Jamal Agnew struggled before his injury, and once Teez Tabor was out from the game, Cre’Von LeBlanc was clearly overwhelmed in his first bit of gametime this year.
I’d love to give the Lions defense the benefit of the doubt, especially considering all the injuries in the secondary, but the Packers were equally beat up at receiver. Of course, Aaron Rodgers is going to get his no matter who he’s throwing to, but the secondary very nearly gave the game back to the Packers, so I can’t in good faith give them better than a C-.
Special teams: B
The special teams looked good, but mostly because the Packers special teams unit was sooooooooo bad.
Credit to Charles Washington for pushing the Packers defender into the punt early, a play he apparently practiced earlier in the week. The Lions also expertly pinned the Packers inside their 5-yard line at the end of the game, essentially ending any chance of Rodgers Devil Magic.
But the Lions gave up another long kick return that was only negated by a penalty on the backside of the play. I’m still terrified of this team’s kick coverage unit, so please just kick it out of the endzone for the rest of eternity.
The Lions never truly let the foot off the gas in this game, and it’s really the reason the Lions came out victorious. Experienced Lions fans knew a 24-0 lead was not the end of the game, and the Lions played like it. They may have only scored once more the rest of the game, but Jim Bob Cooter’s aggressiveness helped earn valuable first downs to run out the clock.
Also, credit to Matt Patricia for a challenge that may have very well saved the game for the Lions. The Lions were up 11 and Aaron Rodgers just completed a 32-yard bomb to Adams that landed him at the Lions’ 1-yard line. They were about to make it a three or four point game. Jamal Agnew was injured. Darius Slay was injured. The Lions were about to lose this game.
But Patricia challenged the play, and it was clearly incomplete. From there, the Packers only moved backwards, and Mason Crosby missed yet another field goal. That’s a huge seven or eight point swing at the very end of the game, which is absolutely HUGE.